Relationship Tips

When You Should Have Sex—Partnered or Solo—According to Your Chronotype

Erin Bunch

Photo: Getty Images/Halfdark
It’s an all-too familiar feeling: You and your significant other have just climbed into bed at the end of the day, and sex is the furthest thing from your mind. Maybe you feel a little anxiety about this—is the passion gone?—but according to Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of The Power of Whenthe problem isn’t your relationship or sex drive, but rather your timing. In short, you may be trying to get busy when your body doesn’t want to.

In fact, according to Dr. Breus, 72 percent of sexual encounters happen on what he calls “the convenience rhythm,” meaning people are already in bed, their partners are available, and the sex doesn’t interfere with work. (How romantic!) Typically, this turns out to be somewhere between 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., he says, which is rarely the optimal time to have sex.

“Your hormone profile really isn’t as advantageous as it could be for you to be having sex at that particular time,” says Dr. Breus. “Later in the evening, we see a decline in testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and even things like adrenaline and cortisol are all low while melatonin is high. Since melatonin is the sleep hormone, that’s one indication, from a hormonal perspective, that it’s not making a whole lot of sense to have sex later in the evening.”

Instead, he proposes having sex on what he calls “the desire rhythm.” According to this model, desire actually peaks in the morning, which is why morning sex is oh-so-good (just me?). This is because testosterone is highest in men and women in the morning, Dr. Breus explains.

And doing it in the morning has benefits for the day that are “squandered” by doing it at night, he says. It energizes you, reduces your stress, and enables creativity—plus, it floods you with “love hormones” like oxytocin that can boost your mood and increase feelings of connection with your partner throughout the day.

So, he encourages you to give it a shot, especially if you’re in a sex slump. “Run the experiment. Is your performance better? It probably will be for guys, they will have a tendency to last longer, they will have far more erections, and their performance will actually be better. For women, it’s more difficult to measure, but when you ask them, they almost always report that they’d rather have sex in the morning than at night,” says Dr. Breus.

Of course, having sex early in the day is not always possible—nor is it universally preferable—so Dr. Breus has created a more involved guide that includes the best times to have sex based on your chronotype and your partner’s chronotype. For the unfamiliar, chronotypes are the categories of unique individual circadian rhythms (preferred sleeping and waking times), under which most humans fall based largely on their genetics, but also age and environment. There are four chronotypes—dolphins, lions, bears, and wolves.

To figure out your ideal sex time, take Dr. Breus’ chronotype quiz. Then, note yours and your partner’s prefered windows: For dolphins, it’s 8 p.m.; lions, 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., bears, 7 a.m. or 9 p.m., for Wolves, 10 a.m. or 10:30 p.m.

From there, you can simply cross-reference your best times with your partner’s best times to see where you overlap. Or, if you want to get more exacting, Dr. Breus offers a detailed chart in his book which lists the best sex timing for all the various combinations of chronotypes, gender, and sexual orientations.

Even armed with this knowledge, however, sexing on any kind of a prescribed schedule can be difficult to impossible. If, ultimately, you can only have partnered sex at non-ideal times, Dr. Breus encourages masturbation during ideal times to reap some of the aforementioned benefits to your well-being. You can either do this when desire is highest (6 a.m. for Lions, 8 a.m. for Bears, and 10 a.m. for Wolves) or when you need to reduce stress (early evening for Lions, early afternoon for Bears, and early morning for Wolves). Dolphins, says Dr. Breus, are best off masturbating at 8 p.m. so as to reduce cortisol and enable sleep (they’re the troubled sleepers of the bunch!).

And as for that late-night, partnered sex, Dr. Breus says you essentially need to lower your expectations around it to match your hormonal reality at that time. “Be less judgmental, add more variety, and try to decide that at least once a month, you’re going to ship the kids off to the grandparents’ house, or whatever it may be, and have sex in the morning,” he suggests. After all, your “passion” is likely still there—it’s just heading into hibernation mode at the exact moment you’re trying to rouse it into action.

Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cult-fave wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...