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Night time erections - Nocturnal erections - Night time penile tumescence

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There are certain "secret" things which are part of being a man - and they are often things that women find fascinating, curious or downright strange. (Mind you the same is true in reverse, of course!)

I like to think of these things as part of the magic and mystery of being a man, of having a body fueled with testosterone, and of knowing the power of your penis, both as an image of masculinity, and as a means to impregnate a woman and create new life.

And high on this list is the amazing phenomenon of night-time erections.

Just why do men and boys have such a strange thing as a night-time hard-on? They even occur in young boys before adolescence, so they are a truly a fundamental part of the male body and psyche. But what could they be for? What purpose does it serve to have your penis rock hard while you're fast asleep?

Well, there are lots of things to consider here. First of all, in case you don't already know, these erections are completely normal.

Like most men, you probably have between five and six erections per night, any of which may last for up to two hours! (Though the average is twenty five to thirty five minutes.) Having said that, you probably won't be surprised to hear that night-time erections are most common during adolescence.

The medical profession know night-time erections as "nocturnal penile tumescence," or NPT. They occur during rapid eye movement sleep, which is the phase of sleep where you actually dream.

So why, then, would you have erections while you're dreaming? It would make some sense if you were having a sexual dream when your penis got hard, but the fact is that while night-time erections are very common, nocturnal emissions (also called wet dreams, where your semen spurts out while you're asleep, accompanied by sexy dreams) are definitely not so common.

The likelihood is that night-time erections are probably nothing to do with what you're dreaming about - they are more likely to serve some psychological function - and the most likely is providing the tissues of the penis with an ample supply of nutrient-rich blood and a copious dose of oxygen. It's a fact that as a man gets older, and his erections diminish, he may find that his penis is actually shrinking in size!

The whole point is that nocturnal penile tumescence (now, why do the medical profession have to name everything like that? Wouldn't "night time erections", or even "night wood", do just as well?

Is this something to do, perhaps, with the fact the medical profession would like to claim ownership of every body part, and one way of doing this with the penis is to give erections a name that marks the person using it out as superior to the layman who actually owns the penis in question? Just a thought.) is quite normal. Indeed, the absence of nocturnal penile tumescence, sorry, I meant night wood, is a test for erectile dysfunction.

It's actually often the first test, and it's done in an absurdly simple way: the man himself, or a willing volunteer, fastens a string of postage stamps around the man's flaccid penis before he goes to sleep. If he gets a nocturnal erection, the row of stamps will be broken in the morning. And that test was devised by doctors who come up with a term like nocturnal penile tumescence.

Of course, the other way of making sure if you have night-time erections is to ask your sleeping partner to check out what happens in the middle of the night....

Now, what about those erections you get when you wake up in the morning? Or, rather, the ones you already have when you wake up. I find that I don't usually have any sexy thoughts or feelings, and though it might be nice to have a quick masturbate, my guess would be that most men don't use these erections for anything sexual, but just wait until it subsides.

(For one thing you can't easily pee until it goes away! Though I've heard it said that one cannot urinate with an erection, this has never been true in my experience. Possibly you can't get the direction of your flow right, but that's another matter!)

The first interesting fact is that these early morning erections have nothing to do with having a full bladder. The morning erection is simply a night time erection that happens to be happening at the end of the night, so to speak. These spontaneous hard-ons in the early hours are the result of neuroreflexes stimulated during rapid eye movement sleep (REM).

Another interesting fact is that the night time erection can be a lot harder and rigid than the ones you get when you're awake....

Causes of morning erections

As we've seen, morning erections are not caused by a full bladder. They are associated with rapid eye movement sleep,  and a slightly elevated heart rate.

But it makes sense to me that as a male, in ancient societies, where you might be called up on to mate at short notice, in any available opportunity, having a daily spontaneous erection simply to keep the penis in full working order would serve a useful evolutionary function: a male could be sure of being able to mate whenever it turned out to be necessary.

It's not a surprise to me to learn that morning erections decline in frequency and hardness as a man gets older - so do his normal erections, so that's hardly a groundbreaking piece of scientific research.

As far as erectile dysfunction is concerned, a man who has no erections in sexual situations needs to establish if he gets morning or nighttime erections: clearly, if he does, then the cause of his erectile dysfunction is not a physical thing - it's an emotional or psychological one.

Erectile dysfunction medicine and the nighttime erection

You'll find that if you take either sildenafil (Viagra) or tadalafil (Cialis) the night before, you may well get a morning erection. But this is just a by-product of the medication, and it's of no real significance in itself, except tot he extent that you like to wake up with a woody - whether to impress yourself or your partner!

Other pages on the penis and sex

Other sections on the site

Penis facts and penile functions
The penis, masculinity and sex
A Cultural History Of The Penis
Penile & Other Problems