Masturbation Has Tons Of Surprising Health Benefits—Here Are The Biggest Ones

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Sex

Sexually speaking, no two people are the same—everyone has different experiences, preferences and turn-ons. But there’s one activity that’s been around for millions of years and it’s still ubiquitous today: the art of masturbation. No matter your age, gender, or life experiences, solo sex can feel good. And believe it or not, it actually has a lot of really great health benefits, too.

From boosting your mood to improving your sex life, masturbation can be physically and psychologically beneficial, says Dr. Renita White. “Studies have shown that masturbation may improve sleep and decrease body tension and muscle aches,” she says, “which may be due to the natural release of oxytocin and elevated dopamine levels that occur with an orgasm.”

Oftentimes, people masturbate to achieve orgasm and feel the release of endorphins, which lead to high levels of pleasure. “Physically during an orgasm, rhythmic contractions of the pelvic muscles as well as the uterus and anal regions occur and certain neurotransmitters and endorphins are released,” adds Dr. Tiffany Pham. This can lead to a boost in your mood, all while helping you discover your desires, your turns-ons/offs and how to bring those into the bedroom with a partner(s).

Experiment with masturbation

“Research shows that masturbation can allow for exploration of one’s sexuality and help people learn about their bodies and discover how to experience pleasure,” says Dr. Pham. She recommends experimenting with simple sex toys or devices, like a small clitoral vibrator or butt plug, before expanding your range to different shapes and sizes that may stimulate more than one area at once (such as a rabbit). You might also want to use a lube to reduce friction and increase glide, adds certified sex therapist Aliyah Moore, PhD.

Meet the experts: Dr. Renita White, MD, is a board-certified ob-gyn with sexual healthcare company The Honey PotDr. Tiffany Pham, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and medical advisor at Flo Health. Aliyah Moore, PhD, is a certified sex therapist. Nan Wise, PhD, is a cognitive neuroscientist and certified sex therapist.

Ahead, experts share ten (yes, ten!) health benefits masturbation can have on your body and mind:

1. Masturbation can serve as a natural pain reliever.

Believe it or not, pleasing yourself can help relieve your pain. Research shows masturbation can help with pains like migraines, period cramps and various forms of chronic illness. One landmark study from 1985 found that women’s pain tolerance increased by 40% when they masturbated. That tolerance increased to 74% when said stimulation resulted in orgasm.

“During an orgasm, the body releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that work as natural pain relievers,” explains Moore. “The production of endorphins during masturbation can cause a feeling of euphoria and relaxation, providing brief relief from tension and anxiety.” They can also aid with menstrual cramps, headaches and muscle soreness, she adds.

2. It can improve your cardiovascular health.

Masturbation not only leads to a happy soul, but a happy heart, too! Studies show higher rates of orgasms obtained through vaginal penetration can increase heart rate variability (the beat-to-beat variation in your heart rate), explains Dr. Pham. “Heart rate variability can be a marker for cardiac function and a predictor of health and longevity,” she says.

3. It can help maintain vaginal and pelvic floor function.

Solo play can have a positive effect on the overall health of your vulva and pelvic floor, which are incredibly important in your overall sexual function. “Stimulation of the clitoris and vaginal penetration increases blood flow and oxygenation to the pelvic floor, vagina and genitals,” shares Dr. Pham. This can help you maintain the health and function of healthy vaginal and genital tissue.

READ MORE: 3 Women Tried Different Vagina Pumps — This Is What They Thought

4. It can give you a mood boost.

Anyone who’s masturbated before might know about that “happy pill” feeling after you finish: it’s almost a floating-like sensation that overwhelms your whole body. Basically, this happens because orgasm leads to an increase in dopamine, which is a chemical responsible for positive feelings and happiness, says Dr. White. This is why some people enjoy masturbating before they start the day: because of the happy feelings they receive post-pleasure.

5. Masturbation can improve your sleep.

That said, if you’re not a morning masturbator, don’t worry! Those happy feelings can also be nice at night to help you roll on your side faster and fall right to sleep, says Dr. White. This is thanks to a surge of oxytocin chemicals released after an orgasm that triggers fatigue, which can, therefore, heavily improve sleep quality.

6. Masturbation can relieve stress.

Stressed out? Maybe you should touch yourself for a few minutes. Similar to improving sleep and increasing your mood, Dr. White notes that masturbation is great for stabilising your stress levels, thanks (again) to the dopamine and oxytocin release.

Stress itself “is really bad for our health” and can lead to heart disease, depression and impaired immune function, adds Nan Wise, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist and certified sex therapist. So, if you’re ever super overwhelmed, take a few minutes and see what happens—you may be surprised by how your stress levels decline.

READ MORE: THIS Is Your Ultimate Guide To The Art Of Masturbation

7. It’s good for your brain.

Masturbating has some big brain (and memory!) benefits as well, says Wise. “With orgasm, there’s a lot of activation in many areas of the brain,” which helps bring oxygen to the brain, she says. Generally speaking, the increased blood flow and oxygen that comes from upping your arousal—or from exercise—is thought to be good for your gray matter (crucial for everything from memory to decision-making), Wise adds.

8. Masturbation can improve your relationship satisfaction.

With all that exploring you’re doing with your body, you’d be surprised by its effects on your current and future relationship(s). Maybe you’ve found a new toy you like, a new erotic zone on your body, or a preferred speed at which you like being touched. Bringing that into your relationship could open up a lot of excitement and desire, says Dr. White.

Plus, these new learnings could help you verbalise what you like in bed. “Within increased confidence in self-play and self-reached orgasm, partners may feel more confident verbalising their sexual needs—which improve communication, partnered sex life and ultimately improve the general relationship,” she explains.

9. Masturbation can increase your libido levels.

“Reports have shown that people who masturbate are more likely to have a higher libido and desire to have sex,” says Dr. White. Various studies show positive associations with masturbation and arousal. There’s a neurological reason for this, says Wise: “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” she says. “[By masturbating], you’re strengthening those pathways in the brain, so that it becomes easier to turn that system on.”

If you’re in a relationship and looking to rekindle that sense of desire, masturbating separately—and then, coming together and sharing your interests—may help bring that spice back into the bedroom. It can also increase both of your moods and make room for a more positive connection with one another, adds Dr. White.

READ MORE: Trust Us, These Are 6 Solo Sex Toys You Need In Your Nightstand

10. Masturbation can improve your self-confidence.

Finally, masturbating is empowering. It’s just you and your body and over time, that exploration will lead to feeling your highest potential of pleasure. As you explore your body, you’ll start to feel more in tune with yourself.

“This self-exploration promotes body positivity and self-acceptance, which are essential for overall mental health and sexual well-being,” says Moore. “Masturbation can help people build a healthier relationship with their bodies and sexuality, resulting in enhanced confidence and enjoyment in all aspects of life.”

Are there any risks I run from masturbating too much?

Don’t worry: “Not only is masturbation healthy, but it is safe,” says Dr. White. She notes that, unlike the risk of STIs that can come from sex with a partner, it is unlikely to pass an infection to yourself. However, it’s also important to call out that thoroughly cleaning your chosen solo play method–hands or toys–before and after use is essential to preventing future infections.

That said, if you are too rough with your skin, it’s possible to experience chafing and irritation. Plus, masturbating so often that it starts interfering with your daily functioning, responsibilities, work, relationships, or social activities may signify a larger mental health issue, says Moore. If you feel like that might be happening to you, Moore highly suggests gaining a professional’s insight for both support and an effective management plan.

Masturbation is a natural part of human sexuality. No one should ever feel ashamed to explore their body and partake in something that feels good to them. With all the benefits attached to it can be a great self-care practice for many people to ease pain and relax with themselves. Now go build your pleasure practice and find some time to explore your body—however that may look for you. After all, it’s clearly great for your health.

This article by Jillian Angelini was first published on Women’s Health US.

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