It was once assumed that women didn't have orgasms, or at least that they were very different from what men experienced. Thankfully, nowadays we know that women have all the equipment required to produce sexual pleasure - and that there's nothing wrong with enjoying it. Still, most statistics estimate that about 30 percent of women have trouble achieving orgasm.

Whether you're a woman who's diving into improving your sexual experiences, or you're a guy who's wondering why your lady isn't getting off as often as you'd like, you're probably looking for the big secret to female pleasure. That's a great start, but the answer goes deeper than you might expect ...

The Hidden Workings of the Female Orgasm

To discover the secrets to orgasm, you need to understand what’s going on under the hood (pun absolutely intended!). The most common way for a woman to reach orgasm is through clitoral stimulation, although some women also orgasm from stimulation of their G-spot, nipples, or even less obvious erogenous zones like earlobes or neck.

Orgasms are a full-body experience that includes rhythmic muscle contractions in and around the vagina, faster heart rate and breathing, raised blood pressure, and other exciting stuff like goosebumps or flushed, rosy skin. In fact an orgasm activates almost every part of the brain, so it really can be mind-blowing! (Get some surprising facts about a woman's body in 10 Things You Don't Know About Vaginas.)

The Secret Is ...

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: Health problems can get in the way of an orgasm. So, if something more than your sex life feels off, you should visit a doctor. In absence of a medical problem, however, a woman's orgasms, or the lack of them, go way beyond what's going on with her body. That means the main secret to a woman's orgasms is that they’re as individual as the woman herself. Learning to bring yourself or your female partner to a climax, therefore, can be a learning process, where's there's always room for improvement. Here are three common things that can boost a woman's orgasmic potential - and that couples tend to overlook.

Set the Stage

Women using "too tired" as an excuse for not having sex is so common it's become a cliche. That's no doubt because it's true; 33 percent of women in the U.S. report being too tired for sex. And when you're not into it, an orgasm probably isn't happening. When you don’t sleep enough, your stressed, exhausted body isn’t prepping itself for orgasmic nirvana; it just wants to know when it can roll over and pass out.

According to statistics from sleep company Zeo, getting seven or more hours of sleep per night increases youthfulness and physical vigor, while a sleepless night reduces attractiveness by 4 percent and elevates a stress hormone called cortisol by 37 percent, leading more frustration, irritability and unhappiness. Sex is a great stress reducer and sleep aid, but the irony is that in order to really enjoy it, you need to be well rested. Setting the stage for sex means setting the stage for sleep, so don't be ashamed to make sleep a priority for both you and your partner. Better sex will surely follow. (See some other ways to lay proper groundwork in 8 New Year's Resolutions for the Best Sex Ever.)

Take Your Time

You might not have thought about this one, but feeling time-pressured is one of the top orgasm killers for women. This is especially true when it comes to oral sex, as sexologist Yvonne Fulbright explains in her bestselling book The Best Oral Sex Ever - His Guide to Going Down.

This is where there's a big difference between men and women. Men can rush to the finish line - many women can't. In fact, most women need an average of 20 minutes of suitable stimulation before they achieve orgasm. Problem is, that 20 minutes can feel like a year when women spend it worrying - about their bodies, about their sexual abilities, or about whether their partner is getting bored. Women's bodies work differently than men's, which means that it takes more time to bring them to orgasm. Ladies, you aren't taking too long. And men, try to be patient - you can't hurry love!

Believe to Achieve

Women can struggle to reach orgasm if they aren’t feeling confident about their bodies or the relationship. In fact, women who are confident that they’ll orgasm are more likely to try a change of tactics if something isn’t working for them. A less confident woman may simply give up without getting her prize.

Feeling good in your skin is also essential. A study by Femfresh in the U.K. found that half of the 3,000 women they surveyed preferred having sex under the influence of alcohol because it helped them lose their inhibitions, while one in six admitted they didn't even have the confidence to sleep with someone when they were sober. Ladies, if body insecurity is impacting your ability to get down and dirty between the sheets, it's definitely affecting your ability to top it all off with a great orgasm. Addressing those feelings might be the key to better sex. You know, the kind you can actually remember in the morning.

Women should also take some time getting to know their bodies and how they work. In a 2011 survey by Debra Herbenick, an associate director at Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, women who felt positively about vibrators and had used one recently reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction - and higher levels of orgasm. If a woman knows what to do down there, chances are she'll be able to help her partner learn the lay of the land too. And when it comes to having great sex, that's a good thing. (Looking for a vibrator. Check out our sex toy reviews.)

The Key to Better Sex

OK. So maybe female orgasm doesn't have one big secret. But while movies and Internet pornography often make sex look easy, the reality is that it takes some practice to really get it right. Fortunately, that's half the fun.

The Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book, is a big book full of practical advice for couples. Check it out! And if you have any tips of your own to add, we’d love to hear them!