Masturbation, AKA self-pleasure, self-care, or radical form of self-preservation, is an incredible outlet for both solo folks and those with partners. This time you spend alone is never in vain. The uptick of masturbation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic could have incredible benefits on your overall health. While masturbation may seem like a physical activity alone, its connectivity to other areas of your health and well-being is tremendous. While masturbation still holds taboo for a myriad of reasons, despite ongoing momentum towards a more sex-positive and inclusive world, here’s to hoping its benefits outweigh the traditional stigmas.
Orgasms = Oxygen
Orgasms via sex or masturbation get your blood flowing at a faster rate. An increase in blood flow equals more blood cells carrying oxygen and dispersing throughout your body. When excess oxygen ends up in your face, for example, you reap the benefits of more collagen. Increased oxygen equals collagen production and more collagen equals skin elasticity. You heard right— orgasms give you plump, juicy skin.
Masturbation can also aid in the production of feel-good hormones and chemicals like estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone largely aiding in regulating the female reproductive system, sexual development, and sexual function. More estrogen boosts collagen, keeping your skin thick and locking in moisture for plumpness.
Shadeen Francis, LMFT, notes “most of us spend a majority of our time seated, which is a rapidly increasing concern for our muscles and cardiovascular system. Masturbation helps increase pelvic floor circulation, helping transport oxygen and nutrients around the body.”
More Healthy Sleep
Say buh-bye to groggy mornings. DIY sex also means increased sleep. A study, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that orgasms from solo or partnered sex can spark the perfect hormonal balance of upping happy chemicals like oxytocin and prolactin and lowering stress hormones like cortisol. Together they can promote healthy sleep behavior.
Sleep and sex have a mutually dependent relationship and each is impacted by the quality of the other. The better sleep you get the higher your desire and arousal and having orgasms can improve the power of your zzs and active rest. Better sex, better sleep— any way you flip it.
Cortisol, notoriously known as the “stress” hormone, is your body’s internal defense system. As a response to unwanted pain, your brain releases cortisol to control your mood, emotions, and fear levels. Too much cortisol can cause inflammation and stress. Like most things in nature, a happy balance is key. Orgasms maintain an equilibrium between “happy” and “stress” hormones by releasing endorphins, which alter your perception of pain.
For some people, sex does the opposite of perfect, deep sleep. Sometimes critical if you choose to masturbate before breakfast or mid-day. Post orgasmic masturbation, your body has an eruption of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin— feel-good chemicals—that actually make you feel good. According to the journal The Orgasmic History of Oxytocin: Love, Lust, and Labor, 2011, oxytocin specifically travels from the heart to the brain and body, triggering physiological functions and emotions like happiness, affection, love, and attraction. These chemicals naturally reduce pain and lower cortisol levels.
Many people didn’t receive a comprehensive sex education or one that centered on pleasure. Unlocking your pleasure and defining your sexual boundaries requires trial and error. The more you learn, the more equipped you are to communicate your desires to a partner if you choose. For some people, masturbation is the process of self-exploration and can boost your self-image and self-esteem. Learning what turns you on is not a linear process; it takes practice, which can be advantageous for self-discovery.
Sonalee Rashatwar, sex therapist to many queer and trans survivors of color, notes, “if we pair solo sex with a short gratitude practice, we emotionally benefit from reminding ourselves that we can give ourselves the kind of pleasure we deserve. It can feel so reassuring to have that kind of control over bodies especially after surviving trauma.” It is a self-directed reminder that our bodies exist for enjoyment.
In fact, a study on the benefits of masturbation reported that women who masturbated had higher self-esteem.
For others, masturbation can bring on negative feelings around religious or cultural expectations. If certain beliefs surrounding masturbation get you down or the act itself elicits shame, guilt or anxiety, it’s ok to skip the solo stuff and discover your desires with a trusted partner.
Natural Pain Remedy
Solo sex time can alleviate cramps, backaches, headaches— many symptoms associated with PMS. During orgasm, happy hormones dopamine and serotonin act as natural pain relievers and mood boosters.
It may get a little messy, but masturbation while menstruating has tremendous benefits. Orgasms cause your uterus to contract and relax, speeding up the shedding of your uterine lining and relieving cramps. According to The Menstrubation study, 90% of women recommend masturbation to combat period pain and 70% noticed a decrease in period pain via masturbation. The study also reported that masturbation was especially effective at reducing cramps, diarrhea, mental restlessness, breast pain, pain in the abdomen, lower back and thighs, bloated belly, and need for sleep.
Orgasms via masturbation hold incredible benefits for your health; whether physical, emotional, or mental— the upside is limitless. What’s more special is the autonomy over your pleasure and frequency of when, how, and where you orgasm. Masturbating is a healthy and natural way to experience sexual pleasure, and it’s all on your terms. During your next solo orgasm, take note of how your body feels afterward and relish in the small, “feel-good” moments.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
How Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Affecting Our Sexualities? An Overview of the Current Media Narratives and Research Hypotheses, Nicola Döring, Arch Sex Behav. 2020; 49(8): 2765–2778. Published online 2020 Aug 5.
Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population, 2019
The Orgasmic History of Oxytocin: Love, Lust, and Labor, 2011
Menstrubation: Can Masturbation Help with Menstruation Pain?, 2021