What’s the Story, Morning Glory? Morning Erections 101

Morning erections of the penis – or what is scientifically known as Nocturnal Penile Tumescence – occur either during sleep or immediately after waking up. This is something that happens to all healthy men and actually has nothing to do with sexual desire. Morning erections occur during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep, in which the body runs its own, internal tests on its organs by triggering actions and reactions in the nervous system, which eventually cause the blood vessels in the penis to expand with blood and thus erect.


How long does a morning erection last?

Morning erections occur about 3 to 5 times during sleep and continue to 25 to 30 minutes each time. They occur during REM sleep, which is not a very deep state of sleep and is usually when people dream.


Why does it happen?

There are several theories that explain the reasons behind morning erections, but what all doctors have agreed on is that their occurrence is an indication of good health. The duration of a morning erection is relative to the length of the REM phase of sleep; the longer the phase, the longer the erection will last. REM is the last phase of a person’s sleeping cycle. This explains why a man usually wakes up in the morning with an erection.


What prevents a morning erection from happening?

–          Young boys who have not reached puberty do not experience morning erections, and adolescent boys will experience them irregularly and not fully.

–          Waking up in a stage of sleep other than REM.

–          Morning erections gradually decrease in duration and occurrence with age, and this is perfectly normal and not a disease.

–          Diseases that may cause erectile dysfunction, where the presence of a morning erection can actually indicate whether its reasons are physical or psychological.


How can a morning erection help differentiate between physical and psychological reasons behind erectile dysfunction?

Normally, blood vessels in the penis are filled up with blood and this is what causes its expansion and erection. In cases where a diseases prevents the penis from filling up with blood – cases the likes of arteriosclerosis and adverse effects of antidepressant medications – an erection will not occur, be it a morning erection or otherwise.


Failing to get an erection due to psychological reasons – the likes of stress – do not affect the penis itself or the blood vessels within it. This is why morning erections still occur in this case.


What are the most important factors that affect morning erections?

  1. Testosterone: It is one of the hormones that exist in all human bodies, male and female, but exists in larger quantities in males. Decreased levels of testosterone in the blood causes weakness in penile erections and will therefore affect morning erections.
  2. Nitric Oxide: It is a substance that exists in medications used to treat erectile and sexual dysfunction. Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels fill up with blood, thus increasing the probability of morning erection occurrence.
  3. Sleep: Morning erections happen only during the REM phase of sleep. People need to sleep well and deeply in order for the functions that cause morning erections to occur.
  4. Continuous and exaggerated stress: This could not only effect morning erections, but erection in general.
  5. Nutrition: Eating balanced, healthy and nutritious meals is essential for penile health.


Can one have sex with a morning erection?

Theoretically, yes, even though morning erections are physiological, mechanical occurrences that are not accompanied by sexual desire or excitement. A lot of males have agreed that, even though morning erections are usually stronger than other ones, they are not necessarily associated with sexual desire, better sex or longer intercourse durations.


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