Sex Education Correspondent
Ever wonder why you fall dead asleep or get a rush of self-confidence right after you have an orgasm? It's because of endorphins, oxytocin and other substances that are released into your bloodstream upon "liftoff."
There are a host of sexual chemicals that affect your mind and body during and after sex. Check 'em out.
What it does: Prolactin relieves sexual arousal after orgasm and takes your mind off sex. It rises sharply immediately after orgasm in almost everyone. It's one of the few moments of the day when we men aren't preoccupied with sex.
How it makes you feel: Prolactin disengages you from sex after an orgasm, allowing you to think of other things besides the naked woman right in front of you. If after sex your mind is flooded with activities and chores you need to accomplish that day, that is prolactin at work. Just imagine how much more progress we could all make in our lives if they pumped this stuff into the water supply.
What it does: Secreted by the pituitary gland, oxytocin stimulates the prostate, causes muscle contractions and sensitizes nerves. Research has shown that increased oxytocin produces more intense orgasms.
How it makes you feel: Oxytocin is known as the "cuddling hormone" because it causes you to feel a connection and bond with your lover. It's also found in women's breast milk, helping to create a bond between baby and mother.
If you enjoy cuddling with your girl after sex, chances are you know the effects of oxytocin well.
What they do: Endorphins are a group of neurotransmitters formed within the body that bind to opiate receptor sites in your brain to naturally relieve pain. The bio-chemicals acetylcholine and dopamine are known as endorphins, and have a similar chemical structure to morphine. They are also known to lower stress and boost confidence.
How they make you feel: Endorphins produce feelings of euphoria and pleasure, and they have a calming effect. They fill you with a sense of well-being and relaxation. They may also make you feel dizzy and drowsy, and you might even drift off to sleep. Doctors have suggested that over-stimulation of the opiate receptors, as with heroin use, causes a depressed sex drive.
So next time your woman hassles you over passing out post-sex, you know it's the endorphins at work. In fact, you can even argue that the faster you fall asleep, the better the sex was.
Of note, endorphins are released by your brain during sex, sporting activities, skydiving, fights, grievous injuries, and almost any other exhilarating activity you partake in.
Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine)
What it does: Adrenaline activates the sympathetic nervous system, which increases your heart rate and dilates arteries to increase blood flow to your muscles during sex. It also causes a refractory period in which another orgasm is impossible for up to 20 minutes after sex. During intercourse, increased amounts of adrenaline are released from the adrenal glands. This chemical amplifies the circulatory system with each heart contraction.
How it makes you feel: Adrenaline makes you feel exhilarated and makes your heart feel like it's pounding out of your chest.
What it does: Phenylethylamine triggers the release of dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain. This chemical is released during sex and peaks at orgasm. Curiously, it is also one of the chemicals found in chocolate.
How it makes you feel: You are overwhelmed with feelings of bliss, attraction and excitement.
What it does: Testosterone fuels sexual drive and aggression. It is essential to your libido and sexual arousal. Men (and women) with a testosterone deficiency often have trouble getting aroused and have a lower interest in sex.
How it makes you feel: In short, you feel turned on and sexually virile. And if you've noticed a rush of confidence after sex, that could be increased testosterone at work.
What it does: Serotonin regulates your moods. Having an orgasm releases an extra shot of serotonin to your brain, which acts as an anti-depressant.
How it makes you feel: You feel cheerful, hopeful, emotionally balanced, and content. Most clinical anti-depression medications pump up serotonin levels in your brain.
it's the natural high
Some people go to great lengths to get drugs, but why bother when these active chemicals are just waiting to be released in your body? Having an orgasm is like getting high. By releasing a myriad of substances into your bloodstream, you are altering your brain and body functions.
Orgasms involve a complex interaction between three systems of the body: the vascular system, the nervous system, and the endocrine system. They are so complicated that it's a miracle that they happen at all. So enjoy them and remember to have as many as possible.