Health & Wellness

5 ways to improve your sex life, according to science

Here’s a universal truth: No human wants to be labeled as lousy in bed.

In fact, most people probably don’t want to be rated average, either. We want to excel in the sack. Fortunately, science has discovered a few ways that both men and women can boost their bed cred.

1. Talk Dirty To Me

A big plus of long-term relationships is that you know, or should know, what pleasures your partner. But sticking to the same sexual routines can be a buzzkill when it comes to actually desiring your partner, explains sex researcher Dr. Kristen Mark, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky.

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Don't underestimate the power of a cuddle.

The big problem: people — even in long-term relationships — often find it tough to talk about sex and what they want. “Talking about sex makes you feel vulnerable and most people think they may make their partner feel bad if they suggest something new,” says Mark.

Her own research, however, shows that people actually are open to trying new things in —or out — of the bedroom. And couples who talk about sex are much more satisfied with their sex lives.

In a survey or more than 3,000 folks ranging from 18 to 70-plus years of age, Mark and colleagues found that majority of participants indicated that engaging in sexually adventurous behaviors (ranging from masturbation, voyeurism, the use of sex toys, and more!) increased their sexual satisfaction, with a large majority of participants indicating their partner’s satisfaction was also improved with engaging in the behaviors.

Women weren’t averse to talking dirty or sharing fantasies with their partners. In fact, they were significantly more likely than men to have engaged in a wider variety of sexual activities, indicating they are more “sexually open” than often thought, says Mark.

RELATED: Ideally, how often does a couple need to have sex to be happier?

2. Cuddle and Canoodle

Don’t underestimate the power of a cuddle.

Research suggests that cuddling, canoodling, spooning, even laying there like skin-to-skin zombies after a romp can pay off big in how your partner views their own sex life and overall relationship.

“One of the most common reasons why people engage in sex in relationships is to enhance intimacy and feel closer to the partner and I think after-sex affection helps to accomplish this goal,” says sex researcher Dr. Amy Muise, assistant professor of psychology at York University.

And it’s not just women who need a cuddle in order to feel good about sex with their partners. Men are also affected since it increases their sexual satisfaction, which makes them feel happier about the relationship.

Her studies show that even though parents may spend less time in post-coital cuddling than childless couples, their relationship and sexual satisfaction was more strongly linked to post-coital cuddling than childless couples.

RELATED: 5 relationship warning signs to never ignore

3. Good Sex = Hard Work

One secret to good sex during a long-term relationship is the belief that sexual satisfaction takes effort, according to a study published the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In order to have sexual satisfaction long-term, partners need to develop “sexual communal strength,” basically they need to be motivated to meet a partner’s sexual needs, says Muise.

Her research shows that those couples that developed this strength were more satisfied with their sex lives.

In one study, she and her colleagues asked people in relationship the types of things they would do to meet their partner's needs. A common response: doing the deed when they aren’t in the mood. Other research showed that doing the deed when you’re not in the mood actually resulted in both partners feeling more satisfied.

But it’s not a one-way street. Research also shows that when one partner is overly focused on their partner's needs, to the exclusion of their own needs, neither partner benefits, Muise says.

4. Context is key so write it down

What turns you on – or off – is dependent on context.

Imagine it this way: If you’re feeling playful and your partner tickles you, it may feel good and may even lead to some good sex. “But if you’re stressed, or in a lousy mood, you probably want to punch your partner in the face,” says sex researcher Dr. Emily Nagoski, author of Come as You Are: The surprising new science that will transform your sex life.

She suggests that couples think about the best sex they’ve had, and consider what it was about that encounter that made it top of the list. “Think about where you were, what was happening in your relationship, what you did, and how you felt about what you did,” suggests Nagoski.

If an individual writes down three great-sex encounters, patterns may start to emerge about individual turn-ons. You can then share these with your partner and try recreating these contexts.

“Let’s face it more erotic stimuli means more arousal,” says Nagoski, adding that some of the things are brains perceive as erotic are obvious like erotic stories or videos. Other things may be erotic only in the right context, such as a fantasy about being dominated, which is only a turn-on perhaps when it is a fantasy, she adds.

“It’s really important to find out what turns you on, and find out what turns your partner on, and then create contexts in which those turn-ons can be maximized,” Nagoski says. “That way you can both reach your full sexual potential.”

5. Be a giver

If you want your partner to think you’re good in bed, find out what pleasures him or her. But take it one step further through random acts of kindness and you too can be the world’s best lover, according to Canadian researchers who found that altruistic people are uber-desirable.

This was especially true for men who scored higher on altruism. They reported more sexual partners, and more casual hook-ups compared to female participants. Altruistic individuals who were coupled-up didn’t lose out either. In fact, they reported more sex over the last 30 days than the non-altruistic.

6. Lay off the smokes and the booze

It’s clear the quitting smoking can make you physically healthier, but it can also help in the sack. For example, according to a meta-analysis of ED research, about 40 percent of men with erectile dysfunction were also smokers, says Ball State University sex educator and researcher Dr. Justin Lehmiller.

A small study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior by researchers affiliated with New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV showed that alcohol and marijuana were reportedly associated with a variety of negative sexual effects including sexual dysfunction.

For some, though, weed may indeed stimulate desire and magnify orgasms, but more work needs to done.

“The most important thing a person can do is to be attentive to their partner,” which is tough if you are high or drunk, although both may lower inhibitions, says Lehmiller. “A man might think his erection was lasting longer when he was high, but his perception of time could be way off because he was stoned,” he adds.

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