Lack of Morning Wood Erections

Morning erections may be absent with or without impotence

Waking up
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Waking with an erection is common among men, but does a lack of morning wood—slang for the early morning erections (or penile tumescence)—suggest erectile dysfunction? You may wonder what the causes could be or worry that it's due to testosterone deficiency or is a sign of impotence. Discover some facts and science about morning erections.

Causes of Morning Wood

Morning wood is a normal part of male life and can be noted throughout the male lifespan.

Infants can be seen to have erections at times. Pre-adolescent boys are less likely to note an erection upon awakening. These erections generally occur with increasing size, rigidity, and frequency later in puberty, and then are a common occurrence in adult life.

Erections occur during the sleep stage called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Sleep is often a balance between two parts of the autonomic nervous system, divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. It seems that during the REM phase of sleep, the body’s systems are tested, including the function of the erectile tissue within the penis. The parasympathetic nerves trigger the tissues to become engorged with blood and then firm. As the last REM period often occurs right upon awakening, men will frequently wake with an erection. What if this does not occur?

Causes of No Morning Erection

There are a few reasons that an adult man may not wake up with a morning erection.

Men may not wake with an erection if they're not coming out of REM sleep at that time. Wakefulness is often preceded by lighter stages of sleep when erections do not occur. It's also possible to have REM without having an erection.

A lack of morning erections may also be a sign of erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence.

If a man is experiencing erectile dysfunction at other times, whether or not he has a spontaneous morning erection is a clue his health care provider can use in the diagnosis of what is causing the problem.

Morning Erections & Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction or impotence means a many may not be capable of having an erection or that his erection is not firm enough to be able to achieve penetration. Erectile dysfunction may be related to a physiological or psychological process, and a lack of an erection upon wakening may help to differentiate between these causes.

Physiological causes of impotence relate to an underlying inability to fill the penis with blood to make it erect. This often has a vascular cause, meaning that it relates to dysfunction of the blood vessels. It may occur as a side effect of medications, most commonly antidepressants. Additionally, it may be more common in testosterone deficiency. Thus, men with a physiological cause of impotence will not have morning wood. 

Alternatively, some men are not able to become erect due to a psychological difficulty. A lack of sexual arousal or responsiveness may lead to impotence. This can also occur because of anxiety. Men with a psychological cause for erectile dysfunction will still have morning erections since they are physically capable of having them.

A lack of morning wood may not necessarily represent a problem, however, as it doesn't occur daily in all men for the reasons described above.

A Word From Verywell

If you are concerned about your difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection, you should speak with your health care provider. It will be important to tell your doctor whether you have morning erections, as this may provide insight into the underlying cause of your problem. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for erectile dysfunction. You just have to speak up to your doctor so you can begin to get help.

Sources:

Corona G et al. Perceived reduced sleep-related erections in subjects with erectile dysfunction: psychobiological correlatesJ Sex Med. 2011 Jun;8(6):1780-8.

Kryger MH et al. "Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine." Elsevier, 6th edition, 2017.

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