Hey Psych2Goers! Let’s talk about sex! Yep! The Birds and the Bees. Or more specifically, sex and your big brain.
Do you feel like your mind is a total traffic jam during the act? Do you find yourself thinking of a hundred different things all at once? Or is it just the opposite? Have you turned down the volume on all of those intrusive thoughts? Are you able to fully focus on what you’re doing in the moment?
Sex can definitely be messy and complicated. Did you know that your brain is running like a second open computer tab at the same time your body is? Your brain actually has to do a lot more work during sex than you may realize.
Here are ‘6 Things Sex Does To Your Brain’!
Disclaimer: This post is for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.
Let’s get to that list!
#1. Activates Your Libido
Your libido is the sexual appetite or “drive” that you feel as an individual person. It’s also just a fun word to say. Try it. Libido. Some people may have a high, medium or low libido. Where do you personally fall on that spectrum? Do you know? If you’re worried that you have a low libido, try not to stress it. Everyone’s different.
Having a lower libido is actually more common than you might think. More people are likely to have a lower libido than a higher one. If you have a higher libido, you’re likely to become aroused more easily. Your brain isn’t the only factor connected to libido, however. Your hormones and learned behaviours also play a part. Your libido is directly related to the physical feelings you experience in your body with sexual desire.
#2. Increases Your Adrenaline
Do you get extremely excited at the lead up to sex? Does the anticipation feel almost unbearable? Does sex really get your heart pumping? Foreplay has been known to be some of the most ecstatic parts of sex. There are times where you may feel like the buildup is more fun than the actual climax itself even.
This excitement is called “epinephrine”. Which is a fancy word for a chemical released from your brain during sex. Another more popular and less complicated word for this feeling, that you may know, is adrenaline. This is why you may be more sexually attracted to someone thanks to a near-death scenario. As extreme as that sounds.
#3. Releases Dopamine & Serotonin
Do you feel extremely happy during sex? Does it feel like nothing will ever compare to that experience? The act of sex has often been described as “euphoric.” The definition of euphoria is “characterized by or feeling excitement and happiness.” During sex, the brain releases what are known as neurochemicals. One of these chemicals in the brain is called dopamine.
According to SimplyPsychology.org, dopamine and its fellow friend serotonin are known as “the happy hormones.” Dopamine is predominately associated with the feeling of pleasure. Do you feel an intense sense of pleasure and joy when achieving a goal? Does your motivation increase when your day is going well? Do you like being rewarded? That’s the dopamine working full steam ahead. Same with sex.
Dopamine and serotonin are good friends, because even though they’re different, they still work together. Serotonin is known for happiness, focus and calm. Do you have a really good memory? Are you able to recall even the smallest little details? Chances are remembering a friends’s favourite type of ice cream will go very appreciated.
Serotonin has been known to help with your memory and attention. Remembering how good your sex was the night before will likely keep your face glowing the next morning at the office.
#4. The Two O’s
Do you know what the most exciting part of a story is? The climax. This is where the narrative of the story is at its peak intensity. Another term for climax is called “orgasm.” It makes sense for your orgasm to hopefully be the most exciting part of sex.
There’s a French term that you may have heard of before called “Le Petit Mort”. Translated into English it’s “The Little Death.” This means “the brief loss or weakening of consciousness”. When you’ve had an orgasm in the past, have you ever felt like you went into a totally different plane of existence? Because it was that good?
Orgasms can sometimes be so powerful that they might feel like a near-death experience. Again, think back to our friend adrenaline. A chemical in your brain called oxytocin is released when you orgasm. Oxytocin has also been known to lower stress and anxiety. It can change your mood. Another term for oxytocin is “the love hormone”. Do you love being hugged for example? If you do, that’s oxytocin hard at work. Oxytocin-hugs for everyone!
#5. Sex May Make You Sad
While you may be excited at the start, and very happy in the middle, it’s sadly not always a satisfying end. Have you ever felt disappointed with sex? Was it ever built up far too much in your mind? It’s possible that you’ll feel sad when the sex is over. Everything seemingly went well though, so why do you feel this way?
Postcoital dysphoria is a potential feeling you can experience afterward. Sex unfortunately might not always be a great experience for you. It can be messy, awkward and sometimes uncomfortable. You may feel things like sadness, depression, irritation, agitation or anxiety afterward.
If you feel safe and comfortable with your partner, you may want to talk to them about your thoughts and emotions regarding the sex. Having an open and honest communication with your partner may help to avoid feeling sad. It would be much more fun to be happy from beginning to end, right?
#6. Helps With Your Sleep
After all of that physical exertion, it’s very likely that you’re feeling rather sleepy. With all of the hormonal changes that are released during sex, it’s more likely that you’ll begin feeling drowsy. If you had sex in a bed, then you don’t even have to necessarily move anywhere far before going right to sleep. Excellent timing!
You can just climb under those comfy sheets and cuddle with your partner. Win-win! Cuddling is basically a more full-bodied version of hugging, right? So if you’re cuddling, then you’re probably releasing even more of those love hormones. Between being the big spoon or the little spoon, which one do you prefer?
Sex is one of the most beautiful and engaging things that you as a human being can ever be a part of. It can certainly be messy, awkward and complicated. It can also be wonderful and fantastic at the exact same time. You just have to balance the good with the bad. In the end, your brain does just as much work as your body during sex. Even if you don’t think it does.
Have you felt any of these experiences before, during, or even after sex? Did you learn anything new about sex that you didn’t previously know about before? Do you know anyone who could use a bit of encouragement with the state of their sex life right now? There’s certainly a lot of positives and some negatives to note about having sex. We could all definitely use a bit more positivity in our lives. That’s for sure.
The studies and references used herein are listed in the description below.
“What Is Libido? Defining Sexual Desire” by S. Nicole Lane (October 30th, 2021) https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-libido-5084040
“What to Know About Oxytocin Hormone” by Dan Brennan, MD (June 11th, 2021) https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/what-to-know-about-oxytocin
“What To Know Postcoital Dysphoria” by Dan Brennan, MD (June 11th, 2021) https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-to-know-postcoital-dysphoria
“The Relationship Between Sex and Sleep” by Eric Suni (March 11th, 2022) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/sex-sleep