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How Long Do Erections Last?

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
4th October 2021

In 30 Seconds

Men can experience up to 20 erections a day, each lasting different lengths of time, and caused by different things. There is no ‘normal’ length of time for sustaining an erection, though you can generally make erections last longer with extended foreplay, exercise, and a healthier diet.

How long does a normal erection last? Unsurprisingly, the answer to that is: It depends! 

There’s no set time for when an erection should stop. Essentially, your erection should last for as long as is pleasurable for sexual activity, either with a partner or by yourself. When you’re no longer sexually aroused, your erection should go away.

According to a 2005 study of 500 couples, the average erection achieved during sexual intercourse lasts for 5.4 minutes. But normal erections can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours — although that’s not always desirable (or healthy). 

How long your erection lasts will come down to a number of key factors:

  • Your age;
  • Your health;
  • Your diet;
  • The frequency and type of sexual activity;
  • And the type of erection.

What Are the Different Types of Erection?

As you’re probably well aware, not all erections come from being sexually aroused.

Nocturnal erections (which take place while you sleep and include “morning wood”) are the prime example. Unconscious and uncontrollable, these erections can occur between 3-5 times per night, and typically last for up to 25 minutes.

The cause of these night-time erections isn’t completely understood, but most experts agree that they’re an indication that your equipment is in full working order.

Masturbation erections, meanwhile, tend to differ in terms of time and “hardness” when compared to those achieved during sexual intercourse. 

And, as with most of our biological functions, age has its part to play too. The average duration of an erection decreases as we get older, with men under 30 lasting around two minutes longer than men over 50.

How Long Do Erections Last After Sex?

You may have heard stories of other men maintaining an erection even after orgasm, however, this is uncommon. 

In most cases, after you ejaculate, you experience a resolution stage and a refractory period

The former allows your body to recover from sexual excitement and return to a normal state, while the latter stops you from responding to sexual stimulation. Your penis becomes flaccid during this time, and you won’t be able to reach orgasm until the period is over. 

The length of the refractory period differs from individual to individual. For younger men, it can be a few minutes, for others it can be anywhere from half an hour up to 12 hours, 24 hours, or even a few days. 

Can You Make Erections Last Longer?

Many of the studies undertaken to record average erection times tend to start the clock at the point of vaginal penetration and stop at the point of male orgasm, after which point the penis returns to a flaccid state. So, it’s a good idea to take these numbers with a pinch of salt.

If you wish to have an erection for longer, the easiest way is to extend foreplay. This should allow your erection sufficient time to reach its full potential. 

Beyond that, a healthy lifestyle and diet can also contribute to the quality and duration of your erections. Improving the blood flow to your penis first comes from having a healthy heart. Concentrating on cardiovascular wellbeing by exercising, losing weight, and eating the right things can ultimately enhance your erections. 

What About Medication?

If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, approved ED drugs including Viagra, Sildenafil, and Tadalafil can facilitate improved blood flow to the penis, helping you get and maintain an erection.

However, what they don’t do is give you an erection automatically or for a long time. This means that men who don’t have ED should not take Viagra recreationally. Doing so can negatively impact your sexual abilities, as well as your mental and physical health.

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What If An Erection Lasts for More Than 4 Hours?

Although you may wish to maintain an erection for as long as possible, there does come a point where it can be considered dangerous. 

This is usually around the 4-hour mark.

An erection lasting for more than 4 hours could lead to significant and permanent damage to the penis. This is called priapism, and when left untreated, the penile tissue can scar or even die due to the lack of oxygenated blood flowing to the penis. This is a medical emergency, and if it occurs you need to visit A&E asap. 

Can Masturbating Often Affect How Long an Erection Lasts?

No. Physiologically-speaking, masturbating often will not lead to problems achieving or maintaining an erection, nor will it impact how long an erection lasts.

However, a Berlin-based study suggests that compulsive use of pornography may stop men from becoming easily aroused, so this is definitely something to keep in mind.

Other things that may cause erection problems include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Performance anxiety
  • Alcohol
  • Recreational drugs
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise

Some medications can also affect erections, including medicines for allergies, anxiety and depression, cold and flu, and sleeplessness. 

In Summary

There’s no one definitive answer when it comes to how long erections should last. In fact, if we’re being honest, it would be strange if there was.

The good news, however, is that there are a few things you can do to help make them last for longer. Focus on a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly, and — when time allows — make sure you don’t skip the warm-up; more foreplay can result in longer-lasting erections.

FAQs

What’s the normal length of time for an erection to last?

There is no ‘normal’ length of time for sustaining an erection, and so long as an erection lasts as long as is pleasurable for sexual activity, then that’s a sign that your erections are healthy. Whilst the average length of time for sustaining an erection during sexual intercourse is about 5.4 minutes, this could be far shorter or much longer, depending on the man, and a range of other factors.

Which factors affect the length of time your erections last?

Lots of factors contribute to how long your erections last, not least your levels of sexual arousal. Other factors contributing to the length of time erections last include: age, health, diet, frequency and type of sexual activity, and even the type of erection.

What are the different types of erection?

Not all erections are caused by sexual arousal, whilst even those caused by arousal can differ depending on the type of sexual activity. The main three ‘types’ of erection are: nocturnal erections (unconscious and uncontrollable erections which include “morning wood”), masturbation erections, and partnered-sex erections (which tend to differ in length and strength from masturbation erections.

Can you increase the time you have erections for by masturbating?

No, masturbation has no effect on how long your erections last. If you want to make your erections last longer, then you should try destressing, sleeping better, doing more cardiovascular exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, quitting smoking, and reducing your alcohol intake.

References

  1. Marcel D Waldinger 1, Paul Quinn, Maria Dilleen, Rajiv Mundayat, Dave H Schweitzer, Mitradev Boolell (2005). A multinational population survey of intravaginal ejaculation latency time: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16422843

  2. NHS UK – Five Penis Facts: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/five-penis-facts/

  3. International Society of Sexual Medicine – What is the refractory period? issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-the-refractory-period/

  4. Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Male Reproductive Medicine & Microsurgery – Priapism: https://maleinfertility.org/sexual-medicine/priapism

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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