Q: I am peri menopausal, I am grumpy, hot, tired and have very little interest in sex. On the odd occasion that I get a couple of good nights sleep I see a glimpse of my old self and my interest in sex but that seems to be incredibly rare. God bless my husband he is very supportive, I am not asking for his sake I am asking or my own. I use to enjoy sex and I would very much like to want it and enjoy it again. Got any tips?
A: Thankyou so much for asking for tips, on a personal not can I just say I totally understand what you are saying. I experience similar during my experience with peri menopause and other health challenges. I will shift gears now and speak professionally.
Hormonal changes throughout peri menopause and the menopausal transition can cause changes in your body that impact every aspect of life including sex and sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to boost our health and wellbeing. It allows us to replace and repair cells, to keeps us physically and mentally healthy. Sleep problems are common in peri menopause and beyond, this can be use to night sweats, good old insomnia and in some cases pain. Many women struggle with their sex life during the menopause. Thankfully many of the sexual issues common during this time have answers to help resolve or improve them, be it vaginal dryness, decreased sensation, vaginal tightness or low interest in sex.
A little more on hormones, testosterone, the hormone of desire, peaks in our 20s and then steadily declines – yes women have testosterone in their body. Oestrogen and Progesterone do also play a role in the up and down rollercoaster of our interest in sex. It is very common for women in their 40s and older to experience a lower interest in sex than they did when they were younger, however hormones are only one part of the puzzle.
Your brain is your largest sex organ, there is much more to our libido than physical arousal. For most of us desire is responsive which means being physically and mentally open to the idea of sex and to having a sexual experience is important and your brain plays a big part in that. Here are some suggestions on how to do that;
- What do you find pleasurable? What turns you on? Think about what turns you on now not in your 20s, now? Have you explored this recently? Is it role play, fantasy, erotica, voyeurism in a BDSM club, your significant other vacuuming, pretty much anything that lights the spark?
- Invest in a good quality vibrator. We have a large range of sex toy products in a range of price points that are great for pleasure during peri menopause, menopause and beyond. Try starting off with something simple before working your way up to more complicated products.
- Moisturise and lubrication. As oestrogen levels drop during the menopause transition, the vaginal tissues and vulvar skin tend to become dry and thin. You notice it in other parts of your body too but it’s easy to overlook the skin on your vulva and in your vagina. We stock some great quality lubricants and vaginal moisturisers. Even if you are not having sex using quality lubricants daily or every couple of days can moisturise your skin and reduce irritation.
- Sex should NEVER hurt! No matter your age sex should not hurt (unless you want it to). During peri menopause, menopause and beyond vaginal and vulvar dryness are commonly the cause (you can try the Ohnut) . In addition to moisturising your vulva and vagina, you can talk to your doctor and get it checked out because there are a range of reasons that sex can hurt and your doctor and or pelvic physiotherapist are important starting point to find answers. Visiting your doctor is also a great time to discuss options for HRT or other options for the management of menopausal symptoms.
- Bedroom is pleasure & sleep. Try to keep things fun, light and pleasurable in the bedroom. If serious or deep conversations need to be had move out of the bedroom and find a space you are both comfortable.
- Try having sex in the morning or another time of the day when you have more energy. Try having sex before you go out for the evening.
Sleep is important for our physical, mental and sexual health.
Hormonal changes caused by menopausal changes can affect the quality of our sleep. Similar to libido, there are many physical and psychological components in getting a good night’s sleep. That can be the stress of the day, relationship issues, the never ending to do list or even past sleep related issues that still play on our minds. Once you start on the cycle of sleep issues the anxiety created by exhaustion can feed into the cycle and it feeds the anxiety even more. Good news is there are things you can do to help with this too;
- Bedtime is important – try to keep up good sleep hygiene habits like; Maintain a regular sleep routine; avoid daytime naps; don't stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes; don't watch TV, use the computer, or read in bed; watch how much caffeine and alcohol you have; avoid inappropriate substances that interfere with sleep; clean fresh air; have a quiet, comfortable bedroom.
- Pay attention to how long you’re spending in bed vs. how long you’re sleeping in bed. You can do this by keeping a sleep journal. Spending too much time in bed without sleeping (which we often do if we have sleep problems) can actually further hinder our ability to sleep at bedtime.
- Watch how much caffeine and alcohol you have – It is noted in the first point, but it is warrants another mention. Caffeine and alcohol can be very disruptive to both falling asleep and staying asleep.
- What to do if you wake up in the middle of the night? Remain restful but try not to force yourself back into sleep, yes, I know how hard that is. Try listen to soothing, relaxing music or turn on a low light and read quietly until you get sleepy. If that is not working for you and you are tossing and turning, then get up and move to a chair or somewhere else to be restful and wait for sleepiness
Try talking to your GP, gynaecologist, pelvic physiotherapist, sleep specialist, sex therapist, counsellor or coach can help.
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Jodie West is our CEO and Resident Sexologist at Bliss. Jodie is known for initiating Taboo conversations about women's health & sexuality. Her own health challenges & the changes they brought about in general life & sex life were the catalysts for taboo smashing projects that have made & continue to make changes in the landscape of women's health in Australia.