Is sex the last thing on your mind as you crawl into bed exhausted at the end of a long day? Would you rather curl up with a good book or television show than garner the energy for a romp in bed? Do you laugh with recognition when I tell you the name of my new book, A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex? You aren't alone.
Surveys report that between 20 and 52 percent of women say their sex drive isn't what it used to be. The most comprehensive survey conducted to date found that 33 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59 were suffering from lost sexual desire. Another study found that one third of 50 to 70 year-old partnered women had little or no sex drive. That means that one of every three women you know no longer feels as interested in sex as she used to feel! And, while resentments in marriage, poor body image, lost attraction, and underlying medical reasons can cause a woman to lose her libido, the #1 culprit women blame is being too tired for sex.
Stress is a driving force behind feeling too exhausted for sex. Serious stressors, such as losing one's job or having an ill spouse, certainly affect sex drive. However, more ordinary stress also diminishes libido, as aptly illustrated by the common experience of vacation sex. Without to-do lists and the pressures of daily life, tired women often report that their sex drive returns—only to go into hibernation again upon coming home.
Stress interferes with your sex drive in psychological and physiological ways. When stressed, you are going to be distracted and unable to relax and focus on sex. And, even if you do have sex in this unfocused condition, it is likely to be sex in which your mind is elsewhere. A wandering mind is sure to result in you having less than satisfactory sex, an experience which itself further decreases drive. Stress also contributes to insomnia and lack of sleep dampens your mood.
Stress releases a hormone that helps zap libido, called cortisol. As cortisol increases, testosterone, which is responsible for much of our sex drive, decreases. The fact that men have about ten times more testosterone than women helps explain why women's sex drives are more affected by stress than men's. Thinking of sex drive as a tank of gas, stress-induced cortisol may take a women's testosterone reserve to empty, yet only decrease a man's tank to half full. Testosterone is also at its lowest at night. Between exhaustion and decreased testosterone, bedtime is not the ideal time for many women to have sex!