Is Winter Destroying Your Sex Life?

How to keep your sex drive up when temps are down

January 14, 2022 6:46 am
penguins having sex in the snow
Just a couple of penguins braving the arctic chill
Mint Images

No offense to any of you New Year enthusiasts who thrive on the illusion of new beginnings and the cold, nose-to-the-grindstone energy the first month of the year delivers, but everything is worse in January — even sex. 

Sure, the first few weeks of winter are all mistletoe and New Year’s Eve kisses and drunken post-holiday party hookups, but once the seasonal celebrations give way to the cold, blank slate of a new year, there’s a lot less to be excited about, sexually and otherwise.

In many parts of the Western world, January marks the beginning of what we might call the dead of winter. It’s one of the coldest months of the year — rivaled only by its immediate successor, lest we allow ourselves to be comforted by the thought of warmer temps ahead — and we spend most of it muddling through post-holiday blues and atoning for the overindulgences of the month before. 

Between the dark, the cold, the seasonal depression and the toll harsh weather and wintertime comfort food tend to take on the body, it’s no surprise that winter tends not to be the sexiest time of the year. If you’ve been feeling less sexually inclined than usual lately, you’re not alone. 

“It is common that people report having a lower sex drive in the winter months,” says Maureen Pollack, Co-Founder and President at women’s sexual wellness company Lovability, adding that depending on where you are in the world, the colder months offer a variety of environmental factors that may take a toll on libido. 

“There may be biological, practical and/or environmental explanations for fluctuations in sexual desire in winter months, particularly after the new year,” says Casey Tanner, a certified sex therapist and sexpert for LELO. “These changes are normal, often subconscious reactions to seasonal shifts.” 

For one thing, says Tanner, research suggests that a lack of vitamin D thanks to decreased sun exposure during the winter months contributes to a decline in both testosterone and estrogen levels, which play an important role in maintaining a healthy libido. According to Tanner, we can see these effects illustrated by seasonal shifts in birth rates: conception rates peak in late fall and early winter, but start to decline into January and February as hormone levels begin to dip.

In addition to messing with hormones, lack of sunlight and vitamin D can also wreak havoc on your mental health, as anyone who has ever dealt with seasonal affective disorder well knows. 

“​​The same factors that drive seasonal depression may also be responsible for low libido,” says Tatyannah King, a sex blogger and graduate student at the Widener University Center for Human Sexuality Studies. “During the winter months, we produce less serotonin due to reduced sunlight and vitamin D deficiency, so naturally, we’re more likely to experience waves of negative emotional and psychological fallouts, which also negatively affect sex drive.” 

Colder temperatures and generally harsh winter weather can also lead to dryness of the skin, lips and even genitals, according to Tanner, none of which tend to make for particularly smooth sexual sailing. 

Add in increased risk of cold and flu, (have you ever tried to give head with a stuffy nose? No thank you) not to mention certain other viral variants making the rounds this time of year that put a damper on close personal contact of any kind, and it’s no surprise that the winter months aren’t exactly boom times for sex. 

Still, the dead of winter needn’t be the death of your sex life. As both King and Tanner note, it is cuffing season, after all. While many of us may not exactly be in our sexual prime this time of year, plenty of people are still actively looking to cuddle up with a new partner for the winter. “This need for closeness, warmth, and intimacy can be especially convenient to boost sex drive because genuine connection helps enhance sexual satisfaction,” says King. 

While it’s important to note that you never have to have sex if you don’t feel like it, there are a few ways to resuscitate your sex life this winter if you don’t want to wait till spring for your sex drive to return from war. 

Take care of your mental health

If you are dealing with seasonal depression, taking steps to tackle those winter blues will probably help give your sex drive a boost. Eating healthy, spending as much time outdoors as possible and supplementing your sun intake with light boxes and dawn simulators can help keep seasonal affective disorder at bay.

It’s also worth noting that the mental health benefits of sex (whether partnered or solo) are well-documented. Mustering up whatever sexual energy you may have and putting it to use might just give your brain the serotonin boost it needs. And since, as Pollack notes, your libido is like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it gets — your sex drive will probably follow.

King also recommends practicing mediation or meditative breathing to get out of a sex slump. “Meditation induces more blood flow throughout the body and the genitals, which helps with sexual responsiveness, function and satisfaction,” she says. “The more relaxed you are, the more likely the chemistry in your brain will increase your sexual appetite.” 

Get out of town 

When in doubt, just get the hell out. Taking a romantic winter getaway with a partner, especially to a warmer climate, could be the lifeline your sex drive needs to get through the rest of the winter. Not only will you get some reprieve from the freezing temps and dreary environs, but the sheer novelty of travel is usually good for a libido boost no matter what time of year it is or where you’re going. 

“Travel gives you a break from your daily routine, which is ideal for our sex drives because novelty produces excitement,” says King. “Also, research shows that the stress hormone, cortisol, drops when traveling, which translates to a better mental state, and consequently, a higher libido.“

Find a way to take advantage of the colder weather

While winter can certainly be a cock block for all of the above reasons, it does offer some unique opportunities for seasonal sexual activities of its own, if you’re willing to get creative. 

Pollack notes that the colder months are a great time to indulge in a steamy sex bath or shower, enhanced by the waterproof sex toys of your choice.

If you’re finding it harder to leave the comfort of your warm sheets in the morning and easier to slip into bed as soon as the sun goes down this time of year, you might also consider turning that extra time between the sheets into an opportunity for intimacy.

“With less outdoor activity options, this is a great time to take advantage of the connection that can take place in your own home,” says Tanner. “If you do go to bed earlier as the sun sets sooner, take some extra time to lay facing your partner without technology, giving intimacy the opportunity to arise even as you rest.” 

Most importantly, try to take the pressure off. Nothing scares away libido like trying to force it, so if you’re just not feeling it, take it slow. 

“Make time to connect with your partner without putting pressure on your sexual performance,” says King. “Start off with something simple like a naked cuddle session and then see where it takes you. Sometimes the biggest way to help out your sex drive is by focusing solely on the sensations and pleasure your body is feeling in the moment rather than fixating on a goal-oriented performance.”

Good luck to you and your sex drive this winter, but remember, there’s nothing wrong with sitting sex out for a couple of months until your libido thaws out in the spring. There’s always time to be horny later.

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