Morning wood or- as it’s known medically, nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT), is not only an interesting daily phenomenon for men, it’s also a good indicator of male sexual health. Men of all ages can experience nocturnal penile tumescence. Morning wood has even been observed in unborn males in their mother’s womb. This physiological response is widely known, but not much is understood about the exact reasons morning wood occurs. Let’s dig into what we do know about morning wood.
Pitching a tent, morning wood, nocturnal penile tumescence… They all refer to the morning erection that most men experience every day. Unconscious erections don’t just happen in the morning though. That’s just one of many. During the night, each cycle of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep can result in an erection that lasts anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes. Men typically experience 5 erections during a night’s rest (depending on age and sleep quality). The very last erection is often experienced in the morning. This is what is nicknamed “morning wood”.
While experiencing morning wood is accepted as a common occurrence, not much is known about NPT and why this happens. However, there are a few theories.
The theory leading the pack, notes the possible connection between REM sleep and sleep-related erections. When researchers began observing the phenomenon they confirmed a positive correlation between the REM cycle and erections. About every 90 minutes we slip into a REM phase of sleep. About every 90 minutes, researchers observed nocturnal erections lasting around 30 minutes. That means some men spend 25% of their night with an erection. Surprisingly, this is not because we often dream during REM (sexy dreams are not the cause of morning erections). These types of erections are different from the arousal type of erections.
Testosterone: Although it’s still unclear, morning erections may occur because when most people wake up in the morning, they’re more than likely coming out of a REM sleep cycle (and REM mysteriously produces erections all night). Combined with the fact that testosterone levels surge to their highest levels in the morning.
Norepinephrine: A newer theory notes that norepinephrine levels decrease during REM. This hormone and neurotransmitter is associated with keeping the penis relaxed. With norepinephrine low, testosterone runs the show, leading to nocturnal erections. Even after all this penile research, the jury is still out on this. All we know for certain is the phenomenon certainly happens- and happens a lot!
Yes! Experiencing an erection in the morning is actually a good indicator of male sexual reproductive health. There are many moving parts to experiencing an erection so having regular morning wood indicates that many bodily systems are A-okay! If you experience morning erections that’s a sign that your blood and nervous system around the penis are functioning well. Good heart health is also associated with the ability to have erections, so all in all, this is great news.
While of course, you can put your morning wood to good use, many men report they don’t actually feel aroused when experiencing morning wood. These types of erections are not like the typical erections that occur from being turned on. Many men even get annoyed with these erections if it gets in the way of their beauty sleep.
If a male doesn’t experience regular morning erections it might be an indication that something is a bit off-kilter. The lack of regular morning wood could be a sign of a more significant erectile dysfunction (ED) problem. (But don’t panic. If you wake up without one every once in a while, that’s perfectly normal. Also, as we learn later in this article, you can expect morning wood occurrences to slow down as you age.) Other probable causes for the lack of morning wood are hormonal issues such as lower than normal testosterone as well as health risks such as carrying excess weight, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Age is only a number but it also plays a role in morning wood or lack thereof. Generally speaking, beginning around 40 years old some men may begin to experience ED to some extent. This could be chalked up to the gradual lowering of testosterone. Or the increasing health issues many people experience as they age, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, prostate disease, depression, or hormonal imbalances. Younger men often have higher levels of testosterone resulting in more erections, both the arousal and NPT type erections. It can be said that it is expected that men can experience a gradual decline in NPT as you age and as your testosterone lowers. Making sure you are in great physical and mental health can help with maintaining sexual health into retirement age.
You can learn more about ED and age in another Strut blog post.
Morning erections, especially in young men, are a great indicator of men’s overall health. The loss of the familiar AM erection could be a sign of an erectile dysfunction problem. If you continue to experience this, along with other signs of erectile dysfunction, consider reaching out to a health care provider.
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