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No Morning Erection? What Morning Wood Says About Your Health

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 12/14/2017

Updated 01/17/2024

There are a number of morning problems that we don’t want. Morning breath, bedhead and drowsiness are all categorically not fun. But morning erections? They’re both totally normal and potentially fun. These healthy bodily functions are an important sign that you have good sexual health when it comes to erections — a helpful indicator that your heart, blood vessels and nervous system in the region are functioning properly. 

As a man, it’s easy to get used to waking up with an erection. In fact, most of us take morning wood for granted, which makes it a bit of a shock to one day wake up without one. Always waking up without one might also be concerning because the absence of morning wood can potentially be a sign of a more serious health issue, like heart disease.

You probably have some important questions about why morning erections happen and what they mean for your sexual function and overall health. We’ve got that info covered below — as well as some words of medical advice on what to do if a lack of morning wood becomes a pattern. 

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Morning wood is an easy-to-remember, colloquial phrase for a medical term that just rolls off the tongue: nocturnal penile tumescence. If you get nocturnal erections (erections that happen while you’re asleep), there’s a good chance that you’ll wake up from time to time with morning wood. 

Despite its popularity, the term “morning wood” isn’t entirely accurate. While most guys notice their erections when they wake up in the morning, it’s common to get several erections during the night. 

In fact, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, most men will get between three and five erections during sleep on a typical 8-hour night. 

Regardless, morning wood is a normal occurrence and isn’t a sign of sexual or health problems. In fact, it’s a good sign that you have normal erectile function and healthy blood flow to your penis. 

At a basic level, erections occur when your nervous system sends signals that result in an increase in the blood to your penis, allowing more blood to flow into your erectile tissues. As pressure increases, your penis becomes firmer, creating an erection.

This can occur when you’re awake, such as during sex or masturbation, or in certain stages of your nightly sleep cycle. 

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Experts haven’t yet identified exactly why nocturnal erections occur. However, there are some theories. Nocturnal erections are typically associated with rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep, which is the stage of sleep during which you dream. Because nocturnal erections come and go during the night and usually occur during certain stages of sleep, it’s likely the physiological changes occurring in the body at different stages of sleep that are responsible for causing erections.

These include activation of certain parts of the nervous system, the release of certain neurotransmitters, and changing levels of certain hormones, like testosterone. Other theories about why nighttime erections occur include physical stimulation or nerve signals resulting from a full bladder. But — again — experts aren’t really sure what gives men morning (and sleeping) wood.

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Just like morning wood is normal, it’s also perfectly normal to sometimes wake up without an erection. 

However, if you always wake up without an erection, or if you notice a sudden drop in nighttime or morning erections, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue that might be causing erectile dysfunction (ED). 

Erectile dysfunction has a range of potential causes. Common physical health issues that cause or contribute to ED include:

Some prescription drugs, such as antiandrogens, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, tranquilizers, ulcer medications and appetite suppressants, may also contribute to ED and stop you from getting nighttime erections.

Erectile dysfunction can also develop as a result of psychological issues, such as anxiety about sex, depression, chronic stress and low self-esteem. 

Morning wood isn’t like breakfast — it’s not an essential start to your day. If you wake up without a morning erection regularly, though, and are having trouble with waking wood as well, it’s a good idea to talk to a health professional for solutions to the problem at hand (or sheet). Those might include medications and lifestyle changes. 

Treat Underlying Causes

If you’re not getting morning wood at all, it could indicate that you have a more severe case of erectile dysfunction. One of the most important things to do in this case is to address underlying causes. Talk to a healthcare provider about what’s going on — they’ll likely run tests (including blood tests) to look for signs of other issues, like diabetes or high cholesterol.

They might also do a nocturnal penile tumescence test to confirm that you truly don’t get erections at night. Treating underlying causes for ED is important for overall health — not just for your erections.

Medications

Erectile dysfunction is treatable. Most of the time, medications like sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®) and avanafil (Stendra®) can restore your sexual function and make it easier for you to get an erection before and during sex. 

These drugs are called PDE5 inhibitors, and they work by increasing the flow of blood to your penis. Increased blood flow means more potential for erections when you’re aroused, so the work is still up to you to some degree. But consider yourself well prepared for erectile liftoff when taking these medications.

Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes, simple changes to your habits and lifestyle can also improve your sexual health and make getting wood at any time of day easier. Try to:

  • Keep yourself physically active. Even a small amount of daily exercise can have a noticeable impact on your cardiovascular health and ability to maintain an erection. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.

  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction, with men in the obese BMI range around three times more likely to develop ED than men in the healthy range.

  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Research shows that drinking alcohol often and in large quantities is associated with ED and other sexual performance problems. Try to limit your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day.

  • Avoid illicit drugs. Some recreational drugs can affect your sexual function, including your ability to get an erection. If you have a substance use disorder, talk to a healthcare provider about receiving professional care.

  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, consider quitting. Research shows that smokers have an elevated risk of developing erectile dysfunction due to the negative effects of smoking on cardiovascular health.

Our guide to naturally protecting your erection shares other techniques that you can use to treat ED and improve your sexual performance naturally. 

If you’re waking up with morning wood but struggling to get hard when you’re with a partner, you might actually have some strong evidence that your ED is psychological.

Think about it for a second: the sleeping, unconscious version of you clearly has no problem with getting it up. What’s the difference with the waking version of you?

Turns out, it’s your thoughts. And that’s not uncommon. Research shows that performance anxiety, low self-esteem and other psychological blocks can prevent men from getting aroused.

Here’s why this is welcome news: now you know what could be causing your ED. Now, more importantly, you can reach out to a healthcare provider for targeted treatment, like therapy or medication for your mental health (you can start right now with us, if you’re ready).

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There are a number of morning problems that we don’t want. Morning breath, bedhead and drowsiness are all categorically not fun. But morning erections? They’re both fun and normal. To keep the party going, here’s what you need to know:

  • Morning wood is a good sign. Morning erections are a normal part of life and a helpful signal that you’re physically capable of getting an erection. 

  • Disappearing morning erections can be a wakeup call. If you’ve recently stopped getting morning wood, it could be a sign that you have an underlying physical issue that’s causing ED. 

  • Treatment is out there — and right here. The good news is that ED is treatable, typically by addressing underlying causes and with medication and changes to your habits and lifestyle. We offer a range of ED treatments online, including evidence-based medicine available after an online consultation with a healthcare provider. 

Interested in learning more about erectile dysfunction and men’s health? Our guide to the most common treatments and drugs for ED goes into more detail about how you can maintain healthy erections and optimal sexual performance at any age. 

Treat ED and get back to starting your morning with something besides your back feeling stiff.

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13 Sources

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  2. Why Do Men Get Morning Erections? 5 Answers to Your Questions. (2020, December 31). Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/men-get-morning-erections-5-answers-questions/
  3. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2021, June 25). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
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  5. Axelsson, J., Ingre, M., Akerstedt, T. & Holmbäck, U. (2005, August). Effects of acutely displaced sleep on testosterone. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 90 (8), 4530-5. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15914523/
  6. Canguven, O., et al. (2016). RigiScan data under long-term testosterone therapy: improving long-term blood circulation of penile arteries, penile length and girth, erectile function, and nocturnal penile tumescence and duration. The Aging Male. 19, 4, 215-220. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13685538.2016.1230602
  7. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
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  9. How much physical activity do adults need? (2020, October 7). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
  10. Skrypnik, D., Bogdański, P. & Musialik, K. (2014, February). Obesity — significant risk factor for erectile dysfunction in men. Polski Merkuriusz Lekarski. 36 (212), 137-41. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24720114/
  11. 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 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5320845/
  12. Alcohol Use and Your Health. (2021, December 29). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  13. Kovac, J.R., Labbate, C., Ramasamy, R., Tang, D. & Lipshultz, L.I. (2015, December). Effects of cigarette smoking on erectile dysfunction. Andrologia. 47 (10), 1087–1092. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485976/
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.

Publications

  • 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. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • 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. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • 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. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • 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. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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