Sex: Why Do Men Go to Sleep After Sex?

WHY DO MEN SLEEP AFTER SEX? It’s one of the most common problems in the bedroom, but also one of the least understood. Here, we take an in-depth look at why men doze off after a romp under the sheets


One of the most common sexual problems between men and women is that men tend to go to sleep very soon after sex—a time when most women want to cuddle or talk. Of course, this is not true in all relationships, but it is true in more relationships than not.

It is unfortunate that few men realize the seriousness of this issue or take steps to address it. For many, going to sleep after sex is completely natural. They do not realize that as they lay snoring away, their partners are lying awake with their emotional needs unfulfilled, often disappointed and angry that their needs and desires for post-sex intimacy have been ignored. These negative emotions are due not only to their needs not being met but also the resulting perception that their male partner is unaware of and indifferent to their needs.

It is ironic that many men seeking to improve their sex lives focus on the physical side and will often spend considerable energy and money on trying to enhance these attributes, when all they need to do to please their partners more is to stay awake a few minutes more.

The first step in solving this problem is to understand it. The explanations for why men fall asleep after sex fall into four categories:

  1. Indifference. This is the explanation most frequently given by women when asked why men fall asleep after sex. They propose that the man’s needs have been met and they are then no longer interested in the woman’s needs.
  2. Oxygen deprivation. Studies have noted that men often hold their breath during sex, especially during climax. A number of articles have concluded that this results in partial oxygen deprivation and attributed the resulting desire to sleep to this.
  3. Fatigue and/or relaxation. Sex, more often than not, occurs late in the day, when men are tired. It also typically occurs in the bedroom, the natural place for sleep. In addition, sex is often relaxing, not least due to the release of sexual tension.
  4. Hormonal. A variety of brain chemicals and hormones are released during sex, some of which are linked to relaxation and sleep.

The second explanation, while plausible, does not stand up to examination. During sex there is typically a rapid increase in breathing, far greater than what is required by the physical exertion involved. This elevates blood oxygen levels and can easily compensate for the temporary holding of breath typical at the point of climax.

The third point has more validity, although it is only a partial explanation. Men will often lie awake in bed for long periods before falling asleep, even if they are relaxed. Yet these same men may fall asleep almost immediately after sex. The act of sex, while physical in nature, is not so strenuous as to produce exhaustion requiring immediate sleep.


“For many men, sex is primarily a physical act and once climax is over, sex is completed”


The first explanation provides yet another part. Some men are interested primarily in their own desires and once satisfied do not care about those of their sexual partner. However, most men would want to satisfy their wife/girlfriend and be considered a good sexual partner; even if only so that they can continue to have ready access to sex. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that men have trouble understanding the need for intimacy. For many men, sex is primarily a physical act and once climax is over, sex is completed. They do not see post-sex cuddling and talking as a necessary or even relevant part of sex. Even when this is explained to them by their partners, the concept is often so foreign to their nature that it is difficult for them to understand or respond to it. Still, this does not constitute a full explanation.

The influence of hormones is rather more complex. During sex, various brain chemicals and hormones are released, especially at the point of climax. These include norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and the hormone prolactin. The impact of these various chemicals is only partly understood; however, the hormone prolactin is associated with sleep.

It should also be noted that both the amount of hormone released and the tendency to go to sleep are related to the type and strength of orgasm. Climax from sexual intercourse releases about four times as much of this hormone as climax from masturbation, resulting in a greater tendency for men to fall asleep. From a woman’s perspective, this is perhaps the opposite from what one would want.

In summary, there are various explanations for why men tend to fall asleep shortly after sex. In themselves, these factors do not force sleep, but they produce a strong tendency for sleep. If the male partner is insufficiently aware of their partner’s need for post-sex intimacy, the tendency to sleep goes unchallenged and the man may well doze off almost immediately after sex. Dealing with this apathy is the first logical step to remedy this headache.

Doug M. Stewart is a French-based researcher with a wide area of interest, including sexuality and relationship issues

Image Getty Images