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How To Increase Libido in Women? The Secret Is Sleep

If you’re not feeling in the mood as much as you’d like to be, meeting your sleep need and lowering your sleep debt can help.
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6/13/2022
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Libido, or sex drive, is a complicated thing for women. It fluctuates throughout our lives, throughout our menstrual cycles, and even throughout the day. But if you’re constantly feeling like you’ve got a low libido, and it’s getting you down, there are some lifestyle changes that can help.

There are so many factors in play when thinking about low libido in women, but sleep may just be the most important one. When you don’t get enough sleep, everything suffers: your mood, your productivity, your health, and, yes, your libido. 

We’ve already covered how to increase your sex drive, but in this blog post, we’ll dive into why women in particular may be experiencing a lowered libido and what they can do about it. 

 

Why is My Libido Low?

Here’s what can cause low libido in both men and women: 

  • Not getting enough sleep: You’ll not only feel tired and therefore less likely to want to have sex, not getting enough sleep also negatively impacts everything from your relationship to your sex hormones (more on this soon). 
  • Sleep disorders: Insomnia and sleep apnea can not only cause low libido themselves, they’ve been associated with menopause, meaning women are especially likely to experience these sleep disorders that cause low sex drive.   
  • Low testosterone: We commonly think of testosterone as a male hormone, but it’s been shown to play a big role in female libido, too. A study looking at premenopausal women with a decreased libido found that most of them had very low or even unmeasurable testerone levels. This has been found in both pre- and postmenopausal women.
  • Age: Testosterone levels decrease with age. The main androgen (sex hormone) precursors in women also decrease as we get older. 
  • Stress and mental health issues: Including depression, anxiety, and generally feeling stressed day to day.   
  • Relationship problems: Intimacy and trust are key to a great sex life, and even if everything is great in your relationship, being overfamiliar with your long-term partner can tank your sex drive. 
  • Medication: Many medications have lowered libido as a side effect including  antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and blood pressure medications. 
  • Alcohol, drugs, and smoking  
  • Health conditions: Including diabetes, high blood pressure, underactive thyroid, and high cholesterol.  

Here’s what could be causing a low libido in women in particular: 

Menstrual Cycle 

Libido fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle due to changing hormones. 

One study found women were more sexually active and had an increased libido on days when they had increased levels of luteinizing hormone, which happens before ovulation. Your testosterone levels also rise during ovulation, which may increase your libido. 

Another study had similar findings. It found estradiol — a type of estrogen — had positive effects on sexual desire, whereas progesterone had negative effects. Estrogen is higher in the first half of your cycle, the follicular phase, and progesterone is higher in the second half, also known as the luteal phase. And the study found desire rose in the first half of the cycle, peaked mid-cycle, and fell in the second half. 

Other symptoms related to your menstrual cycle — like cramps, fatigue, and breast tenderness — may be contributing to a lower-than-usual sex drive. So, your low libido may not even be a problem to fix, it may simply be a sign of where you are in your monthly cycle. 

Birth Control 

According to a 2016 meta-analysis looking at many different methods of birth control, everything from condoms to contraceptive implants can have a negative impact on female libido. 

The paper found women reported things such as loss of arousal and difficulty reaching orgasm when using condoms, and low sexual desire and decreased frequency of sex when using the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS).

Oral contraceptives have been linked to increased pain during sex, decreased libido, lowered arousal, and reduced fequency of sex and orgasm during sex. They’ve also been shown to cause breast tenderness and vaginal dryness, and they can lower testosterone levels, too. 

Hormonal birth control can also cause other side effects like fatigue, bloating, weight gain, depression, and anxiety, which in turn can lower your libido.  

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding 

You may not be feeling your best during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, and side effects like morning sickness, weight gain, and mental health issues don’t exactly help. But hormones are also to blame for a lowered libido during these times. 

During pregnancy, women have reported a decrease in sexual activity, decrease in libido, reduced satisfaction with sexual life, and feeling less attractive. This can be caused by changing hormone levels, as well as all the uncomfortable symptoms that come with prengancy that also impact sex. 

And it’s not over once the baby is born. After pregnancy, women produce less estrogen and will be producing prolactin — the hormone that helps with milk production — which also suppresses sex drive. 

Plus, of course, your sleep will be hugely impacted during these times. It’s even harder to get enough sleep when pregnant or when caring for a newborn, meaning your libido is lowered even more. 

Perimenopause

Perimenopause — the time leading up to menopause — can also cause changes in your sex life. Sytmpoms include decreased libido and sexual sensation, and a diminished or delay in orgasm. That’s not to mention that other common perimenopause symptoms — like weight gain, hot flashes, night sweats, depression, anxiety, and fatigue — all contribute to a lowered sex drive, too. 

Plus, perimenopause impacts your sleep, which of course impacts your sex life. Women going through perimenopause report: 

  • An increase in sleep disturbances.
  • A decrease in sleep quality (although sleep scientists don’t agree what exactly sleep quality means yet). 
  • Longer sleep latency, or the time it takes to fall asleep.

Postmenopause

It’s not just the lead up to the transition that impacts your libido though. Many women experience a low sex drive afterwards, too. 

One study looked at both peri- and postmenopausal women aged 45 to 55 and found that 64% of them had a “diminished libido.” The researchers found menopausal symptoms like depressive symptoms, poor sleep, and night sweats were significantly associated with a lowered libido. 

They also found a large proportion of the women in the study with diminished libido also experienced some degree of pain during sex or vaginal dryness, which is caused by naturally decreasing levels of estrogen during this time. 

In fact, the prevalence of female sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women could be as high as 85%. 

 

Can Sleep Affect My Libido?

Sleep can massively impact your sex drive, and it’s more than just making you feel tired. Here’s how sleep may be the reason behind your low libido. 

You’re Not Sleeping Enough 

The RISE app can work out your unique sleep need.

One 2017 study looked at postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79. The results showed higher levels of insomnia were associated with lower odds of sexual satisfation. And sleeping for less than seven to eight hours a night was associated with lower odds of having sex, less sexual satisfaction, and decreased sexual function.

It’s not just postmenopausal women, though. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine looked at female college students to see how their sleep affected their sex drives. It found women who habitually slept for longer at night reported better genital arousal than women who regularly slept for shorter durations. 

And sleep doesn’t just affect sex over time, either. Sleeping for longer amounts of time was found to increase sexual desire the next day. In fact, a one-hour increase in sleep length increased the odds of a woman having sex the next day by 14%.

The RISE app can work out your unique sleep need — or the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night (not everyone needs the oft-recommended 8 hours of sleep. More on this soon). It uses your phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-based models to give you a number to aim for each night. 

Here’s how else sleep can impact your sex life: 

  • Sleep loss can lead to weight gain: It also puts you at a higher risk of obesity. These things can not only affect your body image, they’re linked with painful sex, arousal problems, and sexual dissastisfaction in women. 
  • Sleep loss increases cortisol: High cortisol has been linked with lower levels of sexual arousal in women, and high cortisol levels can be caused by sleep derivation, being out of sync with your body clock, and stress. 
  • Sleep deprivation messes up your hormones: Sleep loss not only cuts testosterone levels, it hikes your cortisol, which in turn can lower your estrogen — basically, a hormone cocktail destined to ruin your libido. 
  • Sleeping less makes couples more likely to argue: It also makes them more hostile towards each other. The RISE app lets couples keep track of each other’s sleep, so you know when this is more likely to happen. 
  • Sleep disorders impact your sex life: For example, research shows sleep apnea negatively influences female sex drive, as well as desire, arousal, and orgasm. 

How Can Women Increase Their Libido? 

How Can Women Increase Their Libido?

More research needs to be done into female sexual health, and women’s health in general, as well as how women specifically can increase their libidos. But here’s what the experts recommend so far: 

  • Eat aphrodisiacs, or libido-boosting foods: These include chocolate, bananas, and avocados. A healthy diet in general will help with everything from blood flow to body image to your sleep. 
  • Exercise: This boosts blood flow to your genitals, improves your mood, body image, and helps you fall asleep (as long as you don’t workout too close to bedtime.)
  • Reduce stress: Try relaxing activities like yoga, journaling, and exercise, as well as meeting your sleep need each night. 
  • Work on your relationship: Try fun date nights, improving trust and intimacy, and adding new things to your long-term sex life. Plus, make sure you’re both sleeping enough to reduce the likelihood of conflict. 
  • Limit alcohol and quit smoking 
  • Consider sex therapy: A sex therapist can help you work through psychological issues that may be impacting your sex drive. 
  • Speak to a healthcare professional: They can rule out any underlying medical conditions or recommend treatment options like hormone replace therapy if menopause is impacting your sex drive. 
  • Try a new birth control method: Some women even report increased libido on certain birth control, so you may just need to find the right method for you.
  • Ride the wave of your hormones: Whether that’s to a better time of the month or when things settle down after pregnancy.
  • Get enough sleep: We explain how exactly to do this below. 

How Can I Increase My Libido With Sleep?

So, we’ve shown that sleep can have huge impacts on your sex drive and sex hormones, as well as everything from weight to stress to your relationship, which impacts sex, too. Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen. 

Meet Your Sleep Need

With morning grogginess (which is totally normal by the way) and the power of caffeine, it can be almost impossible to tell if you’re getting the right amount of sleep each night. 

And we all need a different amount of it, too. The average sleep need is 8 hours 10 minutes, plus or minus 44 minutes or so, but 13.5% may need 9 hours or more sleep a night. 

RISE takes the guesswork out of it. Once you’ve got your individual sleep need, you can work towards getting this amount of sleep each night.

Lower Your Sleep Debt 

The RISE app can tell you how much sleep debt you have each day.

Sleep debt is the measure of how much sleep you owe your body over the last 14 nights. So, if your sleep need is 8 hours 30 minutes, but you’ve only been getting seven hours a night, you’ll have built up a lot of sleep debt, and you may be feeling the effects of it in your sex life. The good news is you can catch up on sleep and pay back this sleep debt. 

The RISE app calculates how much sleep debt you have and keeps track of it as you pay it. We recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours. 

You can lower your sleep debt by: 

  • Taking naps (check RISE to see the best time to do this so as to not impact your sleep at night) 
  • Going to sleep a little earlier 
  • Sleeping in a little later 
  • Improving your sleep hygiene 

Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene 

The RISE app can tell you the exact time to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

Sleep hygiene is the name for a set of behaviors you can do throughout the day to help you fall asleep and stay asleep at night. It also helps with sleep debt as it increases the amount of time spent asleep in bed — also known as sleep efficiency

Here’s what to do: 

  • Get natural light first thing: This will signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake, and set your body clock up to make you feel sleepy later that day. 
  • Get light throughout the day: This may make you less sensitive to light in the evening. Plus, a 2021 study found UVB light enhances romantic passion in both men and women. 
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, large meals, and exercise close to bedtime: These things can make it harder to fall asleep or may wake you up in the night. 
  • Take time to unwind before bed: This not only helps your body and brain relax, priming them for sleep, it also helps reduce stress — a win-win for your libido. 
  • Avoid bright lights before bed: Light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin, so dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses 90 minutes before bed.

RISE can tell you the ideal time to do these sleep hygiene habits each day. You can learn more about how sleep hygiene affects your sleep here. 

Boost Your Libido With Sleep  

As we’ve shown, your low libido may be caused by hormones, menopause, age, stress, sleep disorders, or simply not getting enough sleep each night. And sleep deprivation can make many problems — like stress, weight, and relationship woes — even worse, tanking your sex drive even further. 

While we can’t do much about our hormones or age, we can control our sleep. And that’s where RISE can help. The app can work out your individual sleep need and tell you if you’re carrying too much sleep debt. It can also remind you when to do 20+ sleep-boosting habits. This’ll help you get the sleep you need each night and go into the next day with more energy and, hopefully, an increased libido, too.

 

Summary FAQs 

What causes a woman’s libido to increase? 

A woman’s libido can increase when estrogen levels rise during the first half of her menstrual cycle. It also peaks around ovulation. Things like lowered stress and more sleep can also boost female sex drive. 

How to increase female libido after 40? 

Women after 40 can increase their libido by getting enough sleep, exercising, and lowering stress levels. Hormone replacement therapy to replace lost estrogen may also help. 

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