A little touch could ease menstrual cramps and lead to better sleep — and that's just the beginning. These health benefits of masturbation should be enough to convince you to have more solo sex.

By Lauren Mazzo and Marie Gartee
Updated May 07, 2021
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While female masturbation may not get the lip service that it deserves, that certainly doesn't mean solo sex isn't happening behind closed doors. In fact, research published in 2013 in the Journal of Sex Research found that most women report masturbating at least once a week.

Not quite hitting that quota yet? You may want to consider devoting more time: Not only does it feel, well, orgasmic, but masturbation also has bunch of health benefits.

The Incredible Health Benefits of Masturbation
Credit: Getty Images

Note: If you're feeling really apprehensive about touching yourself, know that you're not alone — and that there's no pressure to masturbate. Try these tips on how to masturbate if you've never tried it before, and see if it's something you enjoy. If not, no biggie. But if you do, then take comfort knowing you get all these benefits from masturbating.

9 Benefits of Masturbation

1. Relieve Pain Naturally

Whether you're sore from yesterday's workout or you have a killer headache, masturbation can help. That's right: One of the biggest benefits of masturbation is pain relief.

How? In the early stages of arousal, norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter that's secreted in response to stress) is released in your brain, lubricating the pathways of your sympathetic nervous system, says Erin Basler-Francis, content and brand manager at The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, non-profit sexuality education and advocacy organization in Rhode Island. When sexual activity starts — in this case, masturbation — the body releases a flood of endorphins, which bind to opiate receptors, increasing your pain threshold. (Related: The 9 Best Heating Pads for Every Body Part, According to Customer Reviews)

"As the norepinephrine begins to wear off, serotonin and oxytocin levels increase, leading to the muscle contractions that typically indicate getting off," says Basler-Francis. When these three neurotransmitters work together, they act as the perfect chemical cocktail to ease pain.

2. Reduce Period Cramps

Because masturbation can help with pain relief, it's a perfect remedy for period cramps, according to a study conducted by pleasure toy brand Womanizer. For six months, researchers asked menstruators to trade pain meds (such as Advil) for masturbation to deal with period pain. In the end, 70 percent said regular masturbation relieved the intensity of their period pains, and 90 percent said they would recommend masturbation to a friend to combat cramps. (More here: The Benefits of Masturbating On Your Period)

3. Learn What You Love

One of the biggest benefits of masturbation is that it can make your partnered sex even better. "Don't underestimate the importance of knowing what you like before trying to experience pleasure with someone else," says Emily Morse, sexologist, and host of the Sex With Emily podcast. Since masturbation makes you more familiar with what makes you tick, this knowledge will come in handy when you're trying to teach your partner how to bring you to climax, she explains. (If you don't feel well-acquainted with your anatomy, vulva mapping is a great way to learn more.)

4. Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Quick refresher: Your pelvic floor is comprised of muscles, ligaments, tissues, and nerves that support your bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum, making it part of your core, as Rachel Nicks, a doula and certified personal trainer who specializes in prenatal and postpartum fitness, previously told Shape. It's super important for everything from holing in your pee to stabilizing your core during workouts. And great news: One of the benefits of masturbation is that it also counts as a workout for your pelvic floor muscles. And "stronger PC muscles lead to more frequent orgasms not only during masturbation but also during sex," says Morse. (More here: 5 Things Everyone Should Know About Their Pelvic Floor)

5. Sleep Soundly

There's a common cliché that people with penises pass out immediately after sex, but all human brains are hardwired to crave those post-sex zzz's. One study published in Frontiers In Public Health found that 54 percent of people reported improved sleep quality after masturbating, and 47 percent reported falling asleep more easily — and there were no differences between genders.

Here's why: Once you reach climax, the hormone prolactin is released in your brain, which leads to the refractory period after orgasm — where you're so spent you can't climax again — as well as an increase in drowsiness. (Related: How to Have Multiple Orgasms)

What's more, within 60 seconds of orgasm, the feel-good hormone oxytocin surges through your system — ultimately lowering the stress hormone cortisol to promote better sleep, according to Sara Gottfried, M.D., author of The Hormone Cure.

6. Stop Infections

Masturbation itself may not prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), but the post-orgasm need-to-pee helps flush bacteria from the urethra (which ultimately keeps UTIs at bay), says Basler-Francis.

The same idea comes into play with yeast infections — meaning the actual self-love isn't working wonders, but instead it's what happening in the body after you get off. During orgasm, the pH of the vagina changes, prompting good bacteria to grow, preventing the undesirable bacteria responsible for vaginitis — which encompasses both yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis — from moving in, explains Basler-Francis. (If you're using a toy, just make sure you're cleaning it properly to prevent bad bacteria from growing.)

7. Reduce Stress and Anxiety

ICYMI above, within 60 seconds of orgasm, your body gets a surge of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which then lowers blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol, according to Dr. Gottfried. This seemingly magic hormone leaves you with feelings of calmness and relaxation.

Not to mention, this benefit may be even more pronounced after masturbation versus partnered sex. Solo sessions come with no emotional risk or real health risk (i.e. STDs, pregnancy, etc.) or even pressure to perform for your partner — so may allow you to relax even more. (Want more guidance? Here are more masturbation tips for a mind-blowing solo session.)

8. Boost Your Mood

Those feel-good sensations aren't purely about physical pleasure. The benefits of masturbation impact your mental and emotional state, too. Oxytocin, which, again, surges post-orgasm, is also known as the "love hormone" and is a major bonding chemical. As such, it also has an antidepressant effect; when your brain produces oxytocin, it makes you feel happier and calmer, as Rocio Salas-Whalen, M.D., founder of New York Endocrinology and a clinical instructor at NYU Langone Health, previously told Shape.

Another key player is dopamine, which is involved in pleasure, motivation, learning, and memory. Brain-imaging studies show that the dopamine-related "reward" system is activated during sexual arousal and orgasm, flooding you with even more good feelings, according to the British Psychological Society.

And, finally, you get a rush of endorphins — not all that dissimilar from an exercise-induced high.

9. Improve Your Relationship with Your Body

Being body positive — or even body neutral — is easier said than done in the age of Instagram filters and Photoshop. Taking the time to show your physical body some affection (whether or not you climax) can go a long way — and it one of the most overlooked benefits of masturbating. In fact, one study published a while back in the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy found that women who masturbate tend to have higher self-esteem than those who do not.