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Refractory Period: What It Is & How to Shorten It

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 12/20/2020

Updated 01/10/2024

There you are — in bed with your partner, panting, sweaty and ready for round two. Your brain is cocked and ready to rock, but your body just... Can't. Literally. 

If you've ever wondered why you don't have the limitless energy needed to keep up with the sometimes-hypersexual pace of your brain, we have a name you can give to this cosmic-level disappointment: the refractory period.

What is the refractory period? And why is it the natural enemy of our sexual desire? Like the Friday before a long weekend, the purpose is unclear to most, but we have some answers.

Below, we've covered:

  • What the refractory period is

  • What happens during the refractory period

  • What affects the refractory period

  • How to shorten yours and (squeeze in another round)

Because, after all, the point is to get back to the thing that put you in this refractory state in the first place — sex.

The refractory period is the time immediately after orgasm and ejaculation, where a man is either physiologically unable to be erect, psychologically disinterested in sex, or both. It can last from minutes to days and varies person to person.

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The refractory period is the boneless period of time from after you orgasm and ejaculate during sexual intercourse or masturbation. It is sometimes referred to as part of the “resolution” phase of the body’s sexual response cycle — that sharp transition where things go from “hot and heavy” to “I wonder what's on TV.” 

After you orgasm and ejaculate, your penis returns to a flaccid state and your level of interest in sex usually goes from intense to virtually non-existent. During this period, you won’t get aroused, nor will you spend much time thinking about sexual activity.

You’ve undoubtedly experienced this countless times, but there’s a lot more going on than being hungry or sleepy.

The sexual response cycle has four phases:

  • Excitement. During the first phase of the sexual response cycle, your heart rate quickens and blood flow to your penis increase.

  • Plateau. This phase begins after the excitement phase, allows for intercourse and continues until excitement starts to build just before you orgasm.

  • Orgasm. This phase is self-explanatory (we hope). Your sexual pleasure becomes more intense and your heart rate and blood pressure reach their highest points. During this phase, you generally orgasm in response to sexual stimulation.

  • Resolution. Your body slowly returns to its normal functioning. Your heart rate decreases, your penis becomes flaccid and you feel simultaneously satisfied and exhausted. Part of the resolution phase is the refractory period —  it is difficult or even impossible to get an erection and orgasm again.

Napping, by the way, is typically step number five. At least in our experience. 

Like that strange noise your car makes in winter (and never at the shop), we actually have no idea why the refractory period happens.

One theory is that various hormones released during and after orgasm — including oxytocin — play specific roles in limiting arousal and preventing erection during the refractory period.

But experts still aren’t completely sure why the refractory period is a thing.

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Now that you know at least a theory of how and why, we can discuss the more important question: how long does the refractory period fourth phase last?

Unfortunately, there’s no specific answer to that question because the refractory period can vary in time from one man to another. 

Some men may have a short refractory period that lasts only a few minutes, while others might not feel interested in sex for several hours after orgasm and ejaculation. 

While there are some connections between these numbers and other factors, the truth is that we don’t have much research on the topic.

Carrying out scientific research on the average refractory period isn’t particularly easy, after all — imagine asking hundreds of couples to monitor the amount of time that passes between rounds one and two.

Arguably, the more practical information is what can shorten or lengthen this period. That’s a topic on which we have more to share. 

Here’s the hard-hitting truth, fellas: some baseball players can handle a doubleheader, and some can’t. Some guys can squeeze in 36 holes, and some guys are lucky just to make it through the back nine.

As a society, we know a ton about men's sexual health, from how erections work to the causes of issues like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Why the refractory period happens, however, still isn't one of those things.

There can be a lot of variables involved in the equation of a refractory timetable, but three that may play a role are: 

  • Age. According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, younger men may only need a few minutes to recover after sex, while for older guys, it may take as long as 12 to 24 hours.

  • Cardiovascular health. Erections are all about healthy blood flow. When you feel sexually aroused, your penis becomes erect as blood flows into your corpora cavernosa — the two areas of soft, sponge-like tissue that form the bulk of your penis.

  • The arousal factor. If you’re in the mood for sex, you might feel ready to go again in relatively little time. However, if you’re tired or just not feeling in the mood, you may take longer to feel ready for round two. 

All of these factors, in addition to the hormonal response that occurs in your body after orgasm, likely affect the amount of time it takes to recover after sex. 

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Because we don’t know much about how or why the male refractory period occurs following sex, there are very few proven, evidence-based strategies for reducing the length of your refractory period and getting ready for sex faster after you orgasm. 

However, research has identified a few techniques that may work, such as using medication for erectile dysfunction. We’ve discussed these findings below and explained how they might help you recover faster after sex.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Medications

Currently, a possible option for shortening your post-orgasm refractory period is using medication for erectile dysfunction. 

Oral ED medications belong to a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors, which work by increasing blood flow to your penis when you feel sexually aroused. 

ED medications aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for reducing the refractory period, and studies on whether they are effective at this are mixed. 

  • A study published in 2000 looked at the effects of sildenafil on 20 men’s recovery time after sex. One group was given 100mg of sildenafil and the other group was given a non-therapeutic placebo. The men who received the sildenafil had a significantly shorter post-ejaculatory refractory time (2.6 ± 0.7 minutes) than the men who were given the placebo (10.8 ± 0.9 minutes).

  • In A different study of men with premature ejaculation (PE), participants were given either sildenafil or a placebo. Although sildenafil didn’t significantly improve ejaculatory latency (time to ejaculation), the men in the sildenafil group had an average post-ejaculation refractory time of around half that of the men in the placebo group.

  • A 2005 study published in Urology concluded that while sildenafil has several benefits for sexual performance, it doesn’t appear to shorten the refractory period after ejaculation.

Currently, there are four medications approved by the FDA for erectile dysfunction, all of which can be taken before sex for improved erections and, potentially, a shorter refractory period.

They include:

Other Techniques to Shorten Your Refractory Period

Beyond using erectile dysfunction medications like sildenafil (generic Viagra) or tadalafil, making certain other changes to your habits and lifestyle may help shorten your refractory period and enhance your sexual performance — and we’re really stressing the may:

  • Pay attention to your cardiovascular health. Erections are all about blood and the way it flows in your body. If you find it difficult to get hard again after sex (and especially if you’re prone to ED in round one), focusing on your overall health and, specifically, your cardiovascular health, may help. We’ve discussed these techniques in detail in our guide to improving blood flow during sex.

  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is closely linked with many forms of sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction and low sex drive. If you’d like to enjoy round two as soon as possible, it’s best to avoid drinking excessively. 

  • Try new sex positions, scenarios and fantasies. Optimal sexual performance is all about stimulation and arousal, so to spice up your sex life, try something new. After you finish round one, try new forms of foreplay or sexual positions to make you feel aroused, excited and ready to go.

  • Try to exercise and eat well. Generally speaking, staying active and maintaining a healthy body weight can do wonders for your sexual performance. Our guide to techniques for a stronger erection lists tactics that you can use to improve your sexual health and well-being. Simple things like eating heart-healthy foods and reducing your salt intake can majorly impact your sexual performance. 

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If your goal is to have multiple orgasms a night, then you’ve got to work the system. And by “the system,” we mean “your body.” 

Understanding how your refractory period affects sexual function is arguably the best way to “hack” more rounds into your sex life. 

To get more sex in, remember:

  • The time between your last orgasm and your body ready for sex again is called your refractory period.

  • The refractory period varies from one man to another, meaning it might take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours for you to recover after sex. If you’re in your 40s, 50s or older, it might even take the better part of a day before you’re ready to have sex again. 

  • It’s perfectly normal to lose interest in sex and have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection right after you reach orgasm and ejaculate.

  • While there are no FDA-approved treatment options specifically for reducing a long refractory period, ED medications like sildenafil and tadalafil show potential.

We offer several erectile dysfunction medications online following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider, including several medications that may help improve both your erections and your post-orgasm recovery time.

Interested in finding out more about improving your sexual performance as a man? Our guide to having better sex lists numerous techniques that you can use for a more pleasurable experience in bed — from practicing good communication to trying new positions, exercises, and more.

9 Sources

  1. Gillman, Nicholas & Gillman, Michael. (2019). Premature Ejaculation: Aetiology and Treatment Strategies. Medical Sciences. 7. 102. 10.3390/medsci7110102 Available From:
  2. What is the refractory period? (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2022, May 20). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  4. Teng, R.B. & Zhang, X.H. (2011, June). Oxytocin and male sexual function. National Journal of Andrology. 17 (6), 558-561. Retrieved from
  5. Brody, S. & Krüger, T.H. (2006, March). The post-orgasmic prolactin increase following intercourse is greater than following masturbation and suggests greater satiety. Biological Psychology. 71 (3), 312-315. Retrieved from
  6. Aversa, A., et al. (2000, January). Effects of sildenafil (Viagra™) administration on seminal parameters and post-ejaculatory refractory time in normal males. Human Reproduction. 15 (1), 131-134. Retrieved from
  7. McMahon, C.G., et al. (2005, May). Efficacy of sildenafil citrate (Viagra) in men with premature ejaculation. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2 (3), 368-375. Retrieved from
  8. Ekmekçioğlu, O., Inci, M., Demirci, D. & Tatlişen, A. (2005, February). Effects of sildenafil citrate on ejaculation latency, detumescence time, and refractory period: placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover laboratory setting study. Urology. 65 (2), 347-352. Retrieved from
  9. Pendharkar, S., Mattoo, S.K. & Grover, S. (2016, September). Sexual dysfunctions in alcohol-dependent men: A study from north India. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 144 (3), 393-399. Retrieved from
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.


  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209.

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72.

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570.

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675.

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