Morning wood, known in medical circles as nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT), is the state of waking up in the morning with an erect penis. Affecting many boys and men, it is not associated with sexual arousal, despite popular belief. Rather it is the body’s natural response to hormonal, physical and psychological changes that occur while sleeping.
Both expected, and normal, morning wood indicates that the nerves in the male reproductive organs are healthy and operational. Hormonal imbalance (such as a drop in testosterone caused by interrupted sleep) and aging (older men experience morning wood less often) can both affect how often a person experiences morning wood. Health issues like erectile dysfunction- the inability to achieve or maintain an erection- can also affect the frequency of morning wood.
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Why Do You Get Morning Wood?
Morning wood is thought to happen during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase. The hormone testosterone tends to be at its highest at the end of a REM sleep phase and at the same time, people typically wake up when they exit REM sleep. The combination results in erections that have nothing to do with sexual arousal. People enter REM sleep several times throughout the night so it is expected that they experience nocturnal erections without even realizing.
While awake, the brain releases hormones that deter erections. The levels of these hormones reduce while sleeping, leading to erections in conjunction with the other hormonal and physiological causes.
On the physical level, simple physical stimulation from bedding or a partner sharing the bed can also cause morning wood.
Am I Too Old/Young to Get Morning Wood?
Males from young children, all the way to older adults experience morning wood; from as young as six to as old as seventy. Men’s testosterone levels are highest between their late teens and early thirties so men in this age range tend to experience morning wood the most frequently, sometimes up to every day.
A gradual decline in the frequency of morning wood through the forties and fifties coincides with the natural decline in testosterone levels and is both normal and expected. A sharp decline or sudden stop to morning wood altogether can indicate a health concern.
Why Am I Not Getting Morning Wood?
Healthy males are expected to experience morning wood throughout their lives at different frequencies. Several factors could make a man more susceptible to infrequent or irregular morning wood, such as:
- high blood pressure
- having diabetes
- being overweight.
- mental health issues like depression
- high cholesterol
- some kinds of painkillers and antidepressant medication
- chemotherapy drugs
Interrupted sleep can cause a reduction in morning wood because the body is unable to enter REM sleep sufficiently. Sleep conditions like apnea which affect sleep quality can have an adverse effect on morning wood.
A hormonal imbalance, particularly affecting sex hormones (testosterone) can affect morning wood and less commonly, a lack of morning wood is an early stage of a health problem like erectile dysfunction.
When To Go To Your Doctor
Morning wood naturally subsides within half an hour of waking up. If the erection persists for an hour or longer, or they are painful, you should talk to your doctor.
It is supposed to taper off as you get older but if you are young and have no underlying health issues, loss of morning wood can indicate a problem. A sudden drop in the frequency of morning wood rather than a gradual change can also be a cause for concern, particularly for men between their late teens and early thirties. It can indicate erectile dysfunction which, in younger men, is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease, so talk to your doctor.
Some men have morning wood every day, others maybe just once a week so it is hard to point to what is too much or too little. A total lack of morning wood however, especially during the teens, twenties and thirties should be cause for concern.
Morning wood is both natural and healthy and males of all ages are expected to experience it. It indicates the health of the nervous system, reproductive organs, and healthy sleep cycles. A sudden change in one’s experience of morning wood can indicate a health issue and should not be ignored.