Is It Healthy to Sleep Apart? The Year in Sexual Health

By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine

Let's talk about sex, baby.

2010 was full of new studies and discoveries when it comes to sexual health. From our habits (sleeping in separate beds -- say what?) to our desire (or lack thereof), here are 4 stories that got us hot and bothered this year:

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The Controversy: More Couples Are Sleeping in Separate Bedrooms
One of the most hotly debated articles we posted this year on Healthy SELF was about the trend of couple opting to sleep apart. Nearly one in four American couples does so and, according to the National Association of Home Builders, it's expected that 60 percent of custom homes will have dual master bedrooms by 2015. These statistics shocked us -- and got us wondering if sleeping separately from our snoring Sig O could actually be a healthy move rather than a chemistry-zapper. Experts were split, but the general consensus is that you shouldn't flee to the guest room. Rather, find ways to minimize sleep incompatibility issues.

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The New Disorder: Sexual Anorexia
Care of Tiger Woods, there's been spike in awareness about sexual addiction and, interestingly, this has also spurred conversation about a disorder we hadn't heard about before this year: sexual anorexia. Defined as the compulsive avoidance of sex and sex-related situations, sexual anorexia is less talked about, but may be just as common, as sexual addiction, according to sex therapist Alexandra Katehakis, clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex. So, if you're occasionally not in the mood (we've all been there!), does this mean you might have issues with intimacy? Read this article to recognize the symptoms, what triggers the behavior and how to cope.

The HPV-Thwarting Vaccine: Gardasil
We've all heard of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread via skin-to-skin contact and can, in some cases, cause cancer. But between getting screened (get that pap once a year unless your doc instructs otherwise!) and a new vaccine that's finally going mainstream, you can pretty much wipe out your risk of cervical cancer. Back in November, we spoke to Paula Hillard, MD, Chief of the Division of Gynecologic Specialties at the Stanford University School of Medicine, to find out exactly who needs the vaccine, and whether you can get it if you're over the age of 26, even though the FDA has only approved it for younger women. The answer: Yes! As a side note, January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, so add getting a pap and asking your doctor about the vaccine to your 2011 to-do list.

Related: How to fall asleep faster

The Milestone: Happy Birthday, BCP!
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the invention of the birth control pill -- a hugely important innovation that gave women the ability to choose if and when they want to become a mother. So what's next when it comes to birth control? Researchers are working on options for men (non-hormonal nasal sprays, gels and implants that inhibit sperm production), and one-year vaginal rings and side effect-free contraceptive gels aren't far off for women.


Here's to a safe and satisfying 2011!

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