Poor sleep could be impacting your sex life and causing low libido, new research finds

Woman looking angrily down at her sleeping partner
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While a thriving sex life can mean sacrificing sleep - unless you enjoy your sex with a side of morning breath - new research has found that not enough snoozing can actually lead to a stagnant sex drive.

Experts are now urging Kiwis to get plenty of sleep between the sheets if they want to get freaky in them, with a global survey finding more than one in 10 people (12 percent) experience decreased libido due to poor-quality slumber. 

Researchers at the sleep technology company ResMed assessed more than 20,000 participants across 14 countries to gain insight into people's sleep habits worldwide. 

Across the ditch, one in five Aussies reported decreased libido in relation to their sleep quality - the highest of any country surveyed. More broadly, the survey also found just 16 percent of people wake up feeling refreshed, with almost half (46 percent) admitting they typically feel tired first thing in the morning. One in three respondents said they are not satisfied with the quantity of their sleep (35 percent), while 37 percent said they weren't satisfied with the quality.

Globally, the survey found that Millennials - those born between 1981 and 1996 - are the generation with the most significant link between sleep quality and sex drive, with the vast majority of Millennial participants admitting that a lack of sleep resulted in lacklustre libido. 

The findings serve as an important reflection of New Zealanders' nighttime habits, says sleep therapist Terri Candy of Eden Sleep, who noted that getting enough zzz's is imperative for physical, mental, and sexual health.

"One of the main reasons New Zealanders get help for sleep issues is because their partners encourage them to do so. For many partners, the effects of things like loud snoring start to significantly impact their sleep, and it can mean couples have separate beds or bedrooms. So, the relationships people take into the bedroom can be highly influential on sleep health, and vice versa," Candy said in a statement.

Additionally, people experiencing anxiety over their relationship are more likely to have a disturbed night's rest, impacting their libido - and sex life - in the long run. Of those surveyed, about 25 percent reported that worrying or stressing about the state of their relationship affected the quality of their sleep.

The findings support previous research. The Sleep Foundation has cited earlier studies that found poor sleep can lead to relationship problems that in turn, can hinder sexual health. For example, a lack of sleep can make conflict with a partner more likely, fostering an emotional state that heightens stress, reduces intimacy, and detracts from a satisfying sex life.

"It's all connected. Issues in relationships are difficult for people to deal with and they can have a cyclical effect. They worry about their relationship, which impacts sleep, and in turn, it can reduce their libido - that in itself can play a key part in increasing relationship stress," Candy explained.

Commenting on the findings, Melbourne-based sexologist Chantelle Otten said the winter months are an ideal time to focus on getting good-quality sleep, resetting sleep routines, and improving intimacy with your significant other - whether that's sexual intimacy or spending quality time with one another to boost connection.

"It's an overlooked fact that our sleep quality and libido are intricately linked. A poor night's sleep doesn't just leave you feeling drained and foggy; it can also dampen your desire," she said.

"Embracing our sexuality and focusing on intimacy, especially in these cold months, is a beacon of warmth and connection.  

"With the results of the 2023 Global Sleep Survey in view, it's time we addressed this connection and utilise this cosy July to rejuvenate our bedroom routines, revitalise our relationships, and reclaim our wellbeing."

According to the Sleep Foundation, while there is more research to be done, evidence so far demonstrates that good-quality sleep can promote a better sex life and in turn, a healthy sex life can facilitate improved sleep. The Foundation notes that studies have found an association between sleep deprivation and reduced sexual desire and arousal in women, while a lack of sleep and disrupted sleep have been linked to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction.

Additionally, several sleep disorders have been connected to sexual problems. For example, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been associated with a significantly higher risk of erectile dysfunction.

Poor sleep can also hinder sex because of its effect on mental health. Insufficient sleep can exacerbate conditions like depression and anxiety, disorders often linked to sexual dysfunction in women because of their influence on desire and arousal.