When you think of sexual satisfaction, you probably think of being happily coupled. But not every aspect of your sexual life requires a partner. Masturbation, a generally solo experience, isn’t just for teenage boys. “Self-love” is an important part of a healthy sexual life and it’s also good for you. Judith Golden, a registered sex therapist in Toronto, explains how a little alone time can go a long way.
1. Masturbation relieves stress
If stress is starting to pile up, it might be smart to take a time-out. Masturbation allows you to focus on one thing, Golden says, which can help you relax. “As we think about sex in any form, dopamine, a chemical released by the brain that gives us a sense of pleasure, is released,” she explains. “As we engage in sexual activity, another chemical, endorphins, is released. Endorphins give us a sense of well-being.” Just be careful not to rely on masturbation as an escape from stress, Golden adds, because it’s through that reliance that an addiction can form. But the occasional solo roll in the hay can help make a bad day a little (or a lot) better.
2. Masturbation eases menstrual cramps
That particular time of the month is not usually associated with feeling good, but masturbation can actually help make the worst of it more endurable. “The strength and intensity of an orgasm can relieve cramps,” says Golden. “And the hormones released during sexual excitement can also help.” But remember that it’s not necessarily the same for everyone. “Sometimes the muscle contractions can also intensify the cramping feeling,” Golden warns. Experiment, listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
3. Masturbation puts you in touch with your sexuality
If you’ve never understood why everyone makes such a big deal about sex, this might be a good place to start. “Sex therapists strongly recommend that women who have not had an orgasm begin by pleasuring themselves,” says Golden. “This puts them in touch with the genital pleasure that they like.” The safe, controlled situation allows women to determine not only what they enjoy, but also what they may have feared.
4. Masturbation can help you achieve orgasm during intercourse
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If you find it difficult to achieve sexual satisfaction with a partner, you should first work on finding it on your own. “Regular masturbation will teach you how your body responds sexually,” explains Golden. Being able to communicate your findings to a partner will allow him or her to please you in the way that works for you. However, Golden does warn that the way you masturbate can work against this goal. “If there is excessive reliance on pornography, or if masturbation is done with rough materials or face down on a surface, it becomes harder to duplicate this with a partner.”
5. Masturbation keeps your motor running
Golden confirms our worst fear: “The old expression, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it,’ is actually true.” In the end, it comes down to a simple bit of science. “In order to be able to function sexually we need a supply of nitric oxide in our blood. Sexual activity in any form maintains levels of this chemical,” she explains. A prolonged dry spell can make it more difficult to achieve erections or lubrication. But if it’s been a while, fear not! “It is possible, with some time, to promote this chemical again and restore functioning,” Golden says.
6. Masturbation can help with insomnia
If you find yourself stuck in bed watching the late night hours slowly become the early morning, it could be time to try a new sleep aid. “Just as people fall into a deep sleep after sex with a partner, because blood pressure is lowered and relaxation is increased through the release of endorphins, masturbation is a good sleeping pill,” says Golden. “It is relied on by many as a nightly occurrence.” Well, there’s no denying that it sounds more appealing than a glass of warm milk. Sweet dreams.