Many people think alcohol is an aphrodisiac – it relaxes you and gets you in the mood. But in fact, too much alcohol can actually get in the way of good sex.
How alcohol can affect your sex life if you’re a man
When you have alcohol in your body it can slow and prevent the release of sex hormones which affects blood flow to the penis. This means men who’ve been drinking can find it harder to get or sustain an erection. It’s what’s known as ‘brewer’s droop’.
What’s more, over time alcohol can cause permanent damage to the testis, reducing the man’s levels of testosterone and inhibiting sexual function. So in fact, drinking too much over an extended period of time can turn a temporary problem like brewer’s droop into full-blown impotence.
How alcohol can affect your sex life if you’re a woman
Too much to drink can have an impact on the quality of your sex if you’re a woman, too. You may experience reduced lubrication – less fun for everyone! Women may also find it harder to have an orgasm or have orgasms that are less intense.
So how much can you safely drink?
The UK Chief Medical Officers provide guidance on how much you can drink whilst keeping health risks from alcohol to a low level. For both men and women, the magic number is no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
Not sure how much you’re drinking, or how many units are in your favourite drinks? Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units app can help you keep tabs on what you’re drinking and make informed choices. You can find it on the App Store or Google Play Store.
Drinking too much – a problem shared…
When you’re part of a couple, it can be easy for both partners to end up drinking a bit too much. For example, perhaps one of you fancies a glass of wine – and automatically pours a glass for the other person, who may not have been planning to have a drink at all. But now it’s been poured… Or maybe your partner always has a couple of beers in the fridge, ready to greet you when you get home from work.
A recent Drinkaware survey revealed that in many households’ with at least one person drinking above the low risk drinking guidelines men are the bad influence; 42% of men said they are more likely to suggest one more drink when their partner might think of stopping – only 14% of women say they press extra drinks on their partner1.
Shared behaviours – such as sharing a bottle of wine while you unwind and watch an episode of your favourite series – can become shared unhealthy habits.
…can be a problem solved
However, there’s good news. Yes, couples may encourage each other to drink too much. But if you and your other half decide to cut down together, you’re best placed to help and support each other to succeed.
The Drinkaware survey also revealed that working as a couple can help in the long run. A third (35%) say providing moral support and encouragement to their partner will help them keep their alcohol consumption low and a quarter (26%) say their partner’s moral support will help them.
A helpful thing to do is to identify your own triggers for drinking as a couple. For example, does a difficult day at work for one of you tend to mean a few drinks for both of you? Or does a trip to your favourite takeaway always lead to a visit to the off licence next door? Then together perhaps you can think of some alternatives to alcohol in these situations.
Creating new, healthier habits that also feel like a treat can make them easier to stick to. Instead of drinking wine with dinner every evening, for instance – even when dinner is leftovers on the sofa – how about saving the money to buy a really good bottle for a special dinner?
Encouraging your partner by complimenting them on any positive changes as a result of drinking less, such as losing a bit of weight, will help too. And finding ways to support each other that don’t rely on alcohol, as well as looking out for your loved one’s long-term health – what could be more romantic?
(1) Research Now survey for Drinkaware (2016) of 2000 adults, all of whom were in a relationship where at least one of whom was drinking more than the recommended guideline of 14 units a week.