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What Is Morning Wood and Why Does It Happen?

Ah, morning wood. It’s one of the weirdest things to face growing up. One day, usually not long after you discover the experience of an erection, you wake up with a raging boner. From that day on, this is the new normal. Morning wood can be inconvenient, confusing, embarrassing, and more. It’s also a bit mysterious. Why is your penis so determined to start every day with a full salute? Is it being patriotic?

Once you cut through the misconceptions and strangeness of it all, you’ll find that morning wood is one of the most natural parts of being a man. It has legitimate medical causes, and understanding them can help you keep a close track of your health. It’s time for a vital lesson in men’s health. We’re going to completely demystify morning wood and let it all hang loose.

What Is Morning Wood?

No, this isn’t an explanation of the phenomenon you’ve experience most mornings of your adult life. This is going to get a little bit into the scientific concept. In medicine, morning wood is called nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT). It very much is a term to describe boners that initiate when you’re asleep. We’ll get into causes and meanings in a minute, but it’s probably easiest to start by debunking a few myths.

Morning wood is not caused by sexual stimulation. You don’t have to have a sex dream in order to sport morning wood. That’s surely something that can happen, but the two are more of a coincidence than a causal link.

The second big myth is that morning wood has to do with needing to pee. Once again, this is a common coincidence. You pretty much always wake up in the morning with a full bladder, and you usually wake up with morning wood. The two aren’t related. Scientists have thoroughly killed this one, and you can just by thinking about it. Have you ever taken a good nap and still woken up with wood? Did you need to pee? When we get more into the causes of morning wood, you’ll see why bladder pressure doesn’t matter.

what is morning wood and why does it happen

Nocturnal Erections

The first important thing to learn about morning wood is that it has nothing to do with the time of day. Instead, it’s fully related to sleep cycles and what happens to your body during them. Nocturnal erections are actually a huge part of your life. On average, a healthy man will have five erections in an eight-hour night of sleep. Those erections will last an average of 25 minutes each — meaning roughly 25 percent of your sleep is spent sporting wood. 

Morning wood, in particular, is just the last erection that hits before you wake. Since the erections tend to last a little longer as the night progresses, it’s not surprising that you have a good chance of maintaining one when you’re done sleeping for the night.

What might blow your mind is that nocturnal erections happen before puberty. They’re perfectly normal in young boys, and doctors have even documented seeing the same cycle happen with male fetuses.

What Causes Nocturnal Erections?

If this can even afflict sexually immature males, what’s going on? Well, there are a lot of factors involved. Plenty of it is tied to hormones (which we’ll get to in a minute), and a lot of it is tied to the nature of sleep.

The first thing to note is that NPT syncs up perfectly with REM sleep. Seriously. The two are so interlocked that most scientific research has searched for mechanisms in which REM sleep causes morning wood. If you want to keep things simple, you could stop there.

If you want to go a little deeper, you can see how REM sleep can contribute to boners. A big part of the process is cardiovascular. REM sleep maintains a specific breathing and heart pattern, and those patterns are conducive to relaxation and good blood flow. When you’re relaxed and your blood is flowing well, it only stands to reason that some of it is going to make its way to the penis. Engorgement kind of seems inevitable. This is the first contributor.

what is morning wood and why does it happen

Let’s Talk Hormones

There’s good reason to believe that REM hormone cycles have a lot to do with morning wood. Many chemical balances shift during sleep. The first is norepinephrine. This is a hormone that mitigates testosterone levels, and it tends to recede during sleep. That’s why testosterone levels are usually at their highest when you wake up in the morning. It also might be why nocturnal erections grow through the night. 

The next hormone involved is nitric oxide. One of the effects of this hormone is to relax blood vessels, including the penis. This makes blood flow easier, and when more blood can flow to your penis it gets bigger. That’s just how it works.

The third major hormone involved is cortisol. This is the hormone that you use to mentally suppress erections while you’re awake. Its production is actually tied to conscious direction, so you don’t really produce it when you sleep. If conditions are naturally sending blood to your penis and you aren’t fighting it, an erection is the natural consequence.

Physical Stimulus

Plenty of medical researchers believe that the above causes are enough to explain nocturnal erections. They may be right, but a fair few doctors and researchers think that physical stimulation might also play a role. Just think about it. A random stranger accidentally bumping into your dick can set you off. Imagine how much more extreme that would be with the hormone changes that happen during sleep.

A bed has no shortage of physical stimulation for an already enhanced penis. Just brushing against bed sheets or rolling over could be enough to get the engines roaring. Actually sleeping next to a partner only adds opportunities for incidental contact. While none of this contact is sexual in nature, a penis with raging hormones and extra blood doesn’t care. It’s going to snap to attention.

what is morning wood and why does it happen

Morning Wood Is Good for You

When you consider the causes of morning wood, you realize it’s nothing to be worried about. Even if you find it inconvenient, there’s not much you could do about it. Are you going to try and restrict your blood flow while you sleep and take weird hormone cocktails just to battle morning wood? That’s crazy.

Besides all of that, morning wood is a good thing. It’s a strong indicator that your heart, lungs, hormones, penis and other body functions are all working properly. A lack of morning wood is actually the real problem. Now, you shouldn't run crying to your doctor just because you woke up flaccid one time. That’s bound to happen, and it’s usually tied to bad sleep. What you want to track is if morning wood trends start to change. If you used to have it every day, and now it’s missing pretty frequently, this is an early indicator that you could have a health issue. Some minor things kill morning wood, but some major things do too. It’s always better to talk to your doctor and make sure everything is fine. 

There’s really not much more to cover. Morning wood is more than just common. It’s a vital part of a healthy sleep cycle for men. It’s not inherently sexual in nature, so don’t let anyone ever give you a hard time over it. Most importantly, it’s one of the most important health indicators that you have. Enjoy your morning wood and be glad every time Woody is there to greet you in the morning. Eventually, he’s probably going to go away, and you might miss him when he does. You also should have a chat with your doctor when that day comes.




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