The sleep and sex survey: Relationships between sexual function and sleep

J Psychosom Res. 2018 Sep:112:59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2018.07.005. Epub 2018 Jul 17.


Objective: Distress and dysfunction in sleep and sex are both very common, and have been found to be separately related to anxiety, depression, and stress. Even so, and despite evidence linking obstructive sleep apnea and erectile disfunction, the connections between sleep and sex are largely understudied.

Method: A large (N = 703) survey of people in the United States between 18 and 65 years old was conducted using Mechanical Turk, an on-line crowd-sourcing platform. Approximately 30% of participants were Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American, 8% identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and the sampling structure ensured an even gender distribution in each of 5 age strata. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), and Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) assessed sleep and sexual dysfunction; the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and General Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-7) measured stress, depression, and anxiety to measure variance.

Results: We found a significant connection between insomnia severity and sexual function. The relationship remained significant after accounting for the shared variability associated with depressive and anxious symptoms, and perceived stress.

Conclusion: Given this relationship, clinicians observing dysfunction in one area should routinely assess for dysfunction in the other. Further research will be required to determine (a) if treatment of one has an effect on the other, and (b) if this connection is related to a common psychopathological factor and/or is a conditioned association related to the commonly shared context of bed.

Keywords: Anxiety; Bed; Depression; Insomnia; Sexual function; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Health Questionnaire
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult