Signs of low libido

The Lowdown on Low Libido in Men

Treating and preventing the problem

Treatment options for low sex drive are as variable as the causes, and generally there is no one right thing to do. Effective treatment means discovering the cause, or causes, and then correcting them. This might mean a change of medications, the use of testosterone replacement therapy, thyroid hormone replacement, or antidepressants and counseling.

The only way to help prevent low libido is to keep yourself healthy physically and mentally, which is good advice for optimal health and well-being overall. Try to avoid the development of illnesses and emotional disorders. Stay healthy and happy, eat right, avoid junk food, be physically active, and avoid excessive alcohol use and illegal drugs.

If you are having issues with low libido and ED, you should consult your primary care physician and not be embarrassed to ask for help. Treatment is available — and careful examination coupled with thorough investigation often leads to a successful cure.

If you are looking for a board-certified internal medicine doctor in central New Jersey, CentraState Medical Center’s Physician Finder provides a detailed listing of physicians from which to choose. Visit our physician finder or call 866-CENTRA7.

Couple in bed

Sexual desire rises and falls over time for no apparent reason. It is very common for people to lose interest in sex from time to time.

Your libido can rise due to things like relationship pleasures, good health, fitness, holidays and relaxation.

Your libido can fall due to things in your life like relationship problems, the birth of a child, stress, overwork or personal issues.

Other things that can impair your sex drive include:

  • low levels of the hormone testosterone
  • depression or fatigue
  • being in pain
  • some medicines, such as antidepressants
  • some medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnoea or diabetes

If you have lost interest in sex because of stress, personal or relationship issues, it may be helpful to talk to your partner about how you are feeling. Not talking about it can sometimes make sexual issues more difficult.

If you feel uneasy talking about sex, try asking your partner how he or she feels about your sex life first. Reassure your partner that you still love and enjoy close contact with him or her.

If you lose interest in sex for no apparent reason, and you or your partner are worried about it, consult your doctor.

Remember there’s more to sex than having intercourse. If your interest in having sex has decreased, you may want to try some more sensual methods of becoming aroused. These include:

  • exploring and caressing each other’s bodies
  • taking a bath or shower together
  • having a massage
  • kissing each other slowly and in sensual places (such as the thigh)
  • undressing each other

Treating low sex drive

If you’re worried about low sex drive, see your doctor. They may suggest you alter your medications or cut down on alcohol or drug use. They will check to see there is no medical reason for your low sex drive, such as diabetes. In some men, testosterone therapy can help, or your doctor may recommend relationship counselling.

Looking after yourself

Leading a healthy life may improve your chances of having a healthy sex life. You could try:

  • losing weight if you are overweight
  • reducing the amount of alcohol you drink
  • not using illegal drugs
  • taking regular exercise
  • giving up smoking

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your loss of male libido, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when tissue at the back of the throat collapses and blocks a person’s airway. This results in a start-stop breathing pattern, making it difficult to sleep soundly.

Erectile dysfunction is quite common in men who have OSA. In 2009, German researchers reported that 69% of male study participants with obstructive sleep apnea also had ED.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly why men with OSA have higher rates of erectile dysfunction, but they have some theories.

Sleep deprivation is one possible cause. Men’s bodies produce testosterone (a hormone that is important for sexual function) during the night. But insufficient sleep, such as that caused by sleep apnea, can reduce testosterone levels, resulting in poor erections and decreased libido.

In addition, sleep-deprived men often feel fatigued and stressed, which may worsen sexual problems.

It’s also possible that men with sleep apnea aren’t getting enough oxygen while they sleep. Oxygen is important for healthy erections, so any deficiency can cause a problem.

Fortunately, many men find that their erections improve with treatment for sleep apnea.

Men’s Health Week: What happens when men don’t sleep well

Today begins Men’s Health Week (from June 12 to June 18).

The American Sleep Apnea Association is inspired to join the Men’s Health Network in speaking up about the health risks that men assume when they don’t get enough sleep on a nightly basis.

Interruptions to sleep could be caused by lifestyle choices related to employment or a busy social life.

Poor sleep is also caused by unidentified (and, therefore, untreated) sleep disorders—insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing, circadian rhythm dysfunction, or restless legs.

Some of the most common sleep issues among men relate to sleep-disordered breathing, especially snoring and sleep apnea.

In any event, it matters less what causes the disruption to one’s sleep cycles than how to fix those problems. Practicing better sleep hygiene and treating all medical concerns are a positive move forward. The goal? To prioritize sleep to repair and/or prevent these problems altogether. After all, many of these problems can be reversed simply by getting enough sleep.

Sleep is not an optional biological process; our brains, bodies, even our cells, require a third of our days be spent in sleep mode. Men must sleep well if they want to stay healthy, perform well in all facets of their lives, and enjoy longevity.

Recent research suggests that men who work night shift (starting after 6pm and/or ending at 7am) risk developing a multitude of health issues. While not all men work night shift, many lose sleep at night for a variety of other reasons. Untreated sleep disorders, anxiety, or pain are commonly blamed for lost sleep.

Let’s take a look at the risks men face when they face sleep deprivation.

4 reasons men should try to get adequate sleep

Low testosterone

Hypogonadal symptoms (which emerge due to low levels of testosterone) are a side effect of sleep loss over time. Men with so-called “low T” experience a range of hypogonadal symptoms. These include erectile dysfunction (see below), decreased muscle mass, reduced libido, and problems with sleep.


As a consequence of low testosterone, men who have poor sleep for whatever reason may also face problems with infertility. Low measures of semen density and “motility” count (which describes the level of activity of sperm once released) can lead to future problems in sleep-deprived men who wish to father children.

Erectile dysfunction

An inability to maintain proper testosterone levels can lead to problems with erectile dysfunction (also referred to as ED). Getting less than 8 hours a sleep nightly changes the hormonal balance in the blood stream, and without the circulation of normal levels of testosterone, blood may not be available to the reproductive organs, leading to ED.


Granted, mental health concerns are linked to poor sleep, regardless of gender. However, over the last week, research presented at the annual SLEEP meeting this year shows a connection between poor sleep, depression, even suicidal thoughts among men who are sleep deprived.

The statistics are alarming:

“13 percent of those who struggled with insomnia reported at least one type of suicidal ideation—thoughts of killing yourself, having a plan to commit suicide, intentions of killing yourself, wishing you were dead, or telling people you want to commit suicide. That’s compared to 2 percent of those who slept soundly.” (via Men’s Health magazine)

It’s time for men to acknowledge good sleep as a critical part of good overall health. Try making it a goal to achieve 8 hours of solid sleep per night. This will do more than just make the doctor happy… it will lead to better overall health and wellness, a stable mood, and a better outlook on life.

To quote Congressman Bill Richardson (Congressional Record, H3905-H3906, May 24, 1994):

“Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue.
Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.”
Many thanks to Sleep Review magazine for their comprehensive reporting on sleep issues and men’s health following the annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) last spring, where this latest research was unveiled (“Shift Work Linked with Low-T, Lower Sperm Density, Increased Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms,” May 15, 2017).

Recharge your sexual energy

If lack of energy has drained your sex life, there are ways to reignite the passion.

Published: February, 2018

Image: © nautiluz56/Thinkstock

Your sexual drive can stay high late in life, but often your energy for sex can diminish. Low energy not only affects your sex life, but can carry over to other parts of your life, too. You can become apathetic, no longer find pleasure in favorite activities, and become more sedentary.

However, many of these issues related to lost sexual energy can be addressed. “Never think lack of energy means an end to your sex life, and there is nothing you can do about it,” says Dr. Sharon Bober, director of the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Sexual Health Program. “There are many strategies you can adopt to get back in the game.”

Find your energy drainers

Your lost sexual vim and vigor is often related to some kind of physical, emotional, or relationship issue. Here’s a look at the most common causes.

Low hormones. Lack of sexual energy could be due to male hypogonadism, which occurs when the testicles do not produce enough testosterone, the male sex hormone. In fact, fatigue is one of the most common side effects.

Testosterone levels drop about 1% each year beginning in a man’s late 30s, and could fall by as much as 50% by age 70. (A blood test from your doctor can determine if you have low testosterone.) Testosterone replacement therapy, which is given via absorbable pellet implants, topical gels, patches, and injections, can often help spark sexual energy in men with low levels.

Findings from a study published online Aug. 1, 2016, by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that a year of testosterone therapy improved libido in 275 men (average age 72) with confirmed low testosterone. Compared with men in a placebo group, frequency of sexual arousal increased by about 50%, and they were able to have almost twice as many erections.

Speak with your doctor about whether testosterone therapy is an option for you. Long- term risks are not well known, but there is concern for an increased risk of heart disease and prostate problems.

Erectile dysfunction. Men with erectile dysfunction can experience low energy because the condition can be a blow to their self-esteem. “Men may feel embarrassed about it or worry they will be judged in some way if they cannot perform as well as they once did, so motivation and energy for sex gets depleted,” says Dr. Bober.

In this case, speak with your doctor about taking an ED drug or exploring other options for getting or keeping an erection, like using a penile pump.

Even though talking about ED may be difficult, it’s important to open up lines of communication with your partner. “For many men, it can help relieve stress to know they are not alone and someone is there for support.”

Poor sleep. Lack of sleep can be one of the main energy zappers. Poor sleep can increase stress levels and interfere with how your body and brain store and use energy, which is why you feel so sluggish after not sleeping well. And if you are tired, you have less energy for sex. Talk with your doctor if you have trouble sleeping. Steps like changing medication or dose, cognitive behavioral therapy, and adjusting your diet and sleeping environment can often improve sleep quality.

Lack of movement. When you have no sexual energy, you need to get moving. Regular exercise is one of the best natural energy boosters. Numerous studies have linked exercise with improving fatigue, especially among sedentary people. You don’t need much to get a jolt — 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise can do the trick. Focus on a combination of cardio and weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking and strength training.

Get checked out

Many medical conditions can affect sexual drive, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. So be diligent about regular medical check-ups. Also, many drugs, including blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, and tranquilizers can produce erectile difficulties. Consult with your doctor if you take any of these.

Back in sync

Lack of energy also could be relationship-oriented, if you and your partner are not in sexual sync. For instance, you may have energy for sex, but your partner doesn’t, or at least not at the same level.

“Sex may not always be comfortable for women because of menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness. If sexual activity is physically uncomfortable, not surprisingly, a woman’s sex drive also diminishes,” says Dr. Bober. “This can affect both partners, and if a man is worried that he might hurt his partner, that will certainly affect his interest in sex, too.”

In this situation, you need to communicate with your partner about how important sex is to you. It’s not about making demands, but about finding ways to explore mutual goals, such as pleasure and closeness.

“Perhaps it means negotiating a compromise just like you do in other aspects of a relationship,” says Dr. Bober. “Partners find ways to share everything from household chores to bill planning, and sex shouldn’t be any different.”

There’s a lot of room to find common ground, she adds. “There are many ways to be sexually active with your partner besides traditional intercourse. For example, you can ask your partner to be with you when you pleasure yourself, which feels intimate and can allow both partners to feel connected.”

Talk about it

Sometimes the sexual barrier is not about sex at all. An open dialogue also can reveal issues beneath the surface that may interfere with your partner’s sexual energy.

“Your partner may desire sex as much as you, but there may be underlying problems in the relationship that could affect sexual desire and need to be addressed,” says Dr. Bober.

Finally, another way to ignite lost sexual energy is to do new things together. “Couples can get into routines that can make for boring sex lives,” says Dr. Bober. “It can be fun to speak with your partner about ways to keep the relationship interesting and erotic.”

Many times, this can be done outside the bedroom, like having more date nights, going for long weekend romantic getaways, or even doing simple activities together like joining a club or taking a class.

“Investing in change can energize both you and your partner, and most important, pave the way for a renewed sense of closeness and novelty that is great for all couples,” says Dr. Bober.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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