Too tired for sex? Here’s what you can do about it

Most of us just aren't making sleep a priority in our lives, experts say. Getty Images

It’s no surprise being tired and a lack of sleep go hand-in-hand, but when it comes to sex, experts say sleep is crucial.

According to a February study published by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), women between the ages of 50 and 79 who slept fewer than seven to eight hours a day, had lower rates of sexual satisfaction.

The data, which analyzed 93,668 women who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, found that 56 per cent of participants reported being somewhat or very satisfied with their sex lives. Women over 70 who slept fewer than five hours per night were 30 per cent less likely to be sexually active compared to those getting the recommended amount of snooze time.

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“Women and healthcare providers need to recognize the link between menopause symptoms and inadequate sleep and their effects on sexual satisfaction,” Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director said in a statement in February. “There are effective treatment options to help with sleep disruption and sexual satisfaction, including hormone therapy, which this study confirmed to be effective at menopause for symptomatic women.”

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Why we aren’t getting any sleep

But the fact that people at any age are too tired to have sex is also an indication they have no energy, says Burlington, Ont.-based sleep consultant Alanna McGinn.

“For the three pillars of health — nutrition, exercise and sleep — it’s easy to know we’re not eating well or working out … but we all sleep no matter what,” she told Global News. “This makes it harder for us to make changes to sleep better because many of us don’t think we need to.”

READ MORE: Poor sleep linked to memory problems in older adults

McGinn says the quality of sleep most of us are getting isn’t good enough.

“Many of us don’t understand how to [change] this,” she said.

She adds there are several reasons why Canadians don’t get quality sleep.

For starters, we’ve become a generation glued to our screens, and most of us don’t know how to (or want to) detach ourselves from our devices before bed.

For women over 50, she adds, menopause and daily anxieties could be reasons why some aren’t getting more than seven hours of sleep.

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“The fact is our bodies [at that age] are changing and that can wreak havoc on your sleep,” she said, adding women in this age group may also have other worries including finances and children.

Of course, disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are all reasons people may not be getting enough sleep.

But what about sex?

Sex and relationship expert Jessica O’Reilly says a good night’s sleep is essential to your sex life.

“Sleep offers benefits related to mood, hormonal balance, energy levels and metabolism,” she told Global News.

She adds a lack of sleep can also lead to poorer diet choices, other health issues (that affect your sex drive) and higher levels of stress.

READ MORE: Here’s what gives you ‘Monday brain’

And if you find yourself too tired every night to get busy, O’Reilly says it’s time to change how you approach sex.

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“Do it in the morning,” she said. “Testosterone levels are higher and you can take your time on weekends.” Also, sex doesn’t always have to be acrobatic. “Take turns being lazy and don’t be afraid to ask your partner to do the physical ‘work.'”

How much sleep do you really need?

Researchers in the NAMS study suggest seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but McGinn says it really depends on the person and their age.

Typically, as people age, they tend to sleep less largely due to the amount of melatonin our bodies produce. “This could make it harder to fall asleep,” she says.

READ MORE: B.C. professor’s sleep technique gets attention from Oprah

She adds regardless of age, we should all be striving for seven to eight hours of sleep. And if you’re in the mindset you can “catch up on sleep” during the weekends, McGinn says this is just a myth. Others also tend to sleep for four to five hours, and don’t feel tired throughout the day — but this is only because you’ve made this sleeping habit a routine, she explains.

She recommends getting off your devices and creating yourself a sleeping routine where you do commit to those recommended hours.

And when it comes to sex, O’Reilly says focus on sleep first.

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“Don’t worry about sex, because you can survive without sex, but you can’t survive without sleep.”

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