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What Is Morning Wood?

February 15, 2022

Medically reviewed by

Anthony Puopolo, MD

Morning wood, known medically as nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT), is a common phenomenon for men of all ages, but it can come and go as our bodies change with age and physical health.

Men are often concerned about morning wood for a variety of reasons. Is morning wood normal? What if I don't get morning wood anymore? This guide is designed to answer all of your burning morning wood questions.

Quick Facts About Morning Wood

  • A morning erection is common for men of all ages, though it tends to fade with age as testosterone levels decline beginning around your mid-40s.
  • Experts believe that morning wood occurs through some combination of hormones (high testosterone in the morning), physical stimulation (underwear rubbing), and/or a relaxed state at the time of waking up.
  • Like erectile dysfunction (E.D.), your underlying health plays a role in getting morning wood. Less frequent morning wood is normal as you age, but if you have sudden loss or morning wood or associated pain, it may be time to talk to a doctor about your health.

Why Do Men Get Morning Wood?

Morning wood is quite common for men and boys, beginning during childhood and lasting into old age.

Morning wood's causes aren't perfectly understood, but experts agree on a few likely causes to waking up with an erection. Hormone levels (both long-term and short-term), physical stimulation, and a relaxed state of mind are all contributing factors. In fact, morning wood may be just the tip of the iceberg – many men experience more than one nocturnal erection every night without even knowing it!

Regular morning wood can be a sign of good health too; and more directly, a prolonged lack of morning wood or erection problems can be signs that you may have some underlying health conditions to assess.

Man waking up in the morning

What Causes Morning Wood?

Morning wood's root causes aren't perfectly understood and are likely multifactorial; you'll likely never pinpoint a single reason for morning wood. Here are some of the top assumptions from medical professionals.

Morning wood and hormones

Hormones, namely testosterone, play a big part in men's overall sexual health. You're practically swimming in the stuff during puberty (remember hiding all of those mid-day erections?), and it remains elevated into your mid-30s. But as men age, testosterone levels decline, and by their 70s most men's testosterone will have reached their lowest levels.

A higher testosterone level contributes to waking erections, which means for many men that their regular morning wood and/or their nighttime erection becomes less regular as they age.

Additionally, guys' testosterone levels are highest in the morning, right after you wake up. This increase alone is likely sufficient to cause morning wood, which may be why so many men wake up with morning boners on a regular basis.

Morning wood and stimulation

Also important to morning wood is stimulation to the penis.

This isn't necessarily intentional sexual stimulation or sexual arousal, like from an intimate partner. It could be as simple as your underwear or clothing rubbing your penis during sleep, or from rubbing against your blankets during the night. Even during sleep, your body senses this physical stimulation and reacts with a ready and erect penis, like with morning wood. Stand to!

Morning wood by relaxation

When you're awake during the day, your body is actually working to suppress erections with certain hormones (after all, you can't be having erections all day every day).

But when we're sleeping or in a state of relaxation, our body also relaxes and takes the gas off of these suppressing hormones. Boners, including morning wood, are more likely when we're relaxed, and this is the case during sleep too.

Can I Have Wakeup Or Morning Sex With Morning Wood?

If you wake up with morning wood next to your romantic partner, and they're in the mood too, go for it! 

Waking up with a spontaneous morning erection right next to your partner is a great catalyst for some spontaneous intimacy. Your testosterone is high and you're already well-rested, meaning morning sex can be a great way to get some intimacy in before the stresses of day-to-day life takes over. Morning wood is just fine for sex.

Morning Wood Gone? What To Do About No Morning Wood

Morning wood is a healthy and normal experience. It's a sign of a properly functioning nervous system and blood flow in and around the penis.

Many young men report waking up with morning wood almost daily in their youth, but over time that can slow down. Less frequent morning wood episodes are to be expected as we age and our testosterone levels begin to fall.

Is less morning wood cause for concern?

It could be if your loss of morning wood is rapid or dramatic. If you've experienced morning wood every day for years and suddenly it drops off to rarely, it may be time to talk to a doctor. There could be underlying health issues involved that need to be addressed. This could be a sign of erectile dysfunction, but it may also indicate something is happening that's preventing arousal (to the nervous system) or proper blood flow.

Likely contributing factors and known causes of E.D. include:

  • being overweight
  • depression
  • high blood lipids
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes

Smoking, alcoholism , or a night of excessive drinking can also impact your ability to get an erection.

These are also all issues that men tend to develop later in life as they age and as more demanding schedule with family and work contribute to a less healthy lifestyle.

Losing your morning wood can also happen after beginning a new medication. Certain painkillers, like opioids, are known to contribute to the development of E.D., and many anti-depressant medications can contribute to erectile dysfunction too.

If you have questions or concerns about your morning wood or erection strength, talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms.

How To Get Morning Wood Back

If you've noticed a sudden drop off in morning wood, or you're experiencing painful erections in the morning, it's time to talk to a doctor about what else might be going on.

If you recognize some things in your current wellness that you think could be contributing, improving your physical fitness and taking care of your mental health are two of the fastest ways to address the underlying causes of E.D. or no morning wood.

Eat right and exercise regularly to combat obesity, get your blood pressure and cholesterol under control, and feel healthier. Seek treatment for other chronic underlying conditions, like diabetes, and do what you can to cut back on alcohol or tobacco use if they're an issue for you. 

All of these are known risk factors for E.D. and possibly the loss of regular morning wood. The good news is that E.D. can be reversible.

The Takeaway

Morning wood, or penile tumescence, is a normal and healthy occurrence for men of all ages. As you age, it's likely for your morning wood frequency or strength to fade.

If you experience a sudden loss of morning wood episodes, or your erections suddenly aren't strong, talk to a doctor about your options. A healthier lifestyle may be enough to kickstart your sexual strength, and E.D. medications are another great consideration.