According to a recent survey, 84 percent of Americans — 92 percent of men and 72 percent of women — engage in the act of masturbation. Despite the fact that almost everyone masturbates, more than half (55 percent) never talk about it. And guess what? The act of self-pleasure actually has a surprising amount of health, beauty and relationship benefits, ranging from giving you glowing skin to helping you sleep at night. In case you need a reason (or just an excuse) to masturbate, here are seven.

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1. It has beauty benefits.

Have you ever looked into the mirror after having sex and noticed that after-sex glow? While you might think it has to do with the increased heat factor of getting busy — you know, that sex sweat — it has more to do with your hormones. According to internationally renowned marriage, family and relationship counselor Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., masturbation can have some serious aesthetic benefits, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than a facial. “When we achieve orgasms, our bodies release a host of hormones, including dopamine and oxytocin, that in addition to making us feel wonderful, cause us to radiate like a diamond,” he explains. The good news is that you can duplicate the desired look even if you don’t have a partner (or even any makeup) to help you out — no expensive blush needed.

Up next: Masturbation can help turn your frown upside down.

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2. It can help boost your mood.

Most of us have experienced that feel-good, happy feeling that washes over us after a romp between the sheets. And guess what? It’s not just your imagination. In addition to making our skin glow, the same hormones released in an orgasm — including dopamine and oxytocin — are mood boosters, causing us to “feel at peace with ourselves and the world around us,” according to Dr. Hokemeyer. So, yeah, sex (as well as masturbation) is akin to “natural Xanax,” as he puts it. And you don’t need another person or a doctor’s prescription to reap the mood-boosting benefits. “They are nature’s gift,” he says about the hormones, “and should be enjoyed liberally."

Up next: Who needs pills for a good night’s sleep?

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3. It can help you sleep.

If you have ever noticed that post-sex slumber is seriously restful, you are onto something. According to the National Sleep Foundation, having an orgasm has serious sleep benefits. Once again, it has to do with the hormones released during the act. Not only does it boost oxytocin, it also lowers the stress-related hormone cortisol, both of which help induce slumber. Also, the big O releases the hormone prolactin, making you feel relaxed and sleepy. “There is no better slumber than that which washes over us after an orgasm,” says Dr. Hokemeyer. “Why deny ourselves the bliss of a good night’s sleep when we have access to it every night of our lives though masturbation?”

Up next: Wait, masturbation can help prevent what?!

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4. It can lower your risk for prostate cancer.

According to scientists, an orgasm a day could keep prostate cancer — which impacts about one in every nine men during their lifetime — away. Yep. A 2015 study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital concluded that participants who ejaculate more than 21 times per month were at a 22 percent lower risk of getting the disease. While it’s unknown how exactly the two are associated, reproductive health specialist Paul Turek, M.D., believes that it has to do with your body ridding itself of semen. “My guess is that using the system for what it is meant to be used for is probably healthier than letting it go stagnant,” he tells LIVESTRONG.COM. Basically, “it could be kind of a ‘use it or is goes bad’ theory’.”

Up next: Feeling out of control? You might be able to help yourself with that.

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5. It can help you feel more in control of your life.

Have you ever felt totally overwhelmed by life, and nothing you do or say seems to help? We might not be able to control other people, places or things — which can be frustrating, to say the least — but when it comes to our bodies, we have the ability to create pleasure for ourselves. “We live in a chaotic and stressful world,” explains Dr. Hokemeyer. “Masturbation enables us to step out of this chaos and gain mastery over our bodies and our emotions.” This is especially true for millennials, who masturbate much more often than any other age group. According to a recent survey, 57 percent are masturbating weekly, something Hokemeyer attributes to the demands of their careers as well as the modern age of internet dating and hookups. “Through masturbation we can leave all those worries outside the door and find pleasure in an intimate and safe relationship with ourselves.”

Up next: Masturbating can help you lose weight in a very interesting way.

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6. It can work as an appetite suppressant.

Oxytocin is basically the love hormone that keeps on giving. In addition to helping you look, feel and sleep well, its release during orgasm can curb your hunger. “We forget that human beings are animals with primitive and instinctual survival needs,” explains Dr. Hokemeyer. “When we deny ourselves one aspect of these needs, our complementary drives kick in to overdrive. People who deny themselves the pleasure that comes though sex tend to overcompensate in other areas, such as by eating too much.” Just how potent is oxytocin? One study found that when we release oxytocin, we become less motivated to eat and more motivated to reproduce. So sex (and masturbation) can sort of replace food!

Up next: It can actually make your relationship, as well as real sex, better.

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7. It’s not going to hurt your sex life.

Some people assume masturbation has a negative impact on relationships and sex life in general (the assumption being that sex is being replaced with masturbation) — but that isn’t necessarily the case. According to a recent study, men and women who regularly masturbate aren't doing it instead of sex, but as a complement to sex. So it's perfectly possible to have lots of sex, while still enjoying some alone time.

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What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised by any of the health benefits masturbation has to offer? What other reasons inspire you to do it? Why do you think masturbation is such a taboo topic in society? Tell us in the comments!

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