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SNAPSHOT: Sleep and Risky Sex

A study in AIDS and Behavior links poor sleep with risky sexual behavior among men who have sex with men.

The study tested associations between “a range of health sleep indicators and sex outcomes” in an online sample of 559 men, nearly all of whom identified as gay or bisexual. The study was based in Paris and the men were recruited from a phone app used to find sexual partners.

The study asked about sleep quality, sleep duration, problems falling asleep, and problems staying awake, along with four “sex outcomes” — receptive, insertive, and total condomless anal intercourse partners in the past three months, and using alcohol or drugs before or during sex.

A line of condoms

“All four sleep variables were associated with the three CAI outcomes,” the researchers reported. Poor sleep quality and problems falling asleep were associated with using substances before or during sex. Tiredness specifically increased the “preference for being the receptive partner in a substantial proportion” of those surveyed, a disturbing finding since that poses “greater risk for HIV infection” than other practices.

The study was conducted by Brett M. Millar, who got his Ph.D. from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and is now a research scientist at Hunter College through the Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training, along with Distinguished Professor Jeffrey T. Parsons (Hunter College, The Graduate Center, CUNY), and colleagues from Harvard Medical School and New York University School of Medicine.

The researchers said the findings contribute to other studies linking poor sleep or tiredness with sexual risk-taking, problems self-regulating and unhealthy behaviors around smoking eating and substance use. Read more.