One of the toughest challenges to face after uncoupling is learning to sleep alone. While it’s wonderful to stretch out and snag all the blankets, the lack of intimacy can affect you in some surprising ways.
What happens to your body when you are no longer having sex on a regular basis?
Having —or not having—sex affects you in at least 10 ways.
1. Your immune system may suffer.
It hardly seems fair but having less or no sex can negatively affect your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viruses. According to a study titled Fertility and Sterility, published in the medical journal, Physiology and Behavior, “sexually active women have higher levels of certain antibodies at different times of their cycle,” probably in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. To combat the blow to your immune system, get plenty of rest, take your vitamins and eat healthily.
2. Your stress levels may increase.
There are many reasons to feel depressed after a break-up, but it’s not all in your mind. The reaction is based in biology since sex—and the lack of it—can affect your hormones. When you engage in sex your body releases endorphins and other mood-elevating hormones. No sex: no mood elevation. Being a little down is normal for post-break-up abstinence. For now, you’ll have to think up other ways to get those endorphins going. Sniff some vanilla, listen to your favorite music, or watch a funny movie. Be kind to yourself. You deserve some pampering.
3. You might gain weight.
While the lack of sex might inspire an ice cream binge, remember that you are now also burning fewer calories. Sex does count as exercise. Engaging can burn hundreds of calories in an hour. Just kissing can use 68 calories in an hour. Those calories can add up. Don’t binge away your blues. Go for a walk with a friend or take an exercise class. You’ll feel better fending off the weight gain.
4. You might experience more pain.
According to Deborah Barrett Ph.D., LCSW, one of the chemicals that the body releases during sex is the bonding hormon, oxytocin, the same hormone that often leads to spooning and snuggling. Since oxytocin promotes a sense of wellbeing and reduces stress, it also dulls the perception of pain. Endorphins, which are also released during sex, have a chemical structure similar to morphine and are a natural opioid. Some women have noted a difference in the level of pain experienced during arthritis, migraines, and menstrual pain when they are abstinent and when they are not.
5. Your heart health may suffer.
Because sex delivers a highly palatable source of cardiovascular activity, having a dry run means you need to boost your exercise levels to bolster heart health. Sexercise can use up to 600 different muscles, working the muscles of the arms, legs, and abs. You may one day return to this enjoyable form of exercise, but, in the meantime, it’s smart to find another form of cardio that boosts blood circulation and helps burn calories.
6. Your pelvic health may be affected.
Sex is a good workout for pelvic floor muscles, the same muscles that control urine flow. Doing Kegel exercises every day can help those muscles stay firm.
7. Your skin may lose its glow.
Dr. David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at Royal Edinburgh Hospital, says people who have sex regularly have better-looking skin. Sex both improves circulation and releases the human growth hormone that makes skin look more elastic. Weeks shared his research into the topic with the British Psychology Society saying that those who had sex more often tended to look younger than their age.
8. You may find it harder to sleep.
Sex boosts estrogen which enhances a woman’s REM cycle. That cycle is when most of your dreams happen. Less sex-boosted estrogen and you may spend less time in the REM cycle. Since sex decreases cortisol, no sex can mean more stress, making it harder to fall asleep or sleep through the night.
9. Your self-esteem may suffer.
Given some of the things that happen to your body when you stop having regular sex, a loss of self-esteem is not surprising. Weighing the possibility of weight gain, dull skin, fewer feel-good hormones and feeling undeservedly undesirable, a person’s self-esteem could take a hit. Don’t despair. This too will pass. Find something you love doing and focus time on that. Go back to school. Start a new business. Take a trip. Surround yourself with supportive friends.
10. Your libido may be affected.
Some women find that after a period of abstinence it takes a little longer to get aroused the next time they have sex.
11. Abstinence involves some health risks but also benefits.
While men’s risk of prostate cancer goes up if they abstain for a long time, women find they have fewer urinary tract infections. However, sleeping with a new partner after a period of abstinence has also been shown to cause UTIs. Both men and women who abstain lower their risks of getting an STD.
If you notice any of these changes, don’t worry. They are likely temporary and may easily be reversed.