En español l Twenty-one-year-old actress and singer Miley Cyrus made headlines when she told Today show coanchor Matt Lauer that people over 40 stop having sex. The truth is, almost 75 percent of men and women ages 57 to 64 are sexually active, and more than half of those 65 to 74 are.
Long after baby making ceases to be an incentive to mate, "the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters, the physical sensations, and the intimacy and connection that occur with sexual activity result in pleasure," says Northwestern University gynecologist Lauren Streicher, author of Love Sex Again. Lucky us.
If you don't think you should be "doing it" as much as you get older, it's time to rethink that proposition. The fact is, you can have more sex, you should have more sex, and to prove it we'll give you seven reasons to get back in bed immediately. (Or the saddle, if that's your thing.)
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1. You sleep better after sleeping with someone
Sex is connected with more and better-quality sleep, a bonus when so many of us are fighting insomnia and night wakings. Arousal and orgasm release the hormone oxytocin ("the cuddle hormone") and decrease cortisol ("the stress hormone"). Areas of the brain linked to stress, fear and anxiety shut down.
So why settle for super sleep just twice a month? Try turning back time: In pre-17th century life, a "first sleep" after sunset was followed by an hour or more of wakefulness — often used for sex — before a "second sleep" until sunrise, says Virginia Tech historian Roger Ekirch. This segmented sleep provides a nightly opportunity for relaxed sex that segues into a refreshing, deep-sleep cycle.
2. You know and enjoy your body more
Like regular exercise, regular sex reminds you that your body is more than its reflection in the mirror. For example, the quality and ease of a woman's orgasm increase significantly with age, according to one survey.
"A lot of this has to do with experience," says Kristen P. Mark, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky. "Comfort with yourself and comfort with sharing yourself with someone you care about becomes easier with age. This comfort can do wonders for orgasmic experience."
That also means that women with body-image issues shouldn't worry so much. When Streicher asked 4,000 adults about sexual turnoffs, few men mentioned looks at all. The majority were more concerned with hygiene (how a partner smelled and tasted) or responsiveness (or lack thereof).
The take-home message? "Ladies: Don't worry if you have cellulite. He doesn't care, so long as you're enthusiastic and smell good," Streicher says.
3. You look younger
Is sex an untapped fountain of youth? Quite possibly. Couples who have sex at least three times a week appear more than 10 years younger than twice-a-weekers, according to research by David Weeks, then a neuropsychologist at Scotland's Royal Edinburgh Hospital who has studied this effect in more than 3,500 adults ages 18 to 102. Why? One possibility is all the positive hormones released by the body during sex. Another: People who want to have frequent sex pay more attention to their appearance and could be more prone to other clock-slowers like regular exercise and a smarter diet.
"Feeling too busy, not making it a priority, being too tired or stressed — all of these are legitimate reasons people aren't having sex," Mark says. "But if you and your partner make a decision to make sex a priority in your relationship, you'll see increased frequency and the benefits that accompany that."
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