We know the benefits of having a healthy sex life when it comes to our relationships. But, did you know that regular sex can also be good for our brains?
In a study by the University of Maryland, researchers found that middle-aged rats grew more brain cells after mating and also increased brainpower with frequent sexual activity. The study also notes that older people who are sexually active are less likely to have dementia.
While love biologist, Dawn Maslar agrees with the study, she says it depends on with whom and when you are having sex. Maslar says, “The study is correct in the fact that sex can help alter memory loss and disorientation associated with aging, however the study found that daily sex for 28 days has a restorative effect.” In other words, you have to have a lot of sex. “Two weeks of sex followed by two weeks off, didn’t,” she says.
While it’s not completely clear how this happens, researchers believe that it might have to do with stress. A separate study points out that sex relieved stress for both men and women in satisfying relationships.
Stress causes damage to the hippocampus—the area of the brain where long-term memories are made, says Maslar. “During stressful times, the body releases certain hormones that have been found to suppress growth in the hippocampus, resulting in loss of function over time,” she says.
Even just being close to your partner can soothe stress and anxiety.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Sheenie Ambardar, says “when you touch, kiss and have sex with your loved one, it releases your body’s natural feel-good hormones.” One of which being oxytocin—found to enhance the reproduction of cells in the same area of the brain impacted by stress.
And, we all know the importance of sleep when it comes to the way our brain functions. Sex helps us sleep better, writes Ambardar in a piece on the health benefits of sex. “After orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness,” she says.
Sex and intimacy also boosts your self-esteem and happiness—two other important aspects of brain health.
So, if you’re not having sex every day, are you doomed to be dumb? Not necessarily, says Maslar. There are alternatives to daily sex.
“The study found that exercise and exposure to new activities and novel things also leads to increased cognitive ability. It’s like the old saying “use it or lose it”. As long as you are staying active and using your brain, you are less likely to lose function,” she says.