Not happy with how hard your erections get? You’re not alone.

The key is figuring out whether you’re dealing with a one-off issue or if less than ideal erections are becoming a regular occurrence.

Either way, a combination of talking with your partner, making a few lifestyle adjustments, and forming new habits may help.

Talking to your partner is the only way to communicate how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing.

Use this time to open up a discussion about any anxieties, discontents, or even boredom you may have about your current sex life.

Here are some tips to help spark a healthy, productive conversation:

  • Dissatisfaction with your sex life doesn’t necessarily mean dissatisfaction with your partner or relationship. Try to keep your mind from wandering toward extremes. Do your best to reassure your partner. A convo about your sex life likely doesn’t mean the end of this pairing; you may just need something new to spice things up.
  • Sexual behaviors are often learned from the media we consume. This includes both positive and negative depictions of sexual activity. Be aware that what you think sex is supposed to be may not be what you or your partner want.
  • Timing is important. This isn’t the time to multitask. You don’t want to risk making your partner feel unheard during a vulnerable conversation.

Before you do anything too drastic or long term to your diet or lifestyle, try to spice things up with:

  • New positions. Try raising your partner’s legs on your shoulders when you enter, do it from behind while lying on your side or with your partner on their hands and knees, or have your partner keep their legs closer together to tighten the vaginal canal or anal area.
  • Sex toys. Handheld vibrators, penis rings, butt plugs, and anal beads can be a fun way to stimulate the penis, clitoris, or anus.
  • Other forms of sexual contact. Use your mouths to build excitement, either on each other’s genitals or other erogenous areas.
  • Different entry points. In a heterosexual relationship and only tried vaginal sex? Ask your partner if they’re interested in trying anal. Or if they’re willing to peg you with a toy. Pro tip: Bring plenty of lube!
  • Role-playing. Set up a situation or act as characters to help build an arousing story around your sexual encounter.
  • Focus less on sexual performance. Instead, focus more on identifying what type of touch feels the most pleasurable to you.

The nutrients in many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes help improve blood flow throughout your body — including your penis.

And blood flow to the penis is one of the keys to healthy, consistent erections.

Here are some foods that may help:

Eating a diet that’s high in fatty, fried, or processed foods may increase your risk for conditions that can affect your sexual health and overall well-being.

These conditions include:

You may find it helpful to:

  • Swap high-fat dairy products, like yogurt and milk, for low-fat versions.
  • Opt for oat or whole-grain cereals instead of processed ones.
  • Buy cheese whole instead of pre-grated.

If you’re usually pressed for time, you may find it helpful to keep salad greens and other easy-to-prep vegetables and grains like quinoa on hand.
Use simple whole foods like these to throw a quick, nutritious meal together, or even prep a meal or two in advance.

Some research suggests the Mediterranean diet can help with several underlying factors that may contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED).

Following this diet may help:

  • lower cholesterol
  • increase antioxidants
  • increase L-arginine levels
  • improve blood flow

If you aren’t ready to make the switch or want to gradually ease into it, start by eating more of the following:

  • vegetables like kale, spinach, and carrots
  • fruits like apples, bananas, and grapes
  • nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • legumes like beans, lentils, and peanuts
  • tubers like potatoes and yams
  • poultry like chicken and turkey
  • eggs
  • dairy like cheese and Greek yogurt
  • healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil and avocados

Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of sexual dysfunction.

One or two drinks typically won’t hurt. It may even help lower your risk for erectile issues.

But there’s a direct correlation between how many drinks you have and how often you have issues with sexual performance.

Love coffee or tea? Great! Caffeine has been shown to improve blood flow and relax the muscles that help you get and keep an erection.

Try to keep it to black coffee, unsweetened tea, and caffeinated drinks without sweeteners.

Some research suggests that physical inactivity can have a negative effect on erectile function.

Just 20 minutes of exercise a day can help improve your circulation and aid in weight management — two key factors in overall erectile health.

Make time for a short walk or jog, or consider the following moves for an at-home workout:

Some research suggests the pressure put on the blood vessels and nerves in your pelvic area when biking can lead to ED.

More research is needed to know if there’s truly a connection.

If you bike a lot to work or just for fun, consider investing in a seat that takes some of the pressure off your perineum, where pressure may do the most damage.

Having excess weight or obesity can affect your sex drive and increase your risk for conditions that affect your sexual health, including:

Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise are key.

Not getting enough sleep, especially as a result of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, has been linked to an increased risk of ED.

Losing sleep can also make you more likely to develop plaque in your arteries (atherosclerosis).

This can affect your circulation, and, in turn, make it more difficult to get and maintain an erection.

Here are some tips to make sure you get your six to eight hours a night:

  • Turn off all screens — including your phone, computer, or TV — at least an hour before bed.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks after about 6 p.m.
  • Limit any daytime naps to an hour or so at most.
  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Consider taking a melatonin supplement about an hour before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom at around 70°F (21°C).

Research suggests that psychological factors like stress and anxiety are often the culprit behind ED.

Stress and anxiety can also make you more likely to develop other conditions that have been linked to ED, including:

Try these tips to reduce stress:

  • Listen to music.
  • Light an aromatherapy candle or diffuse essential oils.
  • Keep a journal to write down your thoughts.
  • Make yourself laugh with a funny movie or stand-up comedy.

Nicotine and other chemicals in vaporizers, cigarettes, cigars, and other products can damage blood vessels and reduce the effectiveness of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels, allowing blood to flow through more easily when you’re erect. Impairing its effectiveness can make it more difficult to get and stay erect.

The earlier you quit, the lower your overall risk for developing ED.

Herbal supplements aren’t regulated in the same way as food and medication. Many herbs can interact with over-the-counter and prescription medications, too.

It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before adding any of the following supplements to your routine. They can discuss your individual risk for side effects.

Talk to your provider about:

  • L-arginine. This amino acid has been shown to help with ED. It relaxes blood vessels to improve blood flow for consistent erections.
  • L-citrulline. This is another amino acid. Your body converts it to L-arginine. It also improves blood flow by helping create nitric oxide.
  • Ginseng. This herb has long been shown to improve libido with a component called ginsenosides. It may also improve sperm quality and sperm count.
  • Yohimbe. This tree bark-derived substance is thought to block alpha-2 adrenergic receptors. This may increase blood flow for better erections. More research is needed to better understand this potential connection.
  • Horny goat weed. This cleverly named herb contains icariin. This substance blocks PDE5, an enzyme that stops erections. It also makes it easier for blood to flow into the smooth muscles of the penis.

Q: Why do I have a firm erection when I masturbate and not when I’m with a partner?

Masturbation is a solo activity. If you’re horny, you can probably get yourself to an orgasm without much help because you can focus entirely on the good feelings that come with pleasuring yourself.

But sex with another person brings in more complexity: both your and your partner’s moods, emotions, level of trust with each other, and levels of confidence. To reduce performance anxiety, focus more on discovering what’s most pleasurable to you versus on how well you’re sexually performing.

This is where communication is crucial. Openly discussing any anger, resentment, embarrassment, or unresolved conflicts can help maintain the trust and intimacy needed for a healthy sexual relationship.

Make an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare provider if you’re frequently:

  • concerned about the overall firmness of your erection
  • unable to get or maintain an erection
  • stressed or concerned about your sexual performance

These could be symptoms of ED.

Low testosterone levels can also affect your sexual performance. See a doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • reduced semen volume
  • abnormal hair loss
  • persistent fatigue
  • difficultly concentrating
  • trouble with your memory
  • losing muscle mass
  • abnormal fat buildup, especially in the chest (gynecomastia)

Your doctor can order some blood tests and recommend treatment, if needed.