What Is Morning Wood

What morning erections can tell us is whether the issue is physical or psychological.

Everything You Need to Know About Morning Wood

Morning wood — or as it’s formally known, nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) — is a common occurrence for many people. From time to time, you may wake up with an erect penis. This is most common in younger men, although men of all ages may experience NPT.

Many people assume a morning erection is a sign of sexual stimulation. However, this is not always the case. Morning wood is likely the response your body has to one of several natural occurrences.

We use “boys” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to this occurrence.

The cause of NPT is likely dependent on many factors. Doctors have a few theories that help explain why people wake up with an erect penis from time to time, but none of these theories are supported by concrete, medical evidence.

These theories include:

Physical stimulation

Though your eyes are shut, your body is still aware of what’s happening around you. If you or your partner accidentally touch or graze your genitals, you may become erect. Your body senses the stimulation and responds with an erection.

Hormone shifts

Your testosterone level is at its highest in the morning after you wake up. It is highest immediately after waking up from the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage.

The increase in this hormone alone may be enough to cause an erection, even in the absence of any physical stimulation.

As men get older, usually between ages 40 and 50, natural testosterone levels begin to fall. As this level decreases, episodes of NPT may decrease as well.

Brain relaxation

During your waking hours, your body releases hormones to suppress erections. When you’re asleep, your body releases less of those hormones. Combine this with other reasons you may experience an erection in your sleep, and NPT becomes more likely.

What’s clearer is what does not cause morning wood. For example, needing to urinate is not responsible for morning wood. Some people believe a morning erection keeps them from urinating during their sleep, but this is not true.

Morning wood is not always a sign of sexual stimulation. In many cases, NPT is not caused by dreams or thoughts of a sexual nature.

Men of all ages can experience NPT. It’s healthy at any age and is a sign of a properly functioning blood and nervous system in and around the penis.

Boys may experience NPT as young as infancy. NPT may also occur in men in their 60s and 70s. It will become less frequent as erectile dysfunction (ED) issues begin to occur, and those issues become more frequent with age.

You may experience an erection three to five times each night. Unrelated to what’s in your dreams, NPT can last longer than 30 minutes. Some men may experience an erection for as long as 2 hours during their sleep. Most erections will ease within a few minutes of waking up.

Having an erect penis when you wake is an indicator of healthy blood and nerve supply to the penis. The presence of NPT also likely indicates that you’re physically capable of getting and maintaining an erection while awake.

If you stop experiencing NPT or notice that you’re not waking up with an erect penis anymore, this may be an early sign of an underlying medical problem.

Most likely, this is a sign of physical ED. You may have something happening within your body that’s preventing adequate blood or nerve supply for proper erectile function. You may be more likely to experience ED if you:

  • are overweight
  • have high blood pressure
  • have high cholesterol levels
  • have diabetes
  • have depression
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People with certain disabilities may also be more likely to experience ED.

Medications may affect your ability to experience morning wood. Painkillers and some antidepressant medications may prevent NPT.

NPT may become less common as you get older, but if you’re young and are not experiencing a morning erection or if your erections suddenly stop, it may be time to contact a doctor.

Why Do Men Get Morning Erections? 5 Answers to Your Questions

man in bed at morning light

But why, exactly, does this happen? And is it ever a sign of a problem? Urologist Ryan Berglund, MD, answers your questions on the topic:

Q: Why exactly do morning erections occur?

A: The sacral nerve, part of your parasympathetic nervous system, controls erections.

The sympathetic nervous system is what prepares you for action — the fight or flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is what’s active while your body rests and repairs itself. It’s responsible for things like digestion, getting rid of waste, and sexual arousal.

The parasympathetic nervous system is active when you’re asleep, so erections sometimes happen in your sleep. The term “morning wood” is actually a misnomer; penises can become erect and then flaccid again several times in the course of one night. You’re just more likely to notice it when you wake up.

Q: There are a lot of explanations out there: dreams, a full bladder, REM sleep. Do any of these play a role?

A: Yes, but these really still link to the parasympathetic nervous system.

During REM sleep your parasympathetic nervous system is more active, and this is when you’re most likely to dream — and sometimes have an erotic dream, which can certainly result in an erection and maybe ejaculation.

A full bladder could press against and stimulate the sacral nerve.

Q: At what age is it normal for morning erections occur?

A: They can occur at any age — even male fetuses have erections in utero! It’s very common for friends of mine who are parents to call me up to ask if it’s a problem that their 3-year-old has an erection. The answer I always give them is that it’s totally normal.

Q: Can morning erections tell us anything about erectile dysfunction?

A: We know that erectile dysfunction is multifactorial — there are a lot of things that have an impact. Diminished neurological function, vascular issues, and anatomical or structural issues all sometimes cause erectile dysfunction.

On top of all these physical causes, there are sometimes psychological causes, too. It’s sometimes hard to determine what’s causing it.

What morning erections can tell us is whether the issue is physical or psychological.

I saw a patient today who told me that he developed erectile dysfunction recently, but he’s been under a tremendous amount of stress at work. In a case like this, morning erections would show that there’s probably nothing physically wrong and that the issue is psychological.

Issues in a relationship, trouble at work, or even sexual trauma can hamper erections. In those cases, eliminating the stress or conflict can solve the problem. Counseling with a therapist trained to treat erectile dysfunction can help.

Q: Should you ever worry about morning erections?

A: Priapism is a condition in which an erection lasts more than four hours. That can result in permanent dysfunction of the penis. Morning erections typically subside soon after you wake up. If you’re having erections that last significantly longer than that, it would be a good idea to speak to your doctor.

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Morning Wood: What And Why?

Morning wood , known formally as nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT), is a common phenomenon for men of all ages , but it can come and go as our bodies change with age and physical health.

Men are often concerned about morning wood for a variety of reasons. Is morning wood normal? What if I don’t get morning wood anymore?

This guide is designed to answer your burning questions.

Quick Facts About Morning Wood

A morning erection is common for men of all ages, though it tends to fade with age as testosterone levels decline (around mid-40s).

Experts believe morning wood occurs through some combination of hormones (high testosterone in the morning ), physical stimulation (underwear rubbing), and/or a relaxed state.

Like ED, your underlying health plays a role in morning wood . Less frequent morning wood is normal as you age, but if you have sudden loss or associated pain, talk to a doctor .

Why Do Men Get Morning Wood ?

Morning wood is quite common for men and boys beginning during childhood and lasting into old age. Its causes aren’t perfectly understood, but experts mostly agree on a few likely causes to waking up with an erection . Hormone levels (both long-term and short-term), physical stimulation , and a relaxed state of mind are all contributing factors. In fact, morning wood may be just the tip of the iceberg – many men experience more than one nocturnal erection every night without even knowing it!

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Regular morning wood can be a sign of good health too; or more directly, a prolonged lack of morning wood or erection problems can be signs that you may have some underlying health conditions to assess.

What causes morning wood ?

Morning wood ‘s root causes aren’t perfectly understood and are likely multifactorial; you’ll likely never pinpoint a single reason. Here are some of the top assumptions from medical professionals.

Morning wood and hormones

Hormones, namely testosterone , play a big part in men’s overall sexual health. You’re practically swimming in the stuff during puberty (remember hiding all of those mid-day erections?), and it remains elevated into your mid-30s. But as men age, testosterone levels decline, and by their 70s most men’s testosterone will have reached their lowest levels.

A higher testosterone level contributes to waking erections, which means for many men that their regular morning wood and/or their nighttime erection becomes less regular as they age.

Additionally, guys’ testosterone levels are highest in the morning , right after you wake up. This increase alone is likely sufficient to cause an erection , which may be why so many men wake up with erections on a regular basis.

Morning wood and stimulation

Also important to morning wood is stimulation to the penis . This isn’t necessarily intentional sexual stimulation or sexual arousal , like from an intimate partner – it could be as simple as your underwear or clothing rubbing your penis during sleep , or from rubbing against your blankets during the night. Even during sleep , your body senses this physical stimulation and reacts with a ready and erect penis . Stand to!

Morning wood by relaxation

When you’re awake during the day, your body is actually working to suppress erections with certain hormones (after all, you can’t be having erections all day every day). But when we’re sleeping or in a state of relaxation, our body relaxes too and takes the gas off of these suppressing hormones. Boners are more likely when we’re relaxed, and this is the case during sleep too.

What about wakeup sex ?

Go for it! Waking up with a spontaneous erection right next to your partner is a great catalyst for some spontaneous intimacy. Your testosterone is high and you’re already well-rested – morning sex can be a great way to get some intimacy in before the stresses of day-to-day life takes over.

No morning wood ?

Morning wood is a healthy and normal experience. It’s a sign of a properly functioning nervous system and blood flow in and around the penis . Many young men report waking up with morning wood almost daily in their youth, but over time that can slow. Less frequent morning wood episodes are to be expected as we age and our testosterone levels begin to fall.

Is less morning wood cause for concern? It could be if it’s rapid or dramatic. If you’ve experienced morning wood every day for years and suddenly it drops off to rarely, it may be time to talk to a doctor . There could be underlying health issues at play that need to be addressed. This could be a sign of erectile dysfunction , but it may also indicate something is happening that’s preventing arousal (to the nervous system ) or proper blood flow . Likely contributing factors and known causes of ED include: being overweight, depression , high blood lipids, high blood pressure , and diabetes. Smoking, alcoholism , or a night of excessive drinking can also impact your ability to get an erection .

These are also all issues the men tend to develop later in life as they age and as more demanding schedule with family and work contribute to a less healthy lifestyle.

Losing your morning wood can also emerge after beginning a new medication. Certain painkillers, like opioids, are known to contribute to ED, and many anti-depressant medications can contribute.

If you have any questions or concerns, talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms ( Rex MD can help with online visits and affordable medications ).

How To Get Morning Wood Back

If you’ve noticed a sudden drop off in morning wood , or you’re experiencing painful erections in the morning , it’s time to talk to a doctor about what else might be going on.

If you recognize some things in your current wellness that you think could be contributing, improving your physical fitness and taking care of your mental health are two of the fastest ways to address the underlying causes of ED. Eat right and exercise regularly to combat obesity, get blood pressure and cholesterol under control, and feel healthier. Seek treatment for other chronic underlying conditions, like diabetes, and do what you can to cut back on alcohol or tobacco use if they’re an issue for you.

All of these are known risk factors for ED, and possibly the loss of regular morning wood . Good news: ED can be reversible .

Concerned about ED? Doctors at Rex MD can help you assess and order ED meds like Viagra ( sildenafil ) and Cialis ( tadalafil ), if approved. Our free virtual visit process is easy, and our ordering is simple.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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