Listen, masturbating cannot cure COVID, but touching yourself might help you feel better — in so many pleasurable ways.
Advertisement
Masturbation-Benefits-for-COVID-GettyImages-1297242176-555365305
Credit: Getty Images

You're holed up in bed with a positive COVID test binging the new season of Emily In Paris, surrounded by a graveyard of empty delivery containers — but a few days into isolation, you're already bored out of your mind, and still feeling like crap. Sooooo, why not try masturbating? Not only will it help pass the time, but science says it actually might help you feel better, too — and not just in the usual way.

Now's not the time to get into all of the innumerable benefits of masturbation because, frankly, an unprecedented pandemic is wreaking havoc across all corners of the country, and time is of the essence. But, ICYDK, self-pleasure is downright medicinal for menstrual woes — alleviating monster migraines, body aches, hormone-induced crippling anxiety, and much more. And if solo sex can make a heaven of the hell that is period pain, it stands to hypothesize that giving your body some TLC could certainly help ease many of the same aforementioned symptoms (and then some) during all down days, right?

"Some of the benefits could be increased relaxation, improved mood during self-isolation, and a strengthened immune system," says Bria Hamlet, a certified health education specialist, as well as the owner and founder of JustBriFree Yoga & Wellness. Hamlet herself leveraged the healing properties of pleasure while fighting COVID earlier in the pandemic.

So, while you're breaking out your Emergen-C powder packets and zinc supplements, you may want to reach for your vibrator, too.

1. Pleasure eases congestion.

One of the most common symptoms of COVID is a clogged nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, luckily for you, climaxing has been dubbed as effective as decongestants in treating all the stuffy, snotty, sickly nasal nonsense. That is, at least according to a compelling study published in the Ear, Nose & Throat Journal in January 2021.

Acknowledging prior research that purports that both physical exercise and hormonal changes can impact nasal airway function in the short and long term, the researchers begged the question: "Is 'love' all you need to improve nasal breathing?" This investigation is the first of its kind and suggests that nasal breathing significantly improves for more than an hour after orgasming from sexual intercourse — equally as much as it improves after the use of a nasal decongestant.

While the research focuses on partnered sex, it's largely grounded in the theory of "reflex nasal neurosis," which is the idea that there's a physiological connection between the nose and the nether regions. And the researchers aren't 100 percent on why, exactly, partnered pleasure can clear up clogged nostrils… but there's likely crossover with solo sex, too.

One caveat: Three hours after having sex, the study participants' nasal breathing was back to the baseline levels, whereas the people who used a nasal decongestant spray saw improvements in breathing for longer. So consider pursuing an O for a kick of instant relief while you're waiting for some cold meds to kick in.

2. Masturbating makes headaches less miserable.

Studies show that masturbating can help relieve headaches — one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the CDC. Specifically, one study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry suggests that sexual activity could alleviate episodes of cluster headaches. Another study also found this to be true for both cluster headaches and migraines.

In fact, 31 percent of patients in the latter study engaged in sexual activity during a headache attack, and 37 percent of this subset reported an improvement. Of that 37 percent, 91 percent reported moderate to total relief. Some patients even admitted to being intentionally sexual to treat their headaches.

Why does it work? The resulting rush of endorphins can help switch off pain, according to the researchers. That's why even masturbation could allay aches. So, when the headaches hit, they recommend having an orgasm in any shape or form.

3. Sexual self-care can help you get much-needed rest.

It's no secret that the pandemic as a whole is messing with people's sleep. (One study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, shows that four in 10 people have reported trouble sleeping since the coronavirus pandemic began). However, if you're actively suffering from a COVID-19 infection, it's very possible the symptoms you're experiencing — such as difficulty breathing, coughing, body aches, and fever — can make sleep difficult as well. In fact, the Sleep Foundation found that patients with COVID-19 were the most likely to report sleep problems compared to anyone else, with 75 percent of patients reporting trouble sleeping.

And, yet, the No. 1 thing your body needs when you're down for the count with COVID (or any illness) is rest — and, evidently, orgasms. That's because sexual activity can help fight insomnia and improve your overall sleep.

One study published in Frontiers in Public Health found that two of the most vital hormones for quality sleep, oxytocin, and prolactin, are released during sexual activity. And it's not just partnered sexual activity; self-stimulation does the trick, too. They found that 54 percent of people reported improved sleep quality after masturbating, and 47 percent reported falling asleep more easily. "Promoting safe sexual activity before bed may offer a novel behavioral strategy for promoting sleep," the researchers write. Forget counting sheep — how's that for an insomnia cure?

4. Self-play relieves anxiety.

If you're like most of the population, you're already battling anxiety and/or depression right now. About 4 in 10 adults in the United States report symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder, which is up from 1 in 10 in 2019, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The good news: Orgasm triggers the release of the feel-good hormones oxytocin, dopamine, and prolactin, and all sorts of endorphins that promote relaxation. In other words, self-stimulation can help you seriously chill out. (Never mind that the conscious connection you build with your body by practicing self-love boosts mindfulness.)

Of course, however, anxiety and depression can also kill your libido, which may pose problems for getting in the mood to masturbate in the first place. (Related: COVID-19 Stole My Orgasms — Here's What I'm Doing to Get Them Back)

"Getting in the mood in isolation could be achieved by watching or reading erotic content, exploring self-touch to see what feels good, and trying out new pleasure devices — sometimes the sensation can trigger desire," recommends Hamlet. (Here's more about how, exactly, desire works, and why it's often more about doing things to stoke it vs. just waiting to be magically turned on.)

5. Self-stimulation can boost your brain.

Ever hear complaints of COVID brain fog, or feel it for yourself? Tons of people coping with COVID have voiced concerns about feeling forgetful and scatterbrained for weeks during and following a positive test result. Never mind that pandemic fatigue itself has taken a toll on everyone.

Masturbation can help you think clearly again — one study published in Age and Ageing even found that sexual activity can increase recall in older adults ages 50 to 89. This is largely thanks to the release of all those aforementioned hormones and endorphins. For example, dopamine has been shown to refine focus and concentration, according to research from the National Institutes of Health.

6. Orgasming strengthens your sense of smell.

When you masturbate and your body releases the hormone prolactin (especially if you achieve orgasm), it can actually boost your sense of smell — something an unfortunate group of people has lost with COVID.

Prolactin, which is released during orgasm, actually causes stem cells in your brain's olfactory bulb, the part that's linked to your sense of smell, to develop new neurons, according to the book Why Women Have Sex by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss. It's worth noting that the jump in prolactin is 400 percent greater after partnered intercourse than after masturbation, according to a study published in the journal Biological Psychology. But, orgasming in any which way still triggers prolactin.

Can you expect that having copious orgasms will straight-up fix an MIA sense of smell from COVID? Unclear — but you sure as hell have nothing to lose by having a few Os in the pursuit of getting it back. (And while you're at it, give this TikTok orange trick a try.)