10 Surprising Ways the Winter Affects Your Sex Drive
The cold winter months could be wreaking havoc on your libido.
Whether or not we realize it, the seasons can have a big impact on our sex life. Winter affects your sex drive in surprising ways—sometimes raising your libido and sometimes lowering it. When two partners are at very different levels of interest throughout an entire season, that can cause some serious dysfunction. Oh, and be careful what you do with your libido, because winter also has an impact on fertility.
These are some of the most unexpected ways winter affects your sex drive—without you even knowing it.
Low vitamin D levels can cause erectile dysfunction.
The lack of sunlight in winter may have a direct impact on your ability to have penetrative sex. According to Daisy Mae Sharer, MD, who specializes in sexual and reproductive health, erectile dysfunction may be associated with low vitamin D levels, which can be caused by diminished exposure to the sun.
A 2018 article published in the International Journal of Impotence Research confirms this, noting that the severity of sexual dysfunction correlates with the degree to which men are lacking in the vitamin.
SAD can affect your libido.
If you're one of the 10 million Americans living with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), then you're already familiar with the condition that makes your mental health a lot worse during the colder winter months.
"Fall is here and people are beginning to feel a mourning over summer's end, as we approach the holiday season when family disappointments lead to deeper loneliness," says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a family and relationship psychotherapist in Beverly Hills. If this time of year already gets you down, chances are you may be experiencing a decrease in libido as well, according to the International Society for Sexual Health.
And your loneliness may be putting your libido into hibernation.
If you live in a colder climate—especially one with regular snowfall or wet weather—you've probably noticed that it can be harder to peel yourself off the couch and get out to socialize. While that makes sense, it can also make you feel lonelier—and whether you're in a relationship or not, loneliness isn't great for your sex life.
"Loneliness and isolation can cause a person to ruminate—to think negative thoughts repeatedly and obsessively," Walfish says. "The rumination often raises anxiety and can cause physical symptoms including heart palpitations, sweating, chest pressure, or even chest pains." If this is something you're experiencing, you may notice that your libido is hibernating for the season, too.
But low levels of serotonin can lead to a heightened sex drive.
Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter for many reasons: It helps regulate our mood, energy levels, sleep, and sexual desire and function. A 2002 study published in The Lancet found that the turnover of serotonin was lowest during the winter. And a 2010 study in the journal Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety found that serotonin appears to inhibit sexual activity—that's why antidepressants, which affect your serotonin, have been linked to sexual dysfunction. By this logic, it's possible that lower levels of serotonin in the winter might actually make you more interested in sex.
And increased testosterone can also up your libido.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that men experience their lowest testosterone levels of the year during the months with the highest temperatures and the most daylight—meaning the summer. And these variations were significant, with a 31 percent difference between the lowest and highest monthly mean level of free testosterone. Given that testosterone is closely associated with male sex drive, the fact that levels are higher in the winter might also mean men are more interested in sex.
Men find women's bodies more attractive during the winter.
In a 2008 study published in the journal Perception, male research subjects found women's bodies more attractive in the winter than in the summer. The authors suggest this could be because of the "contract effect"—in other words, not seeing skin all the time makes bodies seem more desirable.
But sexual stimuli decreases.
On the other hand, less skin is less skin. Summer clothing is inherently sexy, but come winter time, we're all bundled up in layers. You're probably not fantasizing about someone in a scarf and a giant parka. Christopher Ryan Jones, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist, says that it may not be your sex drive that has decreased in the winter, but the amount of stimuli. "In the winter months, your partner wears more layers of clothing and reveals less of their body, even in bed, due to the cold weather," he explains.
Sperm counts are highest in cold weather.
Let's go back to biology class for a minute. Sperm production works best when the testicles are a few degrees cooler than a person's body temperature, so during the colder months, the testicles are treated to a more suitable climate than usual. And yes, there's scientific proof: a 2003 article in the Journal of Andrology found that sperm concentration was significantly higher in winter, and the sperm was in much better shape to fertilize eggs.
You're more fertile.
OK, not exactly. But statistically, more babies are conceived on Dec. 11 than any other day of the year, according to a 2016 study by EPT (as reported by Women's Health). Researchers landed on this date by taking the most common birthday of the year—that would be Sept. 16—and counting backwards nine months. Assuming that these babies were born on their due dates, that makes Dec. 11 the most fertile day of the year. And yes, technically Dec. 11 isn't officially winter yet (that starts on Dec. 21), but it's certainly a part of the cold season.
We feel pressure to be romantically linked due to anxiety.
Winter prompts some people to want to find a partner in what's known as cuffing season. "'Cuffing season' refers to a specific time of year when people become extremely motivated to get 'coupled up,'" Walfish explains. "It generally occurs from October to March"—that is, the cooler months of the year.
Sometimes people feel pressure to be in a relationship around the holiday. "For some, the thought of impending family gatherings and holiday parties might create anxiety about showing up alone or being the only single person there, which may lead to relationship-seeking behaviors," Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, wrote for Vice. And if you find yourself with a new winter partner, it probably means you'll be having more (or at least some) sex.