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7 Tips to Strengthen Your Sex Life

Why do some couples keep the home fires burning while for others the embers grow dim? Here’s what some romantic partners are doing right

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You know who they are.

That couple down the block who’ve been together for 25 years and still canoodle like newlyweds. They seem to have the intimacy and magic you and your partner once shared. How do they do it?

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There are plenty of obvious reasons some couples lose their intimacy mojo over time: too much stress, too much conflict, too many health issues. But there are also plenty of healthy people in otherwise healthy relationships who aren’t getting their fair share of lovin’. What’s separating the sexually successful from the carnally challenged? We took a peek under the sheets and discovered some unexpected habits that have nothing to do with your relationship and can help any couple regain their romantic mojo.

1. Sex-cessful couples use the bedroom — for sleeping

Women who sleep an extra hour at night experience more sexual desire the next day and a 14 percent increased likelihood of having sex, according to one study. Maybe it’s because their partners are better rested as well: Not getting enough sleep has been linked to erectile dysfunction and a lack of testosterone in men. “A lot of your hormones and sex hormones are actually produced during good sleep,” says Graham King, M.D., a family medicine physician with Mayo Clinic Health System. Aim for at least seven to nine hours per night; anything under six on a regular basis could be setting you up for trouble.

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One key to better sleep and better sex: Don’t bring your smartphone to bed. A study conducted by tech solutions company Asurion looked at the bedroom habits of 2,000 U.S. adults and found that 35 percent of respondents said their sex life had been impacted by their or their spouse’s bedtime phone use. “The phone acts as a barrier to intimacy by distracting attention away from your partner, creating distance between you,” says Lori Beth Bisbey, a clinical psychologist and host of the A to Z of Sex podcast. “Great sex needs both people to be present and focused on each other — and little else, actually!”

2. Sex-cessful couples never crash diet

Almost every trendy approach to losing weight, from keto to intermittent fasting, involves cutting out certain food categories and thereby restricting calories. Maybe they’re fat or carb or protein calories, but the fact is that not getting proper nutrients can have an impact on your sex drive.

“We need protein, we need fats to be able to build those sex hormones and keep our different muscular systems, including our genitals, working right,” says King. Sex, he says, requires a lot of blood flow, an array of hormones, and precursors to different kinds of amino acids we need for vasodilation “and, of course, ultimately, orgasms. So if we’re malnourished, we don’t have the fuel to get there.” If you’re trying to lose weight, do it intelligently. Eat a well-balanced diet high in produce, lean meat and fish, and whole grains, with a minimum of sugar and ultra-processed foods. (AARP’s best-selling guide to 50-plus nutrition, The Whole Body Reset, is now available in paperback.)

3. Sex-cessful couples soak up the sun

You’ve no doubt heard about the importance of vitamin D, and perhaps you’ve asked your doctor to check your blood levels. If not, and if you live in the northern half of the nation, a lack of vitamin D might be interfering with your love life. Low D has been linked to decreased erectile and orgasmic function, as well as diminished sexual desire. But supplements in winter can help: Additional research has found that supplementing with vitamin D can improve sexual function and mood in women with low vitamin D levels. To get more D from your diet, prioritize vitamin D–fortified foods like milk or yogurt. If you prefer to get your vitamin D from being outdoors, remember that you also need to protect yourself: The median age of people receiving a melanoma diagnosis is 66.

4. Sex-cessful couples work their muscles

Working out increases sexual arousal in women and helps combat erectile dysfunction in men. But more important, exercise — especially vigorous exercise that stimulates our muscles — is critical to our libidos.

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When we exercise, the stress on our muscles stimulates the hypothalamus to produce sex hormones, says King: “It stimulates an effect that goes through our pituitary to our adrenal glands to start building those precursors to testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.” Without that stimulation, our brains never get the signal that it’s time for lovin’.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise or a combination of both, adding in resistance or weight training several days a week. But don’t overdo it; one study found that men who engage in intense endurance training for long periods of time had reduced libidos.

5. Sex-cessful couples avoid late-night sweets

Many of us enjoy a good after-dinner treat. But dessert is one thing — a midnight snack is something else.

“Eating sugar before bed causes insulin release and can temporarily suppress testosterone levels,” says Raevti Bole, M.D., a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Anyone who has felt a crash after a sugar high will understand this effect. “This can make you feel sluggish and sleepy, which can tamper with your arousal,” Bole adds. If you’re hungry before bed, opt for something less sugary, like a piece of fruit, crackers and cheese, or dark chocolate. Avoid processed treats, desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages in the hours leading up to bed.

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6. Sex-cessful couples drink a lot

Not booze — water. Water makes up 75 percent of the total body weight of newborns, but as we age, that percentage drops; in older adults it can be 50 percent or lower. And that can impact our health and our sex lives.

Proper hydration is critical to the cardiovascular system, which is responsible for keeping nutrients and oxygen flowing throughout the body. Even mild dehydration can impact a man’s ability to achieve an erection, and for women, it can cause issues with vaginal lubrication and genital arousal, says Sheryl Kingsberg, division chief, Ob/Gyn Behavioral Medicine at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and codirector of the Sexual Medicine and Vulvovaginal Health Program at the UH Cleveland Medical Center.

Keep a water bottle nearby to sip on throughout the day; reduce your alcohol intake, as that can further dehydrate you; and incorporate water-rich fruits and vegetables into your meals and snacks.

7. Sex-cessful couples make their bed daily

Clutter can sneak up on you, causing stress that you might not even be aware of. One study found that cortisol levels in women with cluttered homes rose during the day and stayed high when the clutter remained; the effect was more powerful on women than on their partners.

“It is likely that this is related to the expectations that women will still be responsible for keeping the home presentable and the social approval inherent in having a lovely home,” says Bole. Chaos around us, she adds, “impacts our ability to concentrate and focus.” Another study that looked at the relationship between clutter and procrastination found that older adults with clutter problems tended to report a significant decrease in life satisfaction. Making your bed first thing in the morning gives you a sense of control that can help reduce the feeling of being a victim of chaos. Better yet, make it together.

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