Many things can affect your libido (sex drive), including your physical and mental health, age, hormonal changes, your sleep quality, how you feel about a partner, any medication you might be taking, and stress. The list goes on.
But if you’re worried that your sex drive is not what it was - or what you’d like it to be -- there are changes you can make which may help to increase your sex drive naturally.
What is libido and what’s ‘normal’?
Sex drive describes your desire for sexual activity. It can be low or high, and can change at any stage of your life depending on many factors. Distressing events like bereavement or everyday work pressures, for example, can lower your sex drive.
There’s no ‘normal’ when it comes to libido -- it will vary from person to person. But if you want to increase your sex drive, there are a range of natural methods you can try.
How to increase your sex drive naturally
There’s little evidence to suggest that certain plants, foods and spices thought to increase sexual desire (known as aphrodisiacs) actually work.
Here, we focus on changes you can make to your lifestyle to help increase sex drive naturally, without using medication.
These tips apply to both men and women.
Lower your stress levels
Research shows that stress can reduce your desire to have sex. A 2019 study found a link between stress, burnout and sexual problems in both women and men.
If you think stress may be to blame for your lack of sex drive, learning how to manage stress better may improve your situation. It may help to try breathing exercises, connect with other people and make more time for yourself.
However, if stress is affecting your health and everyday life, it may help to see a doctor.
Exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, keep your weight down and contribute to better sleep -- all factors that can impact sex drive.
There is evidence to suggest that being physically fit can improve sexual health and performance in both men and women, which in turn can increase sex drive.
To stay healthy, aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. If you find it hard to stick to an exercise regime, find an activity you enjoy and mix up the type of exercise you do. Yoga and pilates can also help to keep you strong and flexible, which may also help sexual performance.
Focus on getting quality sleep
Poor sleep is linked to a lack of exercise and stress, but it’s also linked to a reduced sex drive. One study in 2015 found that getting enough sleep helped to boost sexual desire and arousal in women.
Around 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night is generally recommended for adults, but the quality of your sleep is also important for your physical and mental health and may help your sex drive. This can be improved by maintaining a good bedtime routine, including going to sleep at the same time each night, and winding down before you go to bed.
Sex drive, medication and mental health
Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety have been linked to reduced sex drive.
If you’re depressed, this may make it harder for you to talk to a partner about sex or other problems, which may further reduce your urge to have sex. If you feel depressed or have anxiety, seek help. Treating the condition may help.
Some depression medications, including antidepressants, may also lower libido.
Medications for other issues have also been linked to reduced sex drive, including ones taken for high blood pressure (diuretics).
If you think any medication you’re taking may be affecting your sex drive, speak to a doctor. But don’t stop taking any medication unless a doctor tells you to.
When to seek help
Though it’s natural for your sex drive to change throughout your life (such as around the menopause), a low libido can be a symptom of some medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A common problem like erectile dysfunction in men can also contribute to reduced sex drive, as can the menopause in women.
If you’re ever worried about your lack of sex drive, or if it’s creating problems in a relationship, there are people you can turn to for help. This may be a doctor, a therapist or a sexual health charity or service.