Why Do Guys Get Morning Wood?

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
2nd June 2021

In 30 seconds…

Your morning wood – the erection you have as you wake – is actually the last in a series of nocturnal salutes. In reality, it’s a bit of a misnomer for a boner that happens several times while you sleep.

But why do guys get morning wood? While we know that it happens during REM sleep, science hasn’t agreed on what exactly is the cause. Most likely, it’s a combination of hormone changes, your brain relaxing, and accidental physical stimulation.

The thing on which scientists do agree, though, is that morning wood is a sign of good penile health. So, if you’re not waking up to the morning glory you once knew, it could be a sign that something isn’t working as it should.

What is Morning Wood?

Morning wood – the erection you get when you’re waking up – is not really just a morning thing. Rather, it’s something that happens all throughout the night. Up to five times a night, in fact. 

These spontaneous erections more commonly happen to younger men, although some still get them way into their older age. What you need to know is that your morning wood is a sign of good erectile function and cardiovascular health. So, if you’re still waking up to the morning glory well into your later years, it’s probably a sign that your ticker’s going strong. 

However, if your early riser isn’t behaving as it should, there’s no point in worrying. Let us explain. In this article, we’re going to talk about why guys get erections while they sleep – and what you can do if you’re missing them.

Why Do Guys Get Morning Wood?

Scientists aren’t fully agreed on why men get morning wood. However, from unconscious penis exercises to hormonal changes, there are plenty of theories that try to explain what might be happening. The truth is probably a combination of them all.

What we do know is that Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT), as your morning glory is properly known, depends on the quality of your sleep and on your overall health. And whilst some men can get between three and five erections a night – lasting around half an hour each time – others do not have them at all.

Morning Wood and the Sleep Cycle

Generally speaking, NPT tends to happen when you are in the phase of sleep known as REM, or Rapid Eye Movement. We move between REM and non-REM (or deep sleep) several times a night, and we are usually leaving REM when we wake. Hence why the erections commonly arrive in the morning.

It is thought that it is the specific part of your nervous system that REM stimulates that is responsible for your NPT. During this stage of sleep, what’s known as your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This system causes you to relax, it gives you your most vivid dreams, and it’s when your NPT occurs too.

Some scientists attribute NPT’s presence here to the fact that your brain in REM is taking a bit of a break, meaning it’s not fully in control of everything that’s going on.

Hormonal Changes

Add to this the fact that the morning is when your testosterone levels are at their highest. Some think that this could have a role to play in your morning wood – as the hormone could give things a boost just as you are exiting REM.

However, whilst your hormonal composition might affect your libido, there is no real link between testosterone levels and your ability to get it up. So, it’s unlikely that it’s your testosterone giving you morning wood all on its own.

Physical Stimulation

Further, just because your brain is in relax mode, it doesn’t mean that it is unaware of everything that happens around you. If you touch yourself in your sleep – or if your partner touches you – the physical stimulation could set off the natural process of an erection, without you being conscious of it.

Night-Time Erections or Subconscious Penis Exercises?

Some scientists also speculate that NPT and morning wood are actually opportunities for your penis to work out. Given there’s no other part of your body that needs to trap blood for such a long time, your penis might need to practise. Sleep is the perfect time for this to happen. Morning wood could ensure that you’re in shape to perform when you need to.

Should You Worry About a Lack of Morning Wood?

Morning wood is a sign of strong erectile function in a healthy man – and of good cardiovascular and nervous system health too. So, should you worry about not having morning wood?

That depends on lots of things – but “worry” is, in most cases, the wrong word. For example, it is possible that, if you are woken up abruptly by an alarm every morning, you won’t be leaving REM as you wake – and so won’t have an erection. And you need to remember that it’s much more common for younger men to enjoy a morning glory. Older men just don’t get it as often.

However, problems with NPT may mean troubles getting it up when awake. And, while it’s not a given, there’s a chance that your lack of morning wood is due to erectile dysfunction (ED). This is an incredibly common condition that occurs in men of all ages and can be caused by many things. Poor cardiovascular health and blood flow is the most common cause, while high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, and medications can all play a role.

How to Get Your Morning Wood Back

If you’re concerned that your morning erections aren’t what they used to be, don’t worry. There are ways to enjoy pitching a tent once again.

The best way is to put steps in place to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce high blood pressure. That means committing to regular exercise, cutting down on alcohol and cigarettes, and eating a healthy balanced diet. Keeping your weight down is important too, as the size of your waist affects the chances of developing ED.

Sleeping well is important – as the quality of your sleep doesn’t only affect your nocturnal erections, but your chances of getting it up during the day too. Try to get around eight hours of sleep a night. If you lie in sometimes and let yourself wake up naturally, you might find that you wake up with an erection.

Finally, if you feel like you are struggling to achieve erections whilst you are awake too, you might want to seek medical advice and ED medication. There is evidence that Viagra can improve night-time erections – and it will help you to get an erection when you need it, too.

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Key Takeaways…

Morning wood is a sign of both good general health and sexual health – but it’s almost inevitable that you will get them less and less as you age. However, if a lack of morning wood accompanies other erection problems, it’s worth investigating why it might be happening. Nocturnal erections happen due to normal physical processes, and if you’re missing them, it could possibly be a sign of ED.

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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