Why Masturbation Is Good for You (And How to Do It Better)

The sex life you have with yourself is just as crucial as the one you have with your partner. Yes, we’re talking about masturbation, self-love, getting hands on, DIY sex—whatever you call it, know this: More than half of women ages 18-49 report masturbating within the past three months, according to the results of research conducted by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

“The key to having great sex is knowing your body, and masturbating is one way to discover what turns you on,” says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a New York City-based sex and marriage counselor and author of “What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship.” “Plus, you can incorporate what you’ve learned into your sex life with your partner.”

Here are some of the many reasons why masturbation is oh-so-good for you:

Masturbation boosts your sex life. Let’s be clear, self-pleasuring isn’t only for the lonely. On the contrary, many women engage in solo sex to complement their already-hot sex lives, according to a study conducted by the University of Chicago. Call it bedroom maintenance. “Sex begets sex,” says Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “The more often a woman is sexually aroused—even by herself—the more likely she is to not only want more sex with a partner, but also be more orgasmic when she does.”

It comes with health perks. For some women, the only way they can reach climax is by masturbating. Obviously, orgasms feel amazing, but they also offer a slew of health benefits. For starters, they’re a stress-reliever and mood-booster. They can also curb headaches, according to research published in the journal Cephalalgia. This may be thanks to a flurry of neurotransmitters such as endorphins and the hormone estrogen that are released post-orgasm.Yup, orgasms are basically a pain protector: Famed sex researcher Beverly Whipple found that a woman’s pain threshold spiked by nearly 75 percent after climaxing through masturbation.

Self-pleasuring can help you fall asleep faster. Masturbation can be a handy—if you’ll pardon the pun—sleep aid, which likely comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever climaxed and then passed out. That’s because the chemical prolactin is released after orgasm and has been linked to sleep. In fact, 32 percent of women sneak in a solo sex session when they’re tossing and turning so they can fall back to sleep.

It can improve the health of your hair. YouBeauty co-founder Michael Roizen, M.D., points out: “Each hair follicle has a blood vessel to it, and your blood flow is a major determinate of both internal and external beauty.” More blood flow via a self-love-induced orgasm means you’re nourishing your hair.Now that you know some of the benefits of self-love, here’s how to make the most of your solo sex time:

Set the stage. Just like sex, getting in the mood for self-love is key. That’s because when your brain is cluttered (Did I feed the dog? Lock the bedroom door?), arousal dissipates. So, do whatever it takes to relax. “Take deep breaths, turn off your ringer, close the lights, play music—anything to engage your senses,” says Wendy Walsh, Ph.D., author of “30 Day Love Detox.” “You can even have a little wine to relax, just limit yourself to one glass.”

Develop a sexual signature. You have a favorite sexual position that always does the trick, right? Having a go-to move during solo sex serves the same purpose. To find it, experiment with quick or slow strokes, soft and firm pressure, or movement, such as circles or figure-eights. You can also leave your underwear on for an added layer of friction or toss them off for more direct stimulation. And remember to take deep breaths when you near orgasm. “Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth helps oxygenate the body to produce more blood flow and engages the nervous system, which is responsible for the sexual response cycle,” says Van Kirk.

Add props. During masturbation, the average woman needs about four minutes of stimulation before hitting her peak, according to researchers at Brown University. If it takes you longer and you’d like to speed things up, there’s no shortage of gadgets and tools to help. Choose a vibrator with adjustable speed settings so you can let pleasure mount slowly or go fast and furious. Other ideas: “Some women use pillows or masturbate in the shower using the water pressure,” says Greer. “It’s about getting imaginative with your pleasure.”

Share the love. Guys are visual creatures, so one way to spice up your sex life is by giving yourself a hand during sex. If you’re feeling self-conscious about touching yourself in front of your partner, know this: Although the reason is unclear, people who focus on their own pleasure during sex have more satisfied partners, according to research from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. One possible reason, says Walsh who is not associated the study, is that confidence is sexy. “Pleasing yourself in front of your partner shows you’re comfortable with your body and that takes courage,” she says.Want to learn more fascinating facts about your vagina? Check out our 2nd annual Vagina Month Special Issue.