Too Sleepy for Sex?

Ask yourself these four questions to stop sleepiness from stealing your sex life.

From the WebMD Archives


Question No. 4: What Else Could be the Problem?

If you’re too beat to generate a sexual spark off an otherwise loving relationship, and the obvious solutions -- go to bed earlier, wind down an hour before bed, curb your late-night TV habit -- haven't helped, you may want to consider these possible causes:

  • Sleep apnea, in which people briefly stop breathing for 10 or more seconds, is a possible culprit. "You could be waking up dozens of times a night, and you wake up in the morning feeling worse," Kohler says. "Sleep apnea contributes to depression, lack of energy, fatigue, and it can cause impotence." There are effective treatments, including CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a device that forces air into the nose. Kohler says he encourages his overweight sleep apnea patients to shed pounds. That can cure the problem altogether.
  • Insomnia. "With insomnia, patients never say, ‘What the hell, I can’t sleep so I’ll just give my husband some snuggies.’ They are actually tired, they can’t get their mind shut off, and they lay there fretting about it. The last thing they’re interested in is sexy business," says Lisa Shives, MD, director of the Northshore Sleep Clinic in Evanston, Ill. "I’m guessing that people become very anxious and upset in bed, and bed becomes a very negative place."

Insomnia is more common than sleep apnea. A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll showed that half of those surveyed reported having at least one symptom of insomnia at least a few nights a week. But many people don’t seek the help of a sleep specialist. Kohler suspects some self-medicate with sleeping pills or alcohol - both of which dampen sexual desire

Other sleep wreckers include thyroid problems, prostate problems that lead to frequent visits to the bathroom at night, depression, and some medications.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on February 11, 2010



Consumer Reports.

National Sleep Foundation: "Sleep in America" Poll.

William Kohler, MD, medical director, Florida Sleep Institute; director, pediatric sleep medicine, University Community Hospital, Tampa, Fla.

Lisa Shives, MD, medical director, Northshore Sleep Medicine, Evanston, Ill.; professor of sleep medicine, University of Chicago.

Dennis P. Sugrue, PhD, Affiliated Psychologists of Michigan, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Barry W. McCarthy, PhD, sex therapist, Washington Psychological Center, Washington, D.C.

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