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Morning wood and erectile dysfunction
September 14, 2022
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Morning Wood Overview

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.

As a man, it’s easy to get used to waking up with an erection. In fact, most of us take morning wood for granted, making it a bit of a shock to one day wake up without one.

Morning erections are completely normal and healthy. They’re an important sign that you have good sexual function. Being able to get a morning erection is a helpful indicator that your heart, blood vessels, and nervous system are functioning properly.

On the other hand, the absence of morning wood can potentially be a sign that you’re starting to develop a sexual health issue, such as erectile dysfunction (ED).

Below, we’ve explained why morning erections happen, as well as what they generally mean for your sexual function and overall health. We’ve also discussed what a lack of morning wood may mean for your sexual performance and well-being as a man.

What is Morning Wood?

Morning wood is an easy-to-remember, colloquial term for nocturnal penile tumescence. If you get nocturnal erections (erections that happen while you’re asleep), there’s a good chance that you’ll wake up from time to time with morning wood.

Despite its popularity, the term “morning wood” isn’t entirely accurate. While most guys notice their erections when they wake up in the morning, it’s common to get several erections during the night, often for a variety of reasons.

In fact, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, most men will get between three and five erections during sleep on a typical night.

Morning wood happens in males of all ages, including children and adolescents. It’s a normal occurrence and isn’t a sign of sexual or health problems. In fact, it’s a good sign that you have a normal sexual function and healthy blood flow to your penis.

READ ALSO: How to take care of your Penis | Penis Health Tips, Grooming, Cleaning & More

What Causes Morning Wood?

Experts haven’t yet identified exactly why nocturnal erections occur. However, current theories suggest that several different factors could play a role in morning erections, from the content of your dreams to changes in your hormone levels that occur while you’re sleeping.

At a basic level, erections occur when your nervous system increases the blood supply to your penis, allowing blood to flow into your erectile tissue. As blood pressure increases, your penis becomes firmer, creating an erection.

This can occur when you’re awake, such as during sex or masturbation, or in certain stages of your nightly sleep cycle.

Who Can Get Morning Wood?

Anyone with a penis, of any age, can get an erection while sleeping. Babies even get erections while they are still in the uterus!

Is It Normal to Get Morning Wood?

Getting erections during sleep is very normal. You may have up to five erections each night while you sleep.

One study showed that you are less likely to get nocturnal penile tumescence as you get older.

How to Deal With Morning Wood or Wet Dreams

You might find nighttime erections and emissions embarrassing. You might try to prevent them, but there’s no way to do this. They’re perfectly normal.

If you have a wet dream, you may need to clean yourself up or change your sheets. If you simply have a nighttime erection, it will go away shortly after you wake up.

If you find your nighttime erections or emissions challenging, you can talk to a trusted friend, counselor, or another person in your life. Talking about it with someone may make you more comfortable, but don’t worry — it’s totally natural and very normal.

When to Talk to Your Doctor About Morning Wood

In most cases, morning wood is a sign that everything in your body is working properly. However, if your morning erection often lasts longer than an hour, you may want to contact your doctor.

If your erection lasts longer than four hours, you should contact your doctor. This is a condition called priapism.

Most morning erections last for a few minutes, but, in some cases, they may last as long as 35 minutes.

Why ED Can Affect Morning Erections

Erectile dysfunction (ED), defined as the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex, is one possible reason some assigned males don’t have morning wood.

Physiological causes for ED refer to problems with the nerves, hormones, blood vessels, and smooth muscles that enable an erection.

Psychogenic ED is a form of ED caused by psychological issues such as relationship problems, performance anxiety, low self-esteem, or depression.

If ED is purely psychogenic, you can still get nighttime and morning erections. Tests can confirm this.
Before assuming that not having morning wood means that you have erectile dysfunction, it may help to know that some healthy assigned males have a.m. erections that they aren’t even aware of.

Morning wood may be present, but begin to resolve while you are transitioning to a waking state. As such, it’s possible to have a morning erection that subsides before you even realize it was there.

Could You Have Erectile Dysfunction?

If you suspect that your lack of morning wood is due to ED, you will likely be having problems with erections during sex as well. It would be odd to have one without the other.

If you are not sexually active, not having morning wood may be the first sign of ED.
There are a number of risk factors that may support your suspicions, some of which include:

  • Older age
  • Prostate problems
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Use of medications, such as antidepressants and diuretics
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Smoking

If you believe that you are experiencing ED, speak with a healthcare provider. Tests can be performed to diagnose ED, a condition that affects around 40% of assigned males over 40 and 70% of assigned males over 70. If ED is not present, you can be examined for other concerns.

You should speak with your healthcare provider if ED persists despite treatment. Additional tests may be needed to explore other possible causes of your symptoms.


Morning erections are thought to be caused by changes in hormones during sleep or by a full bladder that presses on the nerves that trigger an erection.

The lack of morning wood may mean nothing, but it could be a sign of erectile dysfunction if your case is due to physiological issues, such as nerve or blood vessel problems.

Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider if you aren’t having morning erections so they can run diagnostic tests.

If you have problems achieving or maintaining an erection, speak with your primary care doctor or ask for a referral to a urologist, a doctor who specializes in the urinary tract and assigned male fertility.

This is especially important if you are young and don’t have any of the common risk factors of ED, or if you have any unusual symptoms. ED may end up being a sign of a more serious condition, like prostate cancer, that requires immediate attention.

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