Medically reviewed by Mark R LaFlamme, MD on December 8, 2015 — Written by Stacey Feintuch
What Is Low Libido?
Low libido describes a decreased interest in sexual activity.
It’s common to lose interest in sex from time to time, and libido levels vary through life. It’s also normal for your interest not to match your partners at times. However, low libido for a long period of time may cause concern for some people. Low libido can sometimes be an indicator of underlying health conditions.
Here are a few potential causes of low libido in men.
Testosterone is an important male hormone. In men, it’s mostly produced in the testicles. Testosterone is responsible for building muscles and bone mass and stimulating sperm production. Your testosterone levels also factor into your sex drive.
You’re considered to have low testosterone, or low T, when your levels fall below 300 to 350 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). When your testosterone levels decrease, your desire for sex also decreases.
Decreasing testosterone is a normal part of aging. However, a drastic drop in testosterone can lead to decreased libido. Talk to your doctor if you think this might be an issue for you. You may be able to take supplements or gels to increase your testosterone levels.
Taking certain medications can lower testosterone levels, which in turn may lead to low libido. For example, blood pressure medications like ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers may prevent ejaculation and erections.
If you’re experiencing these effects of low testosterone, talk to your doctor. They may advise you to switch medications.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. A study found that men with RLS are at higher risk for developing erectile dysfunction than those without RLS. Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when a man can’t have or maintain an erection.
In the study, researchers found that men who had RLS occurrences at least five times per month were about 50 percent more likely to get ED than men without RLS. Also, men who had RLS episodes more frequently were even more likely to become impotent.
Depression changes all parts of a person’s life. People with depression experience a reduced or complete lack of interest in activities they once found pleasurable, including sex.
Also, low libido is a side effect of some antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Talk to your doctor if you’re taking antidepressants and you have a low libido. Your doctor might address your side effects by adjusting your dose or switching to another medication.
When you’re not feeling well due to the effects of a chronic health condition, such as chronic pain, sex is likely low on your list of priorities. Certain illnesses, such as cancer, can reduce your sperm production counts since your body focuses on getting through the day.
If you’re experiencing a chronic illness, talk with your partner about ways to be intimate during this time. You may also consider seeing a marriage counselor or sex therapist about your issues.
A study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) found that men with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) experience lower testosterone levels. In turn, this leads to decreased sexual activity and libido. In the study, researchers found that nearly half of the men who had severe sleep apnea also experience very low levels of testosterone during the night.
A more recent JCEM study found that men with low testosterone levels also had lower sleep efficiency. The study concluded that decreased levels of total testosterone are linked with less healthy sleep, particularly in older men.
Testosterone levels, which are linked to libido, are at their highest when men are in their late teens. Men generally notice a difference in their libido around ages 60 to 65, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In your older years, it may take longer to have orgasms, ejaculate, and become aroused. Your erections may not be as hard, and it may take longer for your penis to become erect. However, medications are available that can help treat these issues.
If you’re distracted by situations or periods of high pressure, sexual desire may decrease. This is because stress can disrupt your hormone levels. Your arteries can narrow in times of stress. This narrowing restricts blood flow and potentially causes erectile dysfunction. A study in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease supported the notion that stress, separate from psychological symptoms and relationship quality, has a direct effect on sexual problems.
Treating low libido often depends on treating the underlying issue. You may need to switch medications. If your low libido has psychological causes, you may need to visit a therapist for relationship counseling.
You can also take steps to boost your libido on your own. The following have the potential to increase your libido:
- living a healthier lifestyle
- getting enough sleep
- practicing stress management
- eating a healthier diet