Sounds sexy, right? Well, despite Mother Nature doing her best to work against us, there’s evidence that suggests we actually want to have sex more in the winter — whether we’re aware of this impulse or not.
“When people are cold, they crave warmth and closeness,” says Marisa Cohen, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and author of From First Kiss to Forever: A Scientific Approach to Love. “That can lead to the desire to couple up with another person and have sex.” In fact, there’s a specific term to describe this phenomenon: cuffing season, or the desire to enter a relationship during the cold-weather months.
If you were looking for an excuse to get back in the Tinder game or hit up that hookup from last spring, now would be a pretty good time. Not convinced? Here are a few science-backed reasons why you’re more likely to get it on this winter.
Cohen has studied embodied cognition, a theory that suggests how we feel physically is linked to how we think. She says that because social interaction tends to slow down in colder months, when people are less likely to leave the house, that social isolation can actually make you physically feel cold. (In fact, a 2008 study supports this, finding that participants who were excluded from a social event perceived temperature as colder than it actually was.)
Essentially, when we feel isolated and lonely, we’re more likely to feel chilly. Having a winter friend with benefits can help us avoid that — both literally and figuratively. “Psychologically, the feeling of togetherness, belongingness, is going to give you the warm fuzzies,” Cohen says. “If people are feeling cold, feeling like they are being accepted by others can lead to feelings of warmth.”
When we’re socially isolated, we’re also more likely to seek out activities that can provide us with some warmth. A 2012 study in the journal Emotion found that people experiencing social “coldness” were more likely to partake in warmth-seeking activities, like taking hot baths or showers. Having sex on the reg definitely falls into that category.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects our happiness levels. Researchers have concluded that our bodies produce less of it in times when there’s less sunlight, meaning we’re more prone to being bummed in the winter, when the days are shorter. (This is why SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a thing.)
“Our brains tend to produce less serotonin due to decreases in sun exposure, and this is thought to contribute to more feelings of loneliness and depression in the winter months,” says Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a faculty affiliate of The Kinsey Institute and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. “It’s possible that these changes in mood might stimulate a desire to connect with a partner.” Luckily, there’s nothing that’s more likely to pump you full of feel-good hormones like a good old-fashioned orgasm.
Pay attention to what you’re watching. All those holiday jewelry and car commercials featuring grand romantic gestures could subconsciously be affecting your desire to couple up with someone, says Dr. Cohen. People also tend to get engaged around this time of year, which can also inspire a desire for a relationship, or at least a hookup.
The fact that it’s holiday party season also helps. “Part of the reason we’re more likely to have sex in December, especially around the winter holidays, is that many of us take breaks and vacations from work and school, which means that we’re going to be less stressed,” says Dr. Lehmiller. “People are also attending lots of fun parties and social gatherings at this time as well, and it may be that all of that merrymaking gets people in the mood.”