The XX Factor

The Problem With That Study on Sleeping vs. Cuddling After Sex

A Chinese couple test a display bed at an Ikea frurniture store in Beijing on August 15, 2011.

Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

A new study published in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology claims that falling asleep after sex may inhibit relationship bonding. “A tendency to fall asleep before one’s partner after sex may be a non-conscious way to block any commitment conversation,” the UPI reported, which could seem rather alarming to anyone already insecure about a relationship. Many bloggers are bringing an air of skepticism to this study: For instance, on Jezebel, Cassie Murdoch notes that falling asleep to dodge relationship talk “seems awfully crafty—isn’t it just as likely that the person simply had a long day at work and was not trying to engage in some kind of evolutionary mind fuck?”

“Tired after a long day of class and some drinking” might be more accurate. What has gone largely unnoticed is the age of those surveyed. The full study (PDF) notes that the 456 anonymous participants surveyed were all undergraduates at two large Midwestern public universities. The respondents’ median age was 20. It seems rather risky to make sweeping statements about relationships based on the post-coital habits of teenagers and early twentysomethings still in college. Students’ lifestyles—and sex lives—are very different from adults’ (at least, I like to think so). Also: The study makes no mention of how alcohol affected post-sex behavior, which could be an influential factor, given the fact that the participants are in college. So before you shake your partner awake, demanding some cuddling for the betterment of your relationship, take a deep breath.