A lack of “morning erections,” or an erection upon waking, may be a sign of erectile dysfunction. However, this is not always the case.
Learning more about what causes morning erections can help you better understand what’s going on in your body.
This article explains the causes of morning erections, what the lack of one means, and when to worry.
What Causes Morningwood?
Erection — the enlarged, rigid state of the penis — can occur throughout a man’s life. Babies, toddlers, and prepubertal boys have erections. They are caused by physical stimulation of the penis, not by the sexual arousal seen in teens, teens, and adults.
nocturnal erection An erection that occurs during sleep or waking. The latter is often referred to as “morning light” or “morning glory”.
They tend to start when boys reach puberty and increase with age. Morning erections are common in adulthood.
The cause of morning wood is not very clear, but there are two main ideas:
- Hormone Theory: Norepinephrine is a hormone that counteracts the effects of nitrosamines, which are erection-promoting hormones. During deep sleep, norepinephrine levels drop, leading to a spike in nitrogenergic hormones. This can cause an erection while you sleep that may still be there when you wake up.
- Bladder Theory: A full bladder at night causes a reflex to stop urination. The sacral nerves responsible for erections can be compressed by the enlarged bladder, which can lead to what’s called a “reflex erection.” This may continue into the morning, usually until you urinate.
Morning erections are thought to be caused by a nighttime drop in a hormone called norepinephrine, which suppresses erections. They can also be caused by the bladder pressing on the nerves that cause the erection.
Why ED affects morning erections
Erectile dysfunction (ED), defined as the inability to obtain and maintain an erection strong enough to have sex, may be one reason why some men don’t have morning erections.
Physiological causes of ED—meaning problems with the nerves, hormones, blood vessels, and smooth muscles that enable erections—may contribute to the condition.
However, this is not the case if you have psychogenic ED. This is a type of ED caused by psychological problems, such as relationship problems, performance anxiety, low self-esteem, or depression.
If the ED is purely psychological, you can still get erections at night and in the morning. Testing can confirm this.
Before assuming that no morning wood means you have erectile dysfunction, it may be helpful to know about erections in some healthy men without them even realizing it.
The morning wood may be present but start to fade as you transition into wakefulness. So a morning erection may subside before you realize it’s there.
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men
Do you have erectile dysfunction?
If you suspect that your lack of morning wood is due to ED, you may also experience erection problems during sex. It would be weird to have one without the other.
Even so, a lack of morning erections can be the first sign of ED, in part because you’re not sexually active.
There are a number of risk factors that may support your suspicions, some of which include:
- prostate problems
- type 2 diabetes
- high cholesterol
- sleep apnea
- Peyronie’s disease
- use of medications, such as antidepressants and diuretics
- alcohol or drug abuse
Talk to your doctor if you think you are experiencing ED. Tests can be done to diagnose ED, which affects about 40% of men over age 40 and 70% of men over age 70. If the ED is not present, you can check for other problems.
How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Morning erections are thought to be caused by hormonal changes during sleep or by a full bladder pressing on the nerves that trigger the erection.
A lack of morning wood may be pointless, but if your condition is due to a physical problem, such as a nerve or blood vessel problem, it could be a sign of erectile dysfunction. If this is the case, you may also experience erection problems during sex.
It’s worth mentioning that your doctor doesn’t have morning erections, especially if you’re experiencing other signs of ED. They can run tests to diagnose you or determine if other health conditions may exist.
If you’re having trouble getting or maintaining an erection, talk to your primary care doctor or ask for a referral to a urologist, a doctor who specializes in the urinary tract and male fertility.
This is especially true if you’re young and don’t have any common ED risk factors. The same applies if you have any other unusual symptoms, regardless of your age. ED can end up being a sign of a more serious condition that requires immediate attention, such as prostate cancer.