An early morning erection, also referred to as morning wood is a common phenomenon in a man's life. What is the origin of this mechanism? Is it as mysterious as one might think? What are the mechanical and biological causes of morning wood?
Waking up with an erect penis, despite having no sexual desire or erotic dreams, is an almost daily routine for many men. Sometimes annoying, and impractical for peeing, these erections have a scientific name - nocturnal penile tumescence. It is basically a succession of erections during the night, the last of which takes place when you wake up. All men including babies and the elderly, except those who suffer from erectile dysfunction, experience it.
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What's the point of morning wood?
Automatic nocturnal erections have a role of oxygenating the tissues. By inflating the cavernous body, the body performs a sort of check-in, a maintenance cycle. Besides, the clitoris works in pretty much the same way, because it becomes engorged during the night, but in a less visible way. So, you should be happy to wake up with an erect penis because it's your body’s signal that everything is fine!
Morning wood - An important marker on the physical level
Having an erection in the morning is an important marker for an erectile dysfunction assessment. A man who experiences sexual breakdowns with his or her partner but has an erection in the morning is unlikely to have sexual health issues due to physical causes. These disorders are certainly psychological. Consulting a specialist can then often prove useful.
Also read: 6 simple ways to get hard erections
The science and logic behind morning wood
Your morning wood is more than those few obligatory embarrassing moments, and sunrise testosterone rushes. There is a whole detailed science behind it. Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain erections in the morning. Here are some of them:
Morning wood is a part of a man’s sleep cycle. It occurs multiple times during the night when your body is in the rest mode. This happens because, during your sleep cycle, the body switches between the stages of rapid eye movement (non-REM) and deep sleep mode (REM). This process happens for about 4-5 times throughout the night.
When you enter the state of REM in your sleep, you experience the occurrence of dreams. Moreover, the REM state signals the brain to stop the functioning of certain neurotransmitters. One such neurotransmitter that shuts down during the REM state is norepinephrine that keeps control of penile erections. Norepinephrine causes vasoconstriction in the blood vessels of the penis and thus prevents an erection. In the REM state, there is a decrease in norepinephrine, which allows testosterone to do its work freely. As a result, the penis experiences high blood flow and gets an erection that lasts for about 20-25 minutes.
According to medical researches, a healthy man has 3-5 erections during the night. These night erections oxygenate the muscles and tissues and maintain the functionality of the body parts. As the body enters the REM stage multiple times, when you wake up, your body experiences the remnants of this stage, which also includes an erect penis.
A full bladder
It sounds hard to believe, and yet your urine might be the reason behind the morning erection! At daybreak, you haven't used the bathroom since the night before. And, unless you are the bedwetter type, it can be concluded that your bladder is packed! Now imagine the diagram of a balloon filled with water - it would inflate more and more before bursting. Since the bladder is not that easy to explode, and luckily, it would continue to swell until it stiffens your penis.
In short, during the night, the increased size of the bladder stimulates a particular region of your spinal cord, which, in a reflex action, triggers an erection to prevent you from urinating in sleep.
High levels of testosterone
Studies also suggest that morning testosterone is a little higher, which is not wrong. And the fact that there is a lot of testosterone, it causes a reaction leading to morning wood.
All these reasons can explain why there is an erection in the morning.
Is morning wood due to sexual excitement or desire early morning?
Well, at the risk of disappointing you, no valid explanation has been scientifically proven. That said, many assumptions have been issued! And if we choose a poetic point of view, we will say that dreams are at the origin of all this. Yes, a hot or sex related dream could be the cause of the morning wood. But then, would that mean that you have erotic dreams every night? Not necessarily! As surprising as it may sound, just dreaming about something pleasant would be enough to cause an erection. But even with a libido at its peak, it seems unlikely; and that's why other theories have been put forward.
Why may morning erection be absent?
When you don't have an erection in the morning or at night, there are two possible explanations:
The absence of morning wood may be due to a sleep problem - like a sleep apnea syndrome, depression, a burn-out period. Anything that can disrupt sleep, risks disrupting the REM sleep phase, and, therefore, the occurrence of erections.
Another reason can me mechanical in terms of erection; that is to say at the level of the penis. The brain works very well, sleep is also normal, but the man suffers from erectile dysfunction; erection is, therefore, not possible.
Some Good Information to Know About Morning Erection
- It's not just in the morning that your sails are up! On an average, a normal man suffers from a surprise erection about 3-5 times a night.
- Who said morning erection was only a male phenomenon? In females, you would observe a similar manifestation with swelling of the clitoris. For obvious reasons, it is much less visible, and therefore less known.
- The morning erection has nothing to do with your state of health, nor with erectile dysfunction! Having a "breakdown" in the morning doesn't mean that you have trouble raising the flag in normal times. Just like an erection in morning doesn’t mean you will not experience erection problems rising out of psychological causes.
You don't have to worry when you no longer have an erection in the morning. When there are morning erections, we can say that physiologically everything works. If you no longer have morning wood, it is a sign that physiologically there may be a problem and you have to look for the causes. Psychological causes are unlikely to prevent morning wood but may lead to erection problems at night.
Medically reviewed by Rishabh Verma, RP