If you’ve found yourself wondering where your sex drive has gone, you’re in good company. Nearly one in three women in the United States report low levels of sexual desire.
So you’re not alone, and it’s not your fault: It’s more difficult for women to get and stay aroused because their sexual response cycle is non-linear, unlike men’s, says Brett Worly, M.D., an ob/gyn who specializes in women’s sexual health at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. And everything from shifting hormones to stress to exhaustion to underlying relationship problems can influence that cycle.
But a low libido is not something you need to just live with. With help from Worly and Leora Manischewitz, Pys.D., a New York City-based certified sex therapist, we’ve identified six unexpected ways you can recharge your sex drive.
Step away from the screen.
Whether you’re sending emails, scrolling through Facebook, or watching another episode of your favorite drama, late-night screen time disrupts your sleep cycle and affects your libido. The electronic activity revs up your brain just when it should be winding down, and the glow from the screen delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Missing sleep, in turn, creates an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin, hormones that can interfere with sexual function, Worly explains. Set a goal of sleeping at least seven hours a night and avoiding screen time for at least 30 minutes before bed.
Embrace your spin class.
Numerous studies have shown that women who work out regularly have stronger sex drives. A University of Texas study also showed that moderate exercise increases genital arousal in women. And exercise can help with another factor that can affect a woman’s libido: confidence. Being unfit can cause discomfort and keep you from wanting to have sex, says Worly, while being in good physical condition helps you feel comfortable, confident and pleasure focused.
Check your medications.
Many drugs taken for depression, anxiety, heart conditions, and seizures (and even oral contraceptives) have been linked to sexual dysfunction, Manischewitz says. If you’ve recently started taking a new drug and are experiencing loss of desire or inability to become aroused or reach orgasm, she advises talking with your doctor about changing doses or exploring other medication options.
Watch for depression and anxiety symptoms.
It’s not just depression and anxiety medication that can lower libido: The conditions themselves can do that. “If you’re depressed you probably don’t feel like having sex, and if you’re anxious you’re probably worried about sex,” Manischewitz says. If you experience decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, or hopeless feelings alongside arousal difficulties, speak to your doctor.
Mix things up.
“The thing that often helps couples the most is just doing something different,” says Worly. Even simple changes, like having sex in a different room or a different position or wearing new lingerie, can make a difference. So can getting away from your daily stress by enjoying a vacation or a weekend getaway for just the two of you. An even easier option: Take a vacation day from work to stay home together.
Explore medical options.
The declining levels of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone that accompany perimenopause and menopause can wreak havoc on a woman’s sex drive. Medical treatments like estrogen therapy, testosterone therapy, topical estrogen, and the recently approved drug Addyi have helped many women, Manischewitz says, but they’re controversial. She recommends discussing your options with your physician.