Libido (sex drive) varies from person to person – what seems ‘normal’ to you may be unusual for someone else.
It’s also normal for a person’s libido to rise and fall at different times in their life. In fact, studies show that up to 20% of men and 43% of women experience a drop in their sex drive at some point during their lifetime.
If you've been feeling less interested in sex lately, your sex drive may eventually go back to whatever is normal for you, but you don't always have to wait for this to happen. If you're worried or your symptoms persist, see a doctor.
Otherwise, read on for some self-care strategies that may help to increase a low sex drive.
What causes low libido?
A number of things can affect your sex drive. Relationship problems, stress and tiredness are common culprits. But life-changing events like pregnancy, breastfeeding or the menopause can also reduce your libido.
Drinking a lot of alcohol, depression and the ageing process can also have an impact.
Low libido can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical problem, or the side effect of a prescription medication.
If you think a medical problem could be affecting your sex drive, see a doctor as soon as possible.
You should also see a doctor if you think that a medicine you're taking may be interfering with your libido. They may be able to switch you to a different medication with less severe side effects.
Lifestyle changes that could boost your libido
If you think stress, anxiety, tiredness or a relationship problem may be affecting your sex drive, making changes to your lifestyle or relationship may help.
Fight tiredness and exhaustion
Regular exercise is a good place to start if tiredness is affecting your interest in sex. This is because physical activity can boost your energy levels and your sex drive. Exercise also releases endorphins that can improve your sleep and reduce fatigue.
It’s recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week.
You can also improve the quality of your sleep by keeping a regular bedtime, making sure your bedroom temperature is between 18 and 24°C, and winding down before going to bed. You can do this by:
- reading a book
- taking a warm bath
- practicing some light relaxation exercises
See a doctor if you're concerned about your tiredness.
Address problems in your relationship
If you think a relationship problem might be affecting your sex drive, you may find it helpful to sit down and have a conversation with your partner.
Talking about sexual problems can be challenging, but opening up may help you feel less anxious about any issues in your relationship. You could also try contacting a local relationship support service.
Tackle stress, anxiety and depression
Feeling stressed, anxious or overworked, can lead to a fall in libido. And if this stress and anxiety continues for a long time, it can affect the production of testosterone in the body, which may further reduce sex drive in men.
Depression can also make you lose interest or pleasure in doing things, including sex.
If you think that you might be depressed or have anxiety, you should see a doctor, so they can discuss treatment options with you.
Drinking a lot of alcohol can reduce how much testosterone your body makes, which may lower libido in men. It can also make it harder for men and women to reach orgasm by interfering with the signals between your genitals and your brain.
If you think you may be drinking too much alcohol, try cutting down by setting yourself a limit before you start drinking, or deciding on an alcohol budget that you’ll stick to over the course of a week.
You may also find that it helps to choose smaller drinks, like a bottle of beer instead of a pint, or a small wine glass instead of a larger one.
See a doctor if you're concerned about your alcohol intake.
Ageing and libido
Getting older doesn't always affect your sex drive, but many women may lose interest in sex just before, during or after the menopause. This is because of lower levels of the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone in the body.
Some men also find that their testosterone levels fall as they age, which can reduce sex drive.
Ageing can increase your risk of health conditions like arthritis or heart disease, which may affect your libido.
If you're worried about your hormones or your sex drive, talk to a doctor. They will be able to order the appropriate tests and treat any underlying conditions.
Pregnancy and parenthood
Pregnancy, giving birth and breastfeeding can change the balance of hormones in your body, which can reduce your sex drive.
Pregnancy and early parenthood can also be very tiring, and you may find that you have different priorities or want to focus on looking after your baby which may mean that you spend less time thinking about sex.
If pregnancy or parenthood has altered your libido, it may go back to normal in time. If it doesn't, and this is a problem for you, consider talking to a doctor.
What about chocolate or oysters as an aphrodisiac?
If you search the internet for ways to increase your sex drive, you may find articles that recommend eating chocolate, oysters or taking herbal supplements to boost your libido. You may also read that eating certain fruits can improve your sex drive.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much scientific evidence to support these claims so it’s best to stick with proven advice, and concentrate on eating a balanced and healthy diet.