A digital detox could be the secret to boosting your libido and reigniting the spark in a sexless relationship. Yep, you heard us right. Sex is undeniably important to most of us, helping us to feel more connected to our bodies and to our partners. It’s understandable then, that we’re all giving sex our best shot - from investing in the best vibrators to treating ourselves (and our partners) to beautiful lingerie. But if your sex life is feeling a little lacklustre then it might be worth trying something as simple as a digital detox.

While it’s totally normal for your sex drive to ebb and flow with the pressures of this fast-paced modern world, if you find you're spending more time scrolling and less time connecting with your partner it could be time to ditch the tech. Not only has it been proven to reduce anxiety and improve focus, but it could also enhance solo and partnered sex.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to do a digital detox and reap the sexual benefits of going phone-free.

What is a digital detox?

A digital detox refers to a time when a person refrains from using their electronic devices such as smartphones or computers for a set period of time. And they’re quite commonplace, with many embarking on digital detoxes to eliminate stress or focus on social interaction that doesn’t require technology. Research from Origin found 41% of people experience some form of anxiety from social media. A digital detox can help bring us back to basics and focus on what’s important in our real-life, rather than our virtual world.

What are the benefits of a digital detox?

Digital detoxes are often met with scepticism because of the cheesy marketing attached to them. But, thorough research has been conducted to explore the benefits of a digital detox, and they’re proven to have a significant effect on our psyches. Unplugging yourself has been found to:

  • Make us more productive
  • Help us feel calmer
  • Help us feel more secure
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase focus
  • Improve self-esteem

But, it seems digital detoxes can have a profound effect on our sex lives too. When my partner and I booked an ‘Unplugged’ cabin stay in the countryside, we knew we’d be relaxed without the bane of work emails. But when our libidos shot into overdrive by the third day, barely able to keep our hands off one another, it was clear that digital devices were causing a problem in our relationship, too.

How are our devices ruining our sex lives?

Dr Sharif Mowlabocus, an Associate Professor in Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University who investigates digital behaviour and sex, says many couples know digital detoxes will improve their relationship, but are still hesitant to try.

“Even if you know it’s becoming a negative thing, the attachment to their phone unwillingly takes priority.” After all, 75% of people admit they’re addicted to their phones. “Their phones are still the first thing they touch when they wake up and the last thing they touch before they go to sleep. That should really be their partner.”

digital detox
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The problem isn’t the digital devices themselves, it’s the way we interact and behave with them. “This idea of technology as an intruder is part of a much larger problem we’re facing today,” says Dr Mowlabocus. “On the one hand, we use technological devices for distraction, but then we find ourselves back on them during the times of our lives where intimacy should be the priority. We end up in this messy, always distracted zone.”

“A lot of couples I’ve interviewed about digital behaviour say they don’t have rules around phones even if they have active concerns about their digital behaviour.” Dr Mowlabocus believes our attachments to our phones point to anxiety about not being stimulated. “Time on our social media allows us moments of ‘doing’, and let’s face it, we’re nervous about being in the world,” Dr Mowlabocus explains. “We’ve been trained into continual engagement and mental stimulation. As a result, we’re worried about just ‘being’.”

But, when it comes to tech for couples, it's not all bad. Between 2015 and 2019, 32% of new couples met on the internet. In fact, 50% of single Britons have never asked anyone on a date in real life, and sex toys using phone technology are increasing in popularity. So it’s justifiable that in 2022, we’d expect digital devices and sex to go hand in hand. But, Dr Mowlabocus stresses the importance of having rules around technology in relationships, even if you feel your technological experiences as a pair have been positive. This can be keeping phones and computers away during date nights, keeping them out of the bedroom, or agreeing to limit device use to time spent separately.

Can a digital detox improve sexual relationships?

I’m not the only one to feel the sexual benefits of a digital detox. Thirty-year-old Alice took a three-week digital detox to help her anxiety but found her libido climbing. “Taking my energy and focus out of the constant demand of social media made me more present in my body and this increased my sensuality and sex drive. Me and my partner were having sex more than ever, and I even masturbated more when I ditched my phone.”

Thirty-nine-year-old Ellen had a similar experience when she realised she and her husband were going on plenty of date nights, but spending most of their evenings together separately scrolling through their phones. “I eventually just had the last straw and demanded that phones go away for dates even if they’re nights in.” Ellen found it so much easier to connect deeply with her husband without their phones in reach. “It felt easier to initiate sex, the phones weren’t blocking us anymore”.

digital detox
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Dr Mowlabocus notes that we’re in an era of ‘hyperpersonal individualised media’ - meaning personal platforms like Instagram and Facebook - and that’s not something that can be shared with a partner intimately like you can with a film. A digital detox is a sound way to identify where digital devices are causing problems, and understand whether we’re actually enjoying time with our phones, or if we’re just being habitual with them.

When my partner and I were on our digital detox, we found that we barely missed our phones. Yet, I usually had a six hour average daily screen time, and he wasn’t far behind. What were we doing with all those other hours? Before the detox, the two of us usually got into bed playing phone games or watching videos on social media until sleep took over our bodies. But without our phones to distract us at bedtime, we just lay there together. In that silence and lack of stimulation, came the perfect environment to connect and initiate great sex.

digital detox
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As we unlocked our phones from the safe we’d nervously packed them into on arrival, my partner said: ‘We’ve been so much closer this week. I think we should have one night a week where we lock our phones away and leave them at home when we go out for dinner.’. And we have, finding that our time together is truly only ours - social media is no longer a third wheel.

How to successfully complete a digital detox to improve your sex life

  • Choose a date and time for the two of you to take a digital detox. You might want to choose a quieter period at work. According to experts, you’ll feel the positive effects of a detox after two days, but it might be fun to coincide your detox with a week-long holiday
  • Let your friends and family know that you are on a digital detox and ask for their help and support. For instance, request they only get in contact for emergencies
  • Keep other activities on hand - for example a polaroid camera, jigsaws, or board games
  • If you don’t have a place to lock up your devices during the detox, temporarily delete social media apps from your phone instead, to reduce temptation and easy access
  • Set rules for when phones should and shouldn’t be used
  • If you can, keep phones out of the bedroom entirely
  • Remember that phones can and should be used to strengthen your relationship, not distract from it
  • Pinpoint lessons from the detox and implement them realistically into your long-term routine