In case you hadn’t heard, it’s totally normal and healthy to masturbate—and yet, many women shy away from solo sessions, according to an Indiana University, Bloomington study.
If you’re one of those women, you’re missing out on more than just orgasms on demand. Here’s why you should take matters into your own hands—literally:
It can improve your sex life
Just 57% of women have orgasms most or every time they have sex with a partner, according to a 2015 survey of 2,300 women aged 18 to 40 conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine. Before you can consistently get off with another person, you need to know what works for you, says Emily Morse, sex and relationship expert and host of the podcast Sex with Emily. “Run your hands down your body, take time for yourself, and see what makes you feel good,” she says. By figuring out what gets you going, you’ll not only be able to get some solo pleasure, but also help your partner understand what makes you tick.
It may reduce stress and help you sleep
Instead of counting sheep, try counting orgasms. When you orgasm, your body releases prolactin, a relaxation hormone, and serotonin, a happiness hormone. While it hasn’t been thoroughly studied, many women have found masturbating helps them relieve tension and sleep better, says Lauren Streicher, MD, author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health and Your Best Sex Ever.
For the best effect, Morse suggests creating a calm, nurturing environment before you get busy. “Just turn off your phone, go into your room for 10 minutes, start to breathe and touch your body,” she says. “By doing this, you’re taking care of yourself, experiencing pleasure, and getting in touch with your body—all of which give you a sense of well-being.”
It can relieve period cramps
Having sex on your period might be a little messy, but solo sessions are easy—plus, they pack some natural pain-relieving benefits. “When you have an orgasm, the uterus contracts, which causes the blood to come out faster and allow you to be less crampy,” explains Dr. Streicher.
For some women, however, orgasms might intensify the tension, Morse says. “It’s just a matter of testing it out the technique to see if it works for you.”
It can intensify your orgasms
“Masturbating does expand your orgasmic potential,” says Morse. “So for women who struggle to have orgasms with or without their partner, it teaches you how to have an orgasm and increases your own sexual awareness.”
The key is taking time to get to know your body and what really turns you on. And while many women may try it out to no avail, it’s important not to give up on finding your bliss. “The reality is it could take months to figure out how to have a G-spot orgasm, a clitoral orgasm, or even a blended orgasm.”
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It might make you more confident
“When you feel in control of your body and sexuality, it gives you more self-esteem in the bedroom,” says Morse. And that confidence doesn’t just stay between the sheets—it can actually carry over into all aspects of your life. “A lot of women aren’t satisfied with the way their bodies look, but when we’re in control and connected to our bodies through masturbating, we learn a lot about who we are,” she says. “That can cultivate more positive feelings around our bodies and help us feel more confident inside and out.” It’s simple really: you’ll come, you’ll see, you’ll conquer.
It feels really good
At the end of the day, Dr. Streicher says the primary benefit to masturbation is simple: It feels good. But since the topic is still generally kept on the hush, many women don’t know how to do it, she points out.
If you’re still feeling a little lost when it comes to what to do down there, just remember there’s no universal technique. So to get started, Morse recommends experimenting with different types of touch. “Don’t just go straight for the clitoris,” she advises. “Start slow and and gently explore surrounding areas like the labia with a light, two-finger touch.” Plus, applying a couple drops of lube are a great option to get things going, Morse suggests. All it takes is a bit of body exploration, and you’ll be a master of masturbation in no time.
This article originally appeared in Health.com