Every relationship is different, so it can be impossible to know if you're having enough sex. Or perhaps you're not in a relationship, but want to know if you're still up to par in your sex life. You can ask your friends, compare notes, and, of course, query the internet, but it turns out that there really isn't a magic number. For some, sex every day is where it's at; for others, once or twice a week is perfect. It all depends on you and your partner's sex drives, how busy you are, how much sleep you need, whether you're a mom, how long your commute is, etc., etc., etc. In other words: It comes down to preference.
But there are a few ways you can tell if you're having enough sex for your own particular needs. Sexpert Dr. Ava Cadell, the founder of Sexpert.com, looked to 10 different scientific studies to back up some indications that you're in the groove. Though some of them would point to sex on the regs as the gold standard (she reported that sex daily for two weeks resulted in cell growth in the part of the brain that keeps stress levels in check!), it's important to keep in mind that as long as you're feeling happy and fulfilled, you're probably well on your way to the "right" number of sexual encounters per week. Dr. Ava, who is the author of NeuroLoveology and the president of the American College of Sexologists International, weighs in here.
1. You Don’t Get Sick
Are you the triumphant one who eschews tissues and pooh-poohs sick days in the dead of winter? Give yourself some props. Same goes for if you only get sick for a short time. “Having regular sex is a natural antihistamine, and can help unblock a stuffy nose or combat a cold,” says Dr. Ava. “Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that people who have sex twice a week showed 30 percent higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody known to boost the immune system and keep the body healthy.” So if you’re that lucky gal who sails through flu season while most of your friends are falling like flies, count yourself doubly lucky.
2. You Feel Energetic
Regular sex is like squeezing in a few extra sessions at the gym, says Dr. Ava. And instead of waking up and doing a few minutes of stretching, perhaps try a roll in the hay. “Sex stretches the body and tones the pelvis, thighs, butt, arms and neck muscles,” she says. Don’t forget to do your Kegels, she reminds us, even while you’re in bed: “Doing Kegels during sex can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and minimize incontinence.” It’s truly a full-body workout. “Sex also boosts production of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles for men and women.”
3. You Don’t Have Pain
Next time you reach for the aspirin, perhaps consider sex instead. “Sex immediately before orgasm releases endorphins that can alleviate pain from arthritis and headaches to PMS,” Dr. Ava says. This is backed up by some pretty cool science:
“Dr. Beverly Whipple of Rutgers University in New Jersey identified the correlation between G-spot arousal and its ability to dull pain. Using MRI to view the brain, Dr. Whipple found the body’s pain-killing center in the midbrain is activated during peak arousal. Signals instruct the body to release endorphins and corticosteroids, which numb the raw nerve endings responsible for pain. Immediately before orgasm, hormone levels of oxytocin surge to five times their normal level and releases endorphins, which alleviate pain.”
If that’s not reason enough to have a healthy sex life, I don’t know what is.
4. You Feel Happy
Sex releases dopamine, or “feel-good neurotransmitters from the brain,” says Dr. Ava, which makes it a viable antidepressant. But it’s not just sex. “State University of New York in Albany suggests that semen acts as an antidepressant,” she says. “Women in the study who had sex without condoms had fewer signs of depression than women who used condoms or abstained from sex. Semen contains a shot of zinc, calcium, potassium, fructose, proteins and prostaglandin, a hormone found only in semen, thus modulating female hormones.” Pretty cool that our hormones can be regulated by something so fun.
5. You Sleep Well
Everyone knows that sex before bed can lead to both parties sleeping soundly, and Dr. Ava explains the science behind that. “Sex can help alleviate insomnia by releasing of tension that can lead to the relaxation of muscles and deeper, quicker sleep. The body releases hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin, which are both associated with relaxation and sleep.” And sex releases stress too. “Studies at the Yale School of Medicine confirm that sex also decreases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone making it easier to fall asleep.”
6. You Have A Keen Sense Of Smell
This is one I’ve never heard before, but it’s backed up once again by science. “Sex can improve your sense of smell because after lovemaking, the hormone prolactin flows to the brain and develops new neurons in the olfactory bulb, which is the brain’s smell center,” Dr. Ava says. And it might be worth considering a new perfume or a quick pre-sex snack: “The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago reports that certain aromas, such as licorice and chocolate, increase blood flow to the vagina, while pumpkin pie and cinnamon increased blood flow to the penis rapidly. “ So that explains why men get so turned on at Thanksgiving. (I jest.) (Or do I?)
7. You Are More Creative
If you’ve been writing, painting, composing or creating in general more often, it’s possible that sex is to thank. “Sex can help to get those creative juices flowing,” Dr. Ava says. “Since sexual fulfillment also involves your brain, it can improve a variety of mental functions, including your concentration.” And here’s a vote of confidence for sexting or giving the Kama Sutra a spin: “Sex can make the mind more active, and an imaginative approach to sex cannot only spice up your love life, but it can create that wonderful feeling of sexual anticipation.”
8. You Are Not Stressed
Women who have more sex tend to be more relaxed. A study published in Psychology Journal “found that people who’d had sex in the last 24 hours coped better with stressful scenarios, such as public speaking, than those who had not,” says Dr. Ava. And perhaps it’s time to make time every day for it. She adds: “In another study, daily sex for two weeks led to cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that keeps stress levels under control. Research has also shown that touching and cuddling during and after sex reduces the body’s levels of cortisol, the hormone that is secreted when you’re stressed.” If you find yourself craving a post-sex snuggle, this explains why.
9. You Have Great Skin
If you’ve experienced an improvement in the quality of your skin of late, perhaps you’ve been upping your sex game. “Sex promotes skin renewal, according to research carried out at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, because sex pumps higher levels of oxygen around the body, increasing the flow of blood and nutrients to the skin, and pushes newer, fresher skin cells to the surface, making skin look healthier,” says Dr. Ava. Think of it like a bed facial. And you can toss your wrinkle-cream too. “During sex,” she says, “the hormone estrogen is pumped out and has a plumping effect on the skin, helping to smooth out any wrinkles.”
10. You Have More Confidence
Women with a definite bounce in their steps perhaps were not born that way — research points to the possibility that they’re just happy with their sex life. “Having sex frequently can make you feel more confident mentally, physical and sexually,” Dr. Ava says. “The University of Texas did research that showed participants who had high sexual activity released more pheromones, chemicals that enhance your sex appeal, which is why the more sex you have, the more people will be attracted to you, and the stronger your desire will be to have more sex.” In summation: sex begets sex.
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