Can Alcohol Affect Your Sexual Performance?

Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most individuals dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.

To address the widespread misinformation about sex, is running this weekly sex column, titled ‘Let’s Talk Sex’. We hope to initiate conversations about sex through this column and address sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.

The column is being written by Sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr Jain explains how alcohol can affect your sex drive.

It’s a common belief that alcohol helps you loosen up and get ready for action. However, the fact is alcohol can impact your health, in the short- as well as long-term. Alcohol is a depressant, and using it heavily can dampen mood, decrease sexual desire, and make it difficult for a man to achieve erection or reach an orgasm while under its influence.

Our liver can only break down the amount of alcohol in about one standard-size drink in an hour, so regularly drinking more than that means that toxins from alcohol can build up in your body and affect your organs, including those involved in sex. The effect of alcohol on your sex drive is, therefore, no exception.

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to ask you to stop drinking altogether, but there are some things that you should know.

Decreases Your Sex Hormone Levels

Your body produces a huge range of hormones, which can affect your mood and trigger other bodily functions. Sex hormones, which include testosterone and dopamine, can have a big impact on your libido. These rise and fall over time, which is why your libido may fluctuate. For example, in women, testosterone levels rise before and during ovulation. This boosts your libido, which increases the chances of you getting pregnant.

When you first drink alcohol, your testosterone and dopamine levels temporarily rise. This is why some people think that alcohol can actually help with boosting sex drive. However, this increase doesn’t last for long. In fact, alcohol can decrease levels of dopamine and testosterone and this will leave you with a lower libido overall.

Makes Sex Less Pleasurable

When you’re drunk, your hand-eye coordination may leave a lot to be desired. As a result, you might find that you aren’t on your A-game, sexually. However, even if you are, most people don’t have the same physical response to sex when they are drunk. This can result in difficulty in reaching orgasm, less vaginal lubrication, premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.

Makes It Harder to Achieve Orgasms

While one drink may not interfere with blood flow down there, one drink too many can have a physiological, cognitive and behavioural impact that can cause alcohol-induced orgasmic dysfunction.

Women’s arousal also relies on good blood circulation and alcohol can affect sensitivity in clitoris and vagina. So, women may find it harder to get aroused or reach orgasm during sex if they have been drinking. This can mean taking longer to climax and having less intense orgasms. That’s if you’re able to have an orgasm at all.

Increases Your Chances of Erectile Dysfunction

There are a range of causes for erectile dysfunction and alcohol is one of them. There are several reasons why this can happen.

First, when a man experiences arousal his brain has to send a message to his penis and this triggers an erection. However, when you are drunk your brain functions slower than normal. This means that the message may take a while to arrive or not arrive at all. Drinking alcohol also dehydrates your body and this can reduce your blood volume and circulation. In order to have and maintain a healthy erection, the penis needs decent blood flow. Without this, penetrative sex becomes very difficult.

Dehydration can also increase levels of angiotensin in men. This is a hormone that encourages your blood vessels to constrict, which reduces your circulation even more.

Affects Fertility

Drinking can also affect fertility. So, if you are looking to start a family, you might want to check your drinking habits. For women, drinking regularly may affect how long it takes for you to get pregnant. Heavy drinking, in particular, can result in a number of ovulation disorders.

As well as affecting your sex drive, alcohol can also affect men’s quality of sperm. This can reduce your sperm count, shape, motility and size. All of this means that it is more difficult to get your partner pregnant.

Affects Quality of Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for a large number of bodily functions. It gives your body time to rest and recover and this benefits all your physical and cognitive functions. Lack of sleep can reduce your feelings of desire and can make experiencing arousal more difficult.

Alcohol can impact your quality of sleep. As your body digests alcohol it actually becomes more psychologically stimulated. This means that you may find it harder to sleep or that your sleep is frequently disturbed and this can have a knock-on effect on your libido.

As you can see, the effects of alcohol on your sex drive can be incredibly varied. It may reduce your libido and arousal before sex, or it may impact how much you enjoy having sex. If you’ve experienced a lack of sexual desire, premature ejaculation, relationship problems, or erectile dysfunction because of mixing alcohol and sex, you may be letting alcohol get the best of your sex life.

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