How do I love thee, masturbation...let me count the ways...
Well get ready, because your long list of reasons to love masturbating just got even longer. (YAS, Queen!)
That's because upping your arousal—ideally ending in an orgasm—taps into several biological systems, says Adeeti Gupta, M.D., ob-gyn and founder of Walk In GYN Care in New York.
Consider this all the more reason to schedule a solo sesh tonight:
1. MASTURBATING CAN HELP YOU SLEEP BETTER
Tucking yourself into bed with an orgasm can definitely help you sleep better and deeper, says Gupta. This is likely due to a few different things, according to the experts. “The stress relief from good sex or from masturbation can enhance sleep because it gets you into a good state—a less-stress state,” explains Wise. Think of that feeling of zen calm that comes after getting yourself off as a post-sex lullaby.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, giving yourself an O also boosts your estrogen levels—a hormone that, among other things, deepens your restorative REM sleep.
2. IT CAN HELP BOOST YOUR LIBIDO
Orgasms beget orgasms. Here’s why: “Jump-starting the engine” by masturbating creates physical arousal, which in turn revs your desire, explains Wise.
This process primes your brain for more action. “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” she says. “[By masturbating], you're strengthening those pathways in the brain, so that it becomes easier to turn that system on.”
3. MASTURBATING IS LIKE TAKING A HAPPY PILL
Your solo sesh triggers an elaborate ballet of hormone activity in your brain. “That process involves an intricate release of serotonin and dopamine which is akin to the ‘happiness’ state of hormone balance,” explains Gupta. She calls it the “Brain-Vagina Connection.” Put simply, “happy events down there lead to happy events up in the brain,” Gupta says.
4. IT HELPS DELIVER OXYGEN TO YOUR BRAIN
Masturbating has other brain benefits as well, says Nan Wise, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist and certified sex therapist. “With orgasm, there's a lot of activation in many areas of the brain, which means that a lot of oxygen is getting into the brain,” she says.
Generally speaking, the increased blood flow and oxygen that comes from upping your arousal—or from exercise—is thought to be good for your grey matter (crucial for everything from memory to decision-making). “It's kind of this circulatory exercise for the brain as well as for the body,” Wise explains. “What we're doing is giving the brain a nice, natural sort of flush out.”
5. MASTURBATING CAN HELP RELIEVE PAIN
Treating yourself to some below the belt self-love can actually help reduce pain, according to research. In one study published in the journal Cephalalgia, researchers found that sexual activity helped ease migraine pain in 60 percent of patients.
In one landmark study, sex researcher Beverly Whipple found that “vaginal self-stimulation” can significantly increase your pain tolerance as well. When masturbation led to orgasm, it increased pain tolerance by 75 percent in study participants.
6. IT MIGHT STRENGTHEN YOUR PELVIC MUSCLES
Achieving an orgasm isn’t always easy—in fact, sometimes it feels like a legit workout. Like any exercise, however, masturbating can help you build strength—specifically in your pelvic muscles, says Wise.
During masturbation, “the tendency is to have both spontaneous or involuntary contractions of those muscles,” she explains. “Like any muscle, when you’re using it, it gets stronger.”
The best part? Research has shown that women with stronger pelvic muscles have increased desire and stronger orgasms. (Dang this just keeps getting better!)
7. MASTURBATING CAN RELIEVE STRESS
Getting it on solo can also be majorly therapeutic. “Chemicals that are released during pleasurable activities such as genital stimulation and orgasm”—chiefly, oxytocin—"are stress relieving,” explains Wise.
This has major impacts on your health beyond your anxiety level, Wise says. “Stress is really bad for our health,” she explains. It is linked to everything from heart disease, to obesity, to depression, to impaired immune function.
Consider this your excuse to schedule regular sessions with your vibrator—you know, for health reasons.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.