Sex Advice

Masturbating Every Night for a Week Gave Me the Best Sleep and Body Image I’ve Had in Months

Photo: Getty Images/Well+Good Creative
The very term “masturbation” used to make me feel uneasy. I was raised by devout Catholic Mexican immigrants who shied away from ever discussing sex, and thereby sexual health. Now, as writer who is forthright in her stance on sex positivity, I celebrate the term and the practice. In fact, in the name of journalistic research, I recently I tried masturbating before going to sleep every night for a week to see what, if anything, would happen. To my delight, I found that I slept more soundly than normal and also got to know my body a little better.

Outside the scope of the experiment, I don't hold to a regular masturbation schedule. Instead, I tend to self-pleasure whenever the urge strikes, which has historically skewed pretty irregular—perhaps once a month or even once every six months. But, because masturbation boasts a handful of well-being benefits, like reducing stress and anxiety as well as boosting heart health, I was curious to learn what differences I might notice after sticking with it as a daily bedtime practice.

Ahead of my experiment, I consult two sex experts for their predictions, and they suggest I might experience increased relaxation, better sleep, an improved relationship with my body, and getting to know what feels good as well as what doesn’t. So, heading into my week of masturbating before sleep, I'm excited for more reasons than one.

What experts say to keep in mind during my week of masturbating before sleep

While I’ve masturbated my entire adult life and have noticed that I tend to feel better immediately after doing so, I wasn’t always aware of the benefits the practice stands to offer. Perhaps that’s because I had to that point conceptualized masturbation as only a quick way to get an orgasm. However, according to certified sex therapist Jaqueline Mendez, I could also think of masturbation as similar to meditation.

“Masturbation can also be seen as a mindfulness practice,” says Mendez. “When we masturbate as a mindfulness practice, it's not necessarily chasing the orgasm. Sometimes it's learning what different touches to the different parts of the body do for you.”

“Masturbation can also be seen as a mindfulness practice.” —Jacqueline Mendez, certified sex therapist

In order to help me keep my masturbation practice mindful and ostensibly more beneficial, sexologist Rebecca Alvarez Story, recommends I make a couple of shifts, the first of which being to reduce distractions. “That could be making sure your phone is off, making sure the clutter around your room is put away, or making sure you shut the door,” she says. “It sounds like basic things, but just make sure that you can concentrate on just you.”

Story’s second tip is to ensure that I'm surrounded by things that motivate me to masturbate. This, she says, would be particularly helpful on days that I really didn’t feel like it. “That doesn’t have to be a specific item—it’s just anything related to ambiance,” Story says. She suggests keep candles, aromatherapy, lubricants, and arousal oils on hand.

Lastly, she says that she typically encourages people to masturbate daily for more than a week. “I actually recommend that people do this for two to three weeks, because that's how long it takes for the body to really start to form habits and really crave that intimacy on an ongoing basis. But one week is a really, really great start,” says Story. Noted.

What happened during my weeklong self-pleasure journey

The first day, a Friday, is easy for me to set the mood, in accordance with Story’s parameters. I light some candles, go into a bath, and get down to business after. I decide to keep it old school and masturbate with just my hand instead of bringing in any of my sex toys. This is probably my favorite day of the experiment—perhaps because was still novel, or because it was the weekend and I didn’t have to worry about getting to bed at a certain time in order to wake up for work refreshed.

Relatedly, I soon notice that it's increasingly difficult for me to muster up the energy to masturbate after particularly long days at work in the midst of my experiment. But, I remember Story and Mendez both having told me that I can also use this time to just figure out what feels good and not focus on any end point. To that end, one night, when I'm so tired I can’t even get out of bed to get a sex toy—I decide to just use my hand to caress other erogenous zones in my body.

I start with the top of my head and work my way down via my face (which doesn’t really do much for me), neck (which feels good), breasts (which also feels good), belly (which tickles too much for me to find pleasurable), and my thighs. The last discovery, about my thighs, is my favorite because I didn’t know before that I could feel sensual pleasure there.

Even though I don’t orgasm on this night and a couple of the other days that week, I was still able to fall asleep easier and stay asleep better than I typically do. This result wasn't necessarily surprising, given the experts' predictions and also existing research, but it was certain welcome.

Final thoughts after masturbating before sleep for a week

In the seven days of masturbating before sleep, I noticed that it's easier for me not only to fall asleep but also to stay asleep, both of which I’d been struggling to do because I recently moved to a noisy neighborhood.

I also observe that I'd gotten to know my body better, which led me to a more positive relationship with my body image, which is something with which I struggle. I've long been self-conscious that, because I’m not a size two, my body wouldn’t feel good to someone else. But once I actually ran my hands down my body amid the experiment, I realized that I actually did feel good—smooth, soft—and that I wasn’t thinking about how my body looked. That observation helped me feel less self-conscious about how other might perceive me during partnered sex.

One unexpected effect I noticed, though, was that while I was waking up in a better mood, I was actually a little bit more tired throughout the week of masturbated before sleep. This wasn’t exactly surprising to Story, though. “Your body having an orgasm every day presents a new physical stimulus that you're adding to your week,” she says, underscoring that this could have led to my less-than-vivacious energy.

But, while sticking with the habit likely would have helped me to continue to reap those feel good benefits and eventually led me to feel more rested, I probably won’t do this again in such a scheduled way. That said, I'm making a concerted effort to start masturbating more regularly, even if it's not daily.

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