Female sexual dysfunction encompasses a variety of different medical conditions or disorders that interfere with a woman’s sexual response or pleasure. This could be experiencing pain during sex, having trouble reaching orgasm, or feeling a lack of sexual desire that is distressing to the woman or her partner.
Some people believe that sexual dysfunction is just a part of getting older. However, while sexual dysfunction may be associated with older age, it is not necessarily inevitable. Not all people develop a type of sexual dysfunction as they get older, and sexual dysfunctions are treatable.
Nevertheless, it can be helpful to know the potential risk factors for sexual dysfunction so that you can limit the risks that are within your control and continue to enjoy healthy, satisfying sexual experiences for as long as possible.
A cross-sectional population-based study of 381 Brazilian women between the ages 45 to 83 years assessed the women’s sexual function in relation to their level of physical activity, depressive symptoms, self-assessment of health, sleep satisfaction, and sociodemographic characteristics like age, education level, and marital status.
The women in this study had all participated in the Survey of Women’s Health in Uberaba, Brazil, between 2014 to 2015. This survey measured many aspects of women’s health and included questions such as “How satisfied are you with your health?” and “How satisfied are you with your sleep?”, both of which were ranked on a scale from 1 to 5.
Their sexual function was measured by the Sexual Quotient – female version (QS-F). By this measure, the overall prevalence of sexual dysfunction in this group of women was 38.3%.
In the end, the researchers found that low satisfaction with sleep, advanced age, low education level, not having a partner, and low levels of physical activity were associated with female sexual dysfunction. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that dissatisfaction with sleep increased an individual’s odds of having female sexual dysfunction by four times and was therefore the most significant risk factor for sexual dysfunction in this study.
Clearly, some of these factors are out of one’s control. However, when it comes to physical activity and sleep, there may be room to make lifestyle adjustments. Because going from little to no physical activity to a full-blown daily workout routine is a daunting task that will likely lead to burnout, it is a good idea to slowly increase your physical activity. You may try going for a short walk once a day and gradually increasing your distance or speed. Doing physical activity with a friend or family member may help hold you accountable and can make it a more enjoyable experience.
As for sleep, it can be helpful to stop using electronic devices before bed and to designate a time to unwind from the day. Practicing good sleep hygiene by keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and free of electronic distractions can create a favorable sleep environment. Lastly, sticking to a routine by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day can help the body sync up with its natural circadian rhythms.
Of course, not all sexual dysfunctions can be prevented or healed through increasing your physical activity or getting better sleep. If you are experiencing a sexual dysfunction that is affecting your sex life, speak with your health care provider about treatment options.
Reis, S.C.R.M., Pinto, J.M., de Walsh, I.A.P., de Castro, S.S., Meirelles, M.C.C.C., & Pereira-Baldon, V.S. (2022). Predictive Factors for the Risk of Sexual Dysfunction in Climacteric Women: Population-based Study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 19(10), 1546-1552. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.06.019