When your sex life isn’t what you want it to be, it’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly why. In many cases, it’s the daily habits you don’t give much thought to that may put a damper on your pleasure potential.
“It seems now more than ever, so many people’s sex lives are becoming a casualty of their lifestyles,” clinical sexologist and sexuality educator Lawrence Siegel told HuffPost. “There are lots of obvious things that contribute to lowered sex drive, like too much stress and too little sleep, but there are a few others that are worth thinking about in most of our daily lives.”
We asked Siegel and other sex experts to help us connect the dots between common everyday behaviors and a less-than-satisfying sex life. Here are some of the most overlooked culprits.
1. Mindlessly scrolling on your phone.
All of those hours spent on Instagram and TikTok can take a toll on your ability to experience pleasure. For one, mindless scrolling is a numbing behavior that can make it difficult to feel present in and connected to your body.
Plus, spending too much time immersed in the digital world means less time for making — or strengthening — in-person connections, sex therapist and clinical psychologist Kelifern Pomeranz told HuffPost.
“While online interactions can offer a level of comfort, it is crucial to allocate time offline to foster deeper relationships with current partners or to explore potential new connections,” she said.
Constantly checking your phone and being preoccupied with social media can make you feel socially isolated and lead to persistent feelings of stress and anxiety that reduce sex drive and desire, Siegel said.
“Social media can also make intimacy and attraction to one’s partner a casualty by comparing them to unrealistic and fake images they see, ultimately resulting in feeling less attraction and desire toward them,” he said.
2. Spending too much time sitting.
If you have a desk job, you likely spend most of your day sitting down. Being sedentary affects our physical health. It’s been linked to negative health outcomes such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But it also affects our sex drive and desire, Siegel said, “especially when it also results in feeling sluggish or tired.”
In addition to decreasing energy and libido, a sedentary lifestyle can also reduce sexual stamina, Pomeranz said.
“Studies show that there is a direct correlation between increased physical activity and improved sexual health and function. Additionally, inactivity can adversely impact mood, self-esteem and partner perceptions,” she added.
Plus, a lack of physical activity restricts blood flow to the genitals, which is key for sexual arousal, sexologist and sex educator Goody Howard told HuffPost.
Another thing to consider: Sitting all day can increase tightness in the lower back, hips, glutes and pelvic floor muscles, as sex and pleasure educator Luna Matatas pointed out.
“Tension in the body can be distracting for sex, it can make it difficult to get into the positions you want and it can interfere with orgasm,” she said.
3. Working — or thinking about work — all night.
Do you find yourself checking emails all through the evening? Or maybe you can’t stop venting about work while you are with your partner and trying to spend some quality time together after work.
“It can be tough to have a separation between work time and play time,” Matatas said, noting that this is especially true if you work from home.
“If your mind isn’t open to pleasure or still focused on the day, it can be tough for some people to get into their bodies — no matter how good the sensation might be,” she said. “For example, think about using a vibrator but not thinking about sex while you do!”
If this is a challenge for you, coming up with some end-of-the-workday rituals may help.
“Consider changing your clothes, having a mini dance party or slow stretch sequence, taking a 15-minute soak in the bath with music or a podcast, dimming the lighting or lighting candles. Decide on a time when work talk stops or screens power down, eat dinner without screens and set the table as if you were having company, or give each other 10-minute non-sexual massages, like on your scalp, feet or hands.”
4. Waiting until bedtime to think about sex.
Many folks don’t start contemplating sex until they’ve completed their to-do list and wound down for the night. Or they just wait around hoping the mood will strike. This is a missed opportunity.
“Our erotic imagination is available to us all the time and plays a role in building arousal throughout the day — sexting; wearing something that makes you feel sexy, even if just under your clothes; reading or listening to erotica on your way home, etc.,” Matatas said. “Feeling connected to your own sexiness regularly makes it easier to not have to ‘dig deep’ to rev up your sexual side when an opportunity for pleasure arises.”
5. Not drinking enough water.
You probably haven’t considered how your water intake could be messing with your sex life.
“Hydration is integral to arousal, function, orgasm and pleasure,” Howard said. “Arousal is blood flow, and circulation is directly impacted by the active amount of usable water in the body.”
Some sexual benefits of consuming more water: better vaginal lubrication, firmer erections, improved stamina and better orgasms, Howard noted. Proper hydration also helps our bodies carry out necessary functions, like getting rid of waste, while also improving mood, increasing energy and reducing headaches and muscle pain.
So how much water should you drink per day? Hydration needs vary based on a number of factors: your age, gender, how active you are and where you live, just to name a few. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, adequate fluid intake for a healthy individual is 15.5 cups, or 124 ounces, for men and 11.5 cups, or 92 ounces, for women. These estimates include the water you drink as well as the fluids you get from other beverages and water-rich fruits and vegetables.
6. Drinking too much alcohol.
Regularly drinking alcohol, especially in larger quantities, can have adverse effects on your sex life, including impairments in sexual performance, like vaginal dryness or difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.
“While drugs and alcohol can lower inhibitions, creating more space to feel adventurous in your desires, drugs and alcohol can also impact our abilities to have and experience orgasms,” sex therapist Jesse Kahn, director of the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in New York City, told HuffPost. “While we know sex isn’t only about orgasms, they are a fun part of sex.”
Siegel said the effect that cannabis has on sex drive and desire “gets both exaggerated and minimized.” Though marijuana can enhance aspects of the sexual experience — such as increasing desire and heightening physical sensations — it can hinder others, especially when consumed in larger doses.
“As more states legalize it for both medical and recreational use, more people are becoming daily users — or continuing their daily use but with no more fear of legal repercussions,” Siegel said. “Compounding this is the fact that THC percentages [the psychoactive component of marijuana] have been rapidly increasing, leading to more reports of less sexual interest, particularly in younger people.”
7. Taking certain medications.
Some medications, including those used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cancer, can lower one’s libido. If you think your medication could be the culprit, bring it up with your doctor to discuss your options — but do not stop taking your prescription without consulting a professional.
Even over-the-counter drugs can affect your sex drive, Siegel noted.
“Antihistamines, decongestants, acid reducers and even so-called natural products that claim to increase libido can have a dampening effect; especially when taken long term,” he said.