She falls asleep straight after we make love 

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My wife falls asleep almost as soon as we’ve finished having sex. I’m not saying I want to stay up for hours talking afterwards, but I would like to spend a few minutes cuddling. Should I tell her it bothers me?

It is normal to want to spend time cuddling and being intimate after sex. Good sex is reassuring. It makes you feel safe and loved, so you can surrender, let go and allow yourself to be vulnerable. In the moments after orgasm, people are more open and less emotionally guarded, which is why you feel the need to connect with your wife. But the truth is, your wife may not actually be able to help herself. Sex is a powerful sedative and anyone who has ever enjoyed the delightful bliss of a post-orgasmic slumber will tell you that it is the nicest way to fall asleep. The combined release of oxytocin, prolactin and the inhibition of cortisol after orgasm reduces stress and facilitates improved sleep quality in males and females. Prolactin, which is associated with quality of orgasm and sexual satisfaction, also induces sleep.

Having said that, you and your wife are missing out because engaging in post-sex affection – such as kissing, cuddling or affectionate talk – is known to promote sexual satisfaction. And the effects are longer-lived than you might think. In fact, in 2014 the psychology researcher Amy Muise at the University of Toronto Mississauga tested the correlation between post-sex behaviours such as kissing, caressing and pillow talk and sexual and relationship satisfaction. She found that couples who spent extra time together after sex reported feeling more satisfied with their sex lives and their relationship with their partner and, amazingly, the afterglow from a single session was found to last up to three months. 

Research by Daniel Kruger at the University of Michigan found that cuddling and talking after sex is a crucial way for a couple to show their commitment and, in terms of bonding, the time couples spend together after sex is as important as what happens before it. He also found that when one partner falls asleep first, it can have a negative emotional impact on the other partner because that important opportunity to bond is missed – which is of course how you’re feeling.

To overcome this problem, the best option for you both would be to change the time that you have sex. Sex is strongly circadian, largely because of availability. Married couples tend to make love at night, because bedtime provides proximity and opportunity, or when they wake in the morning. Couples are also more likely to have sex on weekend nights when they don’t have to get up for work.

For you and your wife, having a conversation about when to have sex – I suggest that you posit weekend mornings as the best option for you – will mean that you are a) talking about your needs and b) making a commitment to be intimate at a time when she is less likely to feel tired and, therefore, less likely to fall asleep after sex. If you do want to have sex in the evening, make sure you have it before you eat your evening meal, or drink any alcohol. Your wife won’t be so tired and it also gives you both the opportunity to continue your intimate chat over dinner.

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