Overview: Nocturnal erections, sometimes referred to as “morning wood,” are a natural occurrence among men. Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) may still experience nocturnal erections, but they may be less frequent. A decline in “morning wood” could signal an underlying health condition, such as ED or heart disease.
This article reviews nocturnal erections and how they might change in men living with ED or other underlying health conditions.
What are Nocturnal Erections?
Nocturnal erections are the erections that take place while men sleep. You may experience multiple erections throughout the night without realizing it. In fact, men have an average of five erections each night.
Nocturnal erections are sometimes referred to as “nocturnal penile tumescence” (NPT) or “sleep-related erections” (SREs). These erections are not related to sexual arousal or sexual dreams but are a normal physiological reaction to sleep. NPT is believed to occur thanks to a combination of sleep cycles, healthy nerves, and healthy blood flow.
NPT typically takes place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. These erections may come and go as your body enters and exits REM sleep throughout the night. They may also occur early in the morning, when testosterone levels are traditionally highest for men.
The exact mechanism behind nocturnal erections is unknown, but these erections help keep a man’s reproductive system in working order. They also serve as a key indicator of overall health status for men.
What if I Don’t Experience Nocturnal Erections?
Erectile health is directly related to a man’s overall health status. If you do not experience nocturnal erections or you notice a decline in the frequency of “morning wood,” it could be an early sign of an underlying health concern. Men living with erectile dysfunction (ED) are less likely to experience multiple nocturnal erections or wake up with “morning wood.”
There are many reasons you may not notice or may not experience nocturnal erections. Men who suffer from sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, insomnia) may notice a difference in the frequency of their nocturnal erections. If you have suddenly stopped experiencing nocturnal erections, you should speak with a medical provider.
Potential reasons you may not experience nocturnal erections are:
- Anxiety or mood disorders (e.g., depression)
- Certain medication side effects
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea)
- Underlying health condition (e.g., heart disease)
How Can I “Test” My Erections?
Nocturnal erections may go unnoticed, making it challenging to identify if you have a problem. Fortunately, there is a method to “test” your erections. You can perform an erection self-test at home or see a medical provider for diagnosis.
The “stamp test” is one method of conducting an at-home erection self-test. To perform this test, men purchase a strip of four to six postage stamps, wrap them around the shaft of their penis during the night, and check to see if the stamp seal has broken by morning. This test is somewhat outdated and additional tools, such as the RigiScan, are now recommended to use in its place.
When in doubt, it is best to speak to your doctor to diagnose erectile problems.
Where Can I Find Help for Better Erections?
If you suspect you are living with ED, you should speak with a medical provider. A provider can confirm your diagnosis, identify the root cause of the problem, and begin the right treatment plan for your situation. Many of these services are now offered online, making accessing treatment more convenient than ever before.
You can now speak with a professional and choose from an array of treatment options with our online services at eDrugstore.com. If you have questions about sexual dysfunction, see our lifestyle medication guide and take advantage of our free online consultation to order erectile dysfunction medications at the click of a button.
Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).