Sleep and Desire

Patients often come to Maze with concerns about their lack of desire. Prior to their visit with us, they complete an in-depth medical questionnaire. Upon review of their responses, we overwhelmingly see that the answer to the question “do I feel well-rested?” is NO. Actually, I can only recall a couple (as in 2) times where a woman has stated that she is, in fact, well-rested. I always delve a little deeper into this question. Women respond by saying something akin to, “well, I go to bed about midnight or so and then have to wake up at 5:45 to make breakfast and lunches, get the kids out the door, and then get myself ready for work, etc.” They know that they’re tired, but they don’t know that perhaps their chronic exhaustion is having a significant impact on their sex lives.

Science tells us that there aren’t many people who truly thrive on less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Yes, we can all get by on less, but it doesn’t come without a cost. And for many women, one of the first things to go is desire. To make it more interesting, women likely need even more sleep than their male counterparts. A much reported on study out of the U.K. found that women have an increased tendency to multi-task, requiring their brains to work harder and use more regions of the brain, which results in an increased need for recovery time (aka sleep).  The exact amount more is still undefined, but suffice to say, the vast majority of women need more quality, reparative sleep.

It’s interesting to note that the intersection of sleep and sexual function in women has been largely overlooked in sleep medicine research. However, a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that longer sleep duration leads to greater next day desire. As little as a 1 hour increase in sleep length led to 14% increase in odds of having partnered sex the next day. The researchers also found that women with longer average sleep experienced better genital responsiveness (arousal, lubrication) during sex than women who get less sleep. We know that testosterone is necessary for one to experience desire. We also know that testosterone drops as a result of a decrease in sleep duration, as well as poor quality of sleep (being woken up frequently, having a hard time falling back to sleep, etc.).

This presents a bit of a conundrum, because changing sleep habits is hard to do. It means that some of those items on your ‘to do’ list for after the kids go to bed need to be deleted, deferred, or even better, delegated…to someone else. Women are the ones who still do most of the housework and the homework, even if they too are working outside the home.  And women struggle with allowing themselves time to relax if they feel there is something that needs to be done, while their male partners are often better tuned in to their need to decompress on the couch with their iPhone for a while. As a result of their constant doing, many women feel that sex is yet another item on their ‘to do’ list, as opposed to something they look forward to that’s enjoyable, fun, regenerating, and relaxing.

So, if you’re a woman in a couple with a discrepancy in desire and you happen to be the partner with lower desire, this is something to pay close attention to. What time do you go to sleep at night? Is there any way you could move that time earlier, even just 30 minutes? This is a great conversation to have with your partner. How can they support you in getting more rest so that you can possibly experience increased desire (and therefore increased and better overall sex)? Because when it comes to sex, the well-rested women are having all the fun! If you or your partner are experiencing low sex drive, we’re here to help. Contact us for a free phone consultation to learn more.