Dec. 22, 2012 -- Ladies, does all of the cooking, baking, shopping, entertaining, wrapping, and decorating associated with good holiday cheer leave you too jingle-jangled to be naughty OR nice? If so, here's some good news: There's probably nothing seriously wrong with you if you prefer catching some shut-eye to knocking boots this time of year. The main factors contributing to low sex drive in women -- including younger woman -- seem to intensify during the craziness of the holidays.
Sex Drive Killers
"There's no doubt that some women experience low or no desire, and that this troubles them. That said, we need to be more critical about lumping women into low or no desire groups, particularly as some women are not distressed by their lack of desire," explains sex expert Debby Herbenick, PhD, research scientist at Indiana University and author of Because It Feels Good (Rodale, 2009). "They may not have a particularly warm or kind partner, or they may be very stressed about work or family, or exhausted as they care for a newborn, and may well realize that there are times in life when sex takes a temporary backseat for a good reason."
Contrary to what you may see on TV, a lull in sexual desire isn't always a crisis. "We should challenge ideas that suggest that women or men should always want lots of sex, all the time," Herbenick says.
In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers looked at 400 premenopausal women age 18 or older with low sexual desire disorder. (The researchers estimate that seven to 12 percent of the female population lives with decreased sexual desire and associated distress.) In the study, it turned out that 85 percent of the low-sex-drive women cited multiple factors for their low drive. Here are the main culprits.
1. Stress or fatigue (60 percent of study participants said these factors contribute to low sex drive)
2. Dissatisfaction with personal appearance (41 percent)
3. Sexual difficulties, including problems reaching orgasm (34 percent)
The study authors conclude that boosting self-esteem, along with reducing fatigue and stress, could significantly fire up a woman's sex life.
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Hectic Holidays Can Leave You More Interested in Sleep Than Sex
But hold the phone…how can this be? Weren't we raised on the rumor that men hit their sexual peak at age 18, and women at age 30? Aren't premenopausal women supposed to be raring to go? Herbenick has heard the theory of women being in their sexual prime at age 30, too, the research doesn't back up that claim.
"Data from our national sex survey suggests that men and women have more frequent sex when they're younger (more often, in their 20s for women and mid-20s to 30s for men); but we know that women more easily orgasm with age," she explains. "And as both men and women tend to prefer sex in a relationship compared to casual sex, that also tends to come in the mid-20s to 30s."
Interest in sex follow a predetermined pattern in young adults, she says. "I don't think there's such thing as a peak at these ages. Research suggests that there are ebbs and flows in people's sex lives, and that certain things are more common at certain ages than others."
Considering the biggest female-libido-killing-causers are stress, lack of sleep, and feeling fat, it's no wonder a woman's sex drive shifts into reverse this time of the year. What else is going to happen when you have to come home from work, stay up all night baking cookies, and then tell yourself not to eat them all?
"Though I know of no research on holiday-specific sex, it's fair to say that desire can be influenced by stress and poor body image," says Herbenick.
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How the Holidays Hurt Your Sex Drive
It's okay to let your fires cool during the Yule, but try this if you'd like to turn up the heat for better sex:
Sure, you'd like to bake cookies for your kid's holiday party, your in-laws, and everybody at work while attending every holiday party you're invited to. But all of that hustle and bustle can turn your sex drive cold when it's time to hit the sheets. Sit down with a calendar, map out all your commitments, and build in some downtime to recharge your batteries.
Eat Well to Increase Sexual Hunger
"One of the best things women can do for their own sanity and feelings of wellness and their sex drive is to eat well," says Herbenick. Be sure to get some mood-boosting, calorie-controlling exercise (even if the weather is terrible, and try to relax before bed, perhaps by stretching. "All this can help women feel well and be more open to sex."
Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and not smoking are more important than many people realize, too. (Before you roll your eyes and say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," give it a try.) "Alfred Kinsey wrote about the value of a healthy lifestyle to sex decades ago, and yet we still need reminders of this," says Herbenick.
Feeling sexier can increase your sex drive. For a quick feel-good fix, Women's Health magazine offers suggests wearing a boatneck top to show off your shoulders. "It's one body part that you can always count on to look good," says Women's Health senior fashion editor Thea Palad.
Tune In to Your Erotic Cues
"As I wrote in Because It Feels Good, there are many 'erotic cues' that can help to boost sex drive, too, including reading erotica (we suggest these 8 books for your bedroom), watching erotic videos together, dressing sexy, or looking for something in your partner that you find appealing or attractive."
Give Yourself the Gift of Good Vibes
If you're without a partner this holiday season, don't be bummed. Herbenick recommends a nontoxic vibrator or dildo to spike your pleasure. In fact, using these green foreplay tools can even reverse a low sex drive in women with partners. (Need more ideas? Check out 8 All-Natural Sex Products We Love.)
Women and men concerned about their low sex drive should check in with their healthcare provider first to make sure that all is well. Some medical conditions and medications can interfere with libido, as can some low hormonal states (particularly relevant to women as they approach menopause), explains Herbenick.
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