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.
READ MORE: For Woman Only: 4 Orgasms You Should Have
“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 Nan Wise, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist and certified sex therapist. 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 Wise. “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 gray 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 of more than 800 patients published in the journal Cephalalgia, researchers found that sexual activity helped ease migraine pain in 60 percent of patients.
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In another small study, sex researcher Beverly Whipple found that “vaginal self-stimulation” can significantly increase 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.
READ MORE: How can I get enough sleep?
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.
8. Masturbation can tell you what you like.
It should come as no surprise, but women aren’t all alike when it comes to what gets them off. Research from Indiana University found that in terms of genital stimulation, women have diverse preferences in how they enjoy being touched. “The biggest benefit of masturbation is that a woman can understand what feels good for her. If she can’t communicate that, it can lead to problems with sexual function in a partnership,” says ob-gyn Leah Millheiser, M.D., Director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University School of Medicine.
She recommends using various methods of masturbation to help get you there: your hands, a vibrator, water from a bathtub or shower. If you’re a noob to the whole touching yourself thing, know that it can take time to figure out your hot spots. That’s okay—and part of the fun of it, she says.
9. Masturbation can help you practice mindfulness.
Get ready to get zen. Women are often thinking about a million things at once (that work deadline, the laundry you need to get done, that birthday card you need to send, etc.), which means you may have a tough time focusing and actually enjoying the pleasure that comes with sex or masturbation. “Women often say, ‘I tried to masturbate but I couldn’t achieve orgasm because I was so stressed out’,” says Millheiser.
Here’s how to do it: Strike up a fantasy in your mind and focus on it. Practice yoga breathing and every time your mind wanders, bring it back to the fantasy. “This is a great mindful practice,” she says.
10. Masturbation boosts your confidence.
One survey of nearly 800 women published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly found that most said that masturbating helped them feel sexually empowered. Why? Well, in part, you’re not worrying about problems like pregnancy or pleasing your partner, say researchers. But also: “Masturbation can help women get over the lack of self-confidence and the belief that they cannot have satisfying sex,” says ob-gyn Adeeti Gupta, M.D., who’s also a trained sex therapist and counselor at FusionGyn. “It’s empowering and gratifying for women to know what they need, so they can direct their partners to help them climax and have pleasurable sex.”
11. Masturbation improves blood flow where it counts.
“Orgasms are really good for blood flow,” says Millheiser. That’s especially important for women on birth control pills, who are breastfeeding, or approaching menopause when blood flow can be compromised due to changing hormones. The result: less intense orgasms. Masturbation can help make your Os bigger and increase your natural lubrication to make sex more comfortable and enjoyable.
Consider this your excuse to schedule regular sessions with your vibrator—you know, for health reasons.
Source: Womens Health Mag