“There are a number of emotional, mental, physical, and circumstantial reasons why someone might be too tired for sex,” says sex educator Searah Deysach, owner of Chicago-based pleasure-product company Early to Bed. The root cause of someone being too tired for sex can be a number of things, including a work-life-balance issue or occupational burnout, new parenthood, or the fatigue is simply a symptom of some other health condition, she adds.
And of course, if it’s an irregular thing, prioritize that shut-eye. But, even if being too tired for sex becomes more chronic, there’s no need to worry that it’ll spell out the end of your relationship. “Many relationships go through periods where the people involved have less sex because they’re sleep-deprived,” Deysach adds.
These relationships are able to survive and thrive because there are ways to continue experiencing intimacy with your partner(s), even when you’re bone-tired, she says. Phew. Ahead, find seven suggestions for how to troubleshoot feeling too sleepy for sex.
7 expert tips for how to proceed when you’re regularly too tired for sex
1. Let go of the belief that you have to have sex often
“There is no pre-determined number of times that someone is supposed to have sex each week or month for a happy relationship,” says Rachel Rubin, MD, a board-certified urologist and sex-medicine specialist with sexual-pleasure retailer Promescent. More essential than how often you have sex is communicating about your sex life, she says.
“There is no pre-determined number of times that someone is supposed to have sex each week or month for a happy relationship.” —Rachel Rubin, MD, sex educator and urologist
“You can have sex as much or as little as you and your partner would like,” she says. And it’s a healthy practice so long as you’re on a similar page about your wants and needs getting met. Some duos, for instance, are made up of two asexual folks or two people with low(er) libido who are mutually disinterested in sex. Other couples are made up of people who have learned through trial-and-error that having sex twice per week helps them feel most connected.
Remembering that there is no “normal” sexual frequency can also help alleviate any pressures, says Deysach.
2. Prioritize quality over quantity
How the sex feels is a superior measure of sexual satisfaction than how frequently you do it. “Quality is more important when it comes to sex, because when it’s quality, it’s more memorable and satisfying,” says queer sex educator Marla Renee Stewart, MA, sexpert for sexual-wellness brand Lovers. “Ask a group of people if they prefer mutually pleasurable sex one time or bad sex seven times, and more will pick the quality sex.”
3. Talk to your partner
Maybe you want to be having more sex. Maybe you think your partner wants to be having more sex. Maybe you’re feeling guilty about how tired you are. In any of these cases, Dr. Rubin suggests communication is the best path forward.
“Using ‘I’ statements is a great way to have the conversation,” says Deysach. “Assigning blame never helps with open communication, so just speak from your heart about how you are feeling, and ask your partner to share their feelings, as well.” If you’re having a tough time initiating this convo, Dr. Rubin suggests working with a sex therapist or couples therapist for help.
4. Schedule a sex date
No, a verbal agreement won’t do it; actually input the date into your Google or fridge calendar. “This may sound a little mechanical,” says Dr. Rubin. “But many couples report that the practice of scheduling sex has increased their intimacy and closeness with their partner.”
To be very clear, scheduling sex doesn’t mean that you have to have sex during that blocked-off time. After all, you should only have sex when everyone involved is giving their enthusiastic yes. Rather, the timeframe can be understood as a time block to prioritize intimacy. If you don’t want to have sex, but do give one another a massage, talk honestly about your fears, or dance in the living room, those also mark a successful sex date, Deysach says.
“Masturbation can be a great option if you and your partner(s) routinely find yourselves with no extra time or energy for partnered play,” says Dr. Rubin. Not only does masturbating feel good, she says, it also boasts a handful of mental and physical benefits.
You could also try mutual masturbation, says Deysach, which is the act of touching yourself while your partner touches themselves right beside you. “Mutual masturbation can be a fun experience to share that can be quicker than going all-in for full-on sex,” she says.
6. Think of sex beyond penetration
When you’re zonked, the distance between zero and sex can feel insurmountable… even when you want to have sex! “Try to remember that sex doesn’t have to always mean intercourse,” says Deysach. There is a whole menu of sexual activities out there that you can share when you want to enjoy physical intimacy but don’t have enough time or energy in tank intercourse .
“Making out, oral sex and hand stuff are all great ways to connect with your partner and engage in sex play, and these activities may be easier to fit into your lifestyle or achieve when you are very busy, stressed or don’t have time for a whole meal,” she says.
7. Talk to a health-care provider
If you’re really tired, talk to your provider. Prolonged exhaustion and chronic fatigue are symptoms of a number of different health conditions, including depression, anxiety, compassion fatigue, burnout, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and viral infection, according to the Cleveland Clinic. So, if the tiredness you’re experiencing could be described as “long-lasting,” “endless,” or “deep-seated,” mention it to your provider.
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