How to Increase Your Libido—12 Things to Do For Better Sex
Ways you and your partner can heat things up.
The lowdown on lust
Whether it’s the stress of daily life, the medicines you’re taking, problems with your physical health, or relationship issues, many things can dampen your libido. But there's a lot you and your partner can do about it.
Recall a really great sex session
Good communication plays a role in sexual desire. “When partners have a better understanding of each other’s sexual likes and dislikes, they can make sex better for one another,” says Allen Mallory, PhD, a Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar at Ohio State University in Columbus who studies the health and well-being of sexual- and gender-minority people. Here’s a casual and fun way to break the ice: reminisce about a favorite time the two of you had sex together. It’s a safe way to broach the topic because you’re talking about sex you already had, and it may help put you in the mood, he says.
Make a list of your desires
You have sexual fantasies and so does your partner. Discovering things you’re both willing to try is a great way to expand your sexual repertoire, says Mallory. One way to do that is for each of you come up with a “want/will/won’t” list of sexual activities you’re always up for, things you’re willing to try, and those that are absolute non-starters. Sexologist Lindsey Doe, host of YouTube’s “Sexplanations with Dr. Doe,” explains the concept in this video. Or try an app or website, like weshouldtryit.com, where partners can individually click or swipe through a list of sexual activities. The program shares the ones both of you liked, Mallory tells Health.
Why not incorporate exercise into date night? "Exercise promotes greater body confidence, which can help boost libido," says Leah Millheiser, MD, director of he Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford, California-based Stanford Hospital & Clinics. Not only that, a 2020 review of studies on female and male lifestyle and sexuality notes that exercise improves menopausal symptoms and may stave off or improve erectile dysfunction.
Use a lubricant
Getting in the mood can be almost impossible if sex is painful for you—but it doesn't have to be. One of the leading causes is dryness. "If vaginal dryness is causing pain during intercourse, try using a silicone-based sexual lubricant or a vaginal moisturizer," suggests Dr. Millheiser. "Silicone lubricants are longer-lasting and more moisturizing than the water-based alternatives. If this doesn't improve the situation, you may want to check with a gynecologist to see if vaginal estrogen therapy is appropriate." Bonus: it can prevent pain and chafing in men.
Your partner just shared a sexual fantasy with you, and it really caught you off guard. "Say something like, 'Thanks for telling me about your desires to try X. I didn't know you were into that! I am not sure how I feel about trying that right now. Can I get back to you?'" suggests Mallory. Then take time to do your research, and be sure to report back. You want to provide honest feedback, but don't shame your partner for having the fantasy, he says.
Switch your birth control
Hormonal changes take a big toll on your sex drive. Birth control pills can be one of the biggest perpetrators: they can reduce your body's production of testosterone, and in turn, your desire to get down. Certain varieties may even cause pain during sex.
Even if you're not on birth control, being aware of your hormonal status can help you dial in your libido. Prolactin, the nursing hormone, decreases estrogen and testosterone in breastfeeding women, which can wreak hormonal havoc. Additionally, Dr. Millheiser warns that menopause can bring a decrease in testosterone and estradiol, a type of estrogen.
Divide household chores equally
After a long day of work, you might head home for your other full-time job: being a parent. "After the kids go to bed, there's often cleanup followed by work that you've brought home," says Dr. Millheiser. "As a result, intimacy gets pushed to the background." If you and your partner are both working full-time, keeping the division of household labor equal and ensuring one partner doesn't shoulder the whole burden will make both of you happier in the bedroom and out.
Sync up your sex sessions
Sexual desire is complex, and lots of things can influence it, so it's important for partners to understand what boosts or deflates one another's sexual appetite as well as their own, explains Mallory. For instance, "Are there certain times of the day when you are more or less in the mood for sex?" he asks. A mismatch in preferred time of day for sex can impact sexual satisfaction, according to a 2018 study in Frontiers in Psychology.
De-stress before sex
Everyday stressors—your job, the leaky bathroom faucet—have a more powerful effect on your sex life than you may realize. Being stressed causes your body to produce more of the "fight or flight" hormone cortisol, which you need in small doses but can suppress the libido when your system produces an excess. Before you hit the sheets, find an easy way to clear your mind, whether it's taking a long bath or curling up with a good book.
Set your room up for romance
It's easy to get in the habit of letting your kids crawl into bed with you after they've had a bad dream, or sharing cuddle time with your cat or dog. These are major mood killers, says Dr. Millheiser, who suggests keeping the kiddos and pets out by simply locking the bedroom door at night. It may take some time to break these habits, but making the bed sexy again will make you more relaxed and ready for romance.
Plan a date together
If a fun Saturday with your partner means streaming Netflix in sweatpants, it could be killing your sex drive. Rekindle your romance by planning an activity together. It doesn’t have to be a grand romantic evening on the town. Anything that reignites the spark you felt when you first met will do the trick. "Shut down Netflix for the night and spend time together in the bathtub surrounded by candles,” suggests Dr. Millheiser. Or go on hike or take up a new hobby together.
Listen to your body
Sometimes a slow sex drive winds up being a symptom of a larger medical problem. Diabetes, heart and vascular disease, neurological disorders, alcoholism, and drug abuse can mess with your mojo, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Low sexual desire can also be a side effect of medicines for depression and high blood pressure, among others. If problems persist, talk to your doctor.
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