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Open Access Highly Accessed Short paper

Time for sex: nycthemeral distribution of human sexual behavior

Roberto Refinetti

Author Affiliations

Circadian Rhythm Laboratory, University of South Carolina, 807 Hampton Street, Walterboro, SC 29488, USA

Journal of Circadian Rhythms 2005, 3:4  doi:10.1186/1740-3391-3-4

Published: 24 March 2005



Nycthemeral (daily) oscillation has been documented in a variety of physiological and behavioral processes. The present study was carried out to evaluate the existence of a nycthemeral rhythm of human sexual behavior and to identify environmental factors responsible for the rhythmic pattern.


Non-traditional university students (ages 18 to 51 years) recorded the times of day when they went to sleep, when they woke up, and when they had sex for 3 consecutive weeks. They also answered a questionnaire designed to identify the causes of their selection of time for sex.


The majority of sexual encounters took place at bedtime (11 pm to 1 am). The most common explanations for this temporal pattern were the rigidity of the professional work schedule and family obligations and the availability of the partner, which reduced the opportunity for sexual encounters at other times of the day.


Most sexual encounters take place around bedtime. Although the presence of an endogenous component responsible for this temporal pattern cannot be excluded, the evidence indicates strong environmental forcing, particularly from the work/family schedule of the individuals and from partner availability.