I’ve been sleeping too much lately.
Usually, it’s the other way around — not getting enough sleep. But after a rough start to last week with serious sleep deprivation, I decided to make it up with earlier bedtimes, later wake-up times, and a couple of naps. Surprisingly, I’ve had no problem soaking in every last moment of sweet sleep. I’m like a hibernating bear.
So when I woke up this morning and thought, Why am I sleeping so much? and Why would I totally pick sleep over sex right now? I reminded myself of what time of year it is.
December brings together three challenges to your sex life. Especially us ladies. See if you recognize any of these.
The Christmas season is a joyful time in many ways. But remember that to-do list that’s always hard for you to get through? It’s grown by three feet.
You have presents to buy, wrap, and send. You have lights and decorations to put up. You have the Christmas pageant, choir performance, or candle lighting to prepare for. Your work wants you to participate in the charity drive, Secret Santa exchange, or off-site party. You need to send Christmas cards (for those of us who still do that). You must take the children or grandchildren to see Santa, the live nativity scene, and/or a tour of Christmas lights. You must get ready for the arrival of family or get ready to travel if you’re going somewhere else.
And stress has been shown to negatively affect our sex drives. Prolonged increases in cortisol, the “stress hormone,” lower your libido. It’s harder to relax enough to become aroused and enjoy a sexual encounter. And with pressures all around us, we simply have less time.
Sex can feel like another to-do that’s down on the list between mail grandma’s pecan pie recipe to my husband’s cousin and make a stocking for the dog. It might happen, but if it doesn’t, you figure you’re still okay. Yet deep down, you know your marriage — and your marriage bed — are more important than that.
So take a few steps to help with the stress factor:
- Cross off items on your list that you really don’t need to do. Be honest, and even ruthless. It’s good to say no to some opportunities so that you can say yes to your marriage. If you struggle with this, ask a trusted friend to take a look at your list and let her be the bearer of the “you’re not doing that this year” news.
- Involve your husband in the to-dos, asking for help. Of course, he won’t do the task like you would — for example, he might buy cookies instead of baking them for your daughter’s school holiday party — but that’s okay. You can get more things done, and you’ll feel a sense of togetherness. Which will hopefully translate into a desire to get together in a more pleasurable way later.
- Put sex on your list, near the top. We mostly accomplish what we plan for. If you prioritize sexual intimacy, you’ll likely get it done. Even block off time for this important nurturing of your marriage and intimacy.
- Compartmentalize, like a dude. It may seem like I’m asking for the impossible, but hear me out: Guys have an uncanny ability to focus on the task right in front of them. What if we gals adopted a bit of that approach? Make an intentional effort to shove all your must-dos aside so that you can be fully present in the marriage bed. Remove from your bedroom the stacks of gifts to wrap, the holiday decorations to go through, and the small children asking when Santa is coming. Take the time you need to mentally prepare, maybe with a bubble bath or body massage to counteract the stress. When your mind wanders, meditate back to the thought that this is my intimate time with my husband.
A close compatriot of stress is fatigue. Your fatigue could be caused by juggling so many holiday-related tasks that you feel like the official Christmas Court Jester. When you finally get home and into bed, you burrow into the covers and hide from the world and the demands of the day.
Or perhaps you feel the need for more downtime to balance the busyness of the season. When not working that to-do list, you want to throw on your flannel pajamas, grab a cup of cocoa, and binge-watch the most recent series of Gilmore Girls. You’re too exhausted to get your lady parts excited about sex.
Maybe the weather is wearing you down. It’s darker earlier. And later. Basically, it’s dark a lot of the day. And it’s cold. (To those in the Tropics or Australia, I know this isn’t you, but…) And if you’re in an area like mine (Southeast Texas), it’s not that cold but it is gray and rainy.
Whatever the cause, you feel too fatigued to get aroused. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if your husband just wanted to snuggle on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls with you? (Don’t hold your breath.) But you have a niggling feeling that ignoring your sexual intimacy altogether would be short-changing your marriage.
Instead, be consistent with your sleep habits. Make yourself go to bed and get up at regular times, keeping your body’s clock on track. Interspersed with those holiday comfort foods, be sure to consume healthy foods — vegetables, fruits, nuts, water. Even if you love mulled wine, wassail, or eggnog, don’t overdo the alcohol because that will make you even more tired. Find ways to exercise and do some activities that simply give you a burst of joy, whether that’s going to an art museum or ice skating or watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Finally, look for better times in the day to make love. Nighttime might not work well for you this season, but could you get up a little early for some nookie? Plan a “lunch date” so you can have needed naked time alone? Get in some afternoon delight? Be creative and give your husband that time of day when you’re most perky.
This is a wonderful season for many, but a really hard season for some. Those who already struggle with depression may have additional challenges this time of year. And Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that most often occurs in the winter months.
Without sufficient exposure to sunlight, our serotonin levels can decrease. Serotonin is a body chemical responsible for mood balance, and its deficiency is one cause of depression. For those who suffer from SAD, one option is bright light therapy. But even making sure you get out of the house when the sun is out can help.
Also, it’s tougher to exercise in the winter months. Yes, there are winter sports, but many favorite activities are off-limits this time of year. And we probably walk less, avoiding getting out when the weather is cold or dreary.
We’re also more aware of personal losses during the holidays, whether it’s the relative who died this past year or the adult children who won’t be joining us this Christmas.
Some depression sufferers may need to ask their doctors for help or a temporary increase in their antidepressant medication. And if you have the “winter blues,” you may actually be experiencing depression, so get sunlight, get exercise, get help if you need it. Also, prioritize self-care. I don’t mean a marathon of holiday movies with a tin of Christmas cookies and a half-gallon of eggnog. Rather, find and do activities that give you a smile and a sense of accomplishment.
Our spouses shouldn’t be relegated to the bottom of our priority list. Rather, we should give our best gift to our beloved. And sexual intimacy is a beautiful gift we need to give this season. Figure out what’s making your sex drive dive this season and then find ways to bring your libido back.