By Austin Davis
Nearly thirty years ago, the titular characters of MTV's Beavis and Butt-Head set out to solve a mystery: why do men get morning wood?
Spoiler alert: they didn't get much further than a theory about a fairy swooping in during the night to coax their members to attention. Suffice it to say there's no proof of that being the cause of morning wood, but the exact reason is difficult to pin down: many organic processes play a role in the phenomenon.
Now you may be wondering, how important is morning wood, anyway? Short answer: it's very important.
We're here to tell you that the presence of sleep-induced erections says quite a lot about your overall penile health, and that the effects of their absence can be mitigated with vacuum-pump therapy. Here are three things you need to know about morning wood (that you can't learn from watching 90s cartoons).
Morning wood–scientifically known as a "sleep-induced erection" or "nocturnal penile tumescence"–begins extremely early in life: biologically male fetuses have erections in utero, and young boys experience involuntary, sleep-induced erections long before puberty. According to one 2017 study, it's perfectly normal for men to experience as many as four to five full erections throughout the course of an eight-hour night, each lasting between 25 and 35 minutes.
That same study supports a link between sleep-induced erections and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Best known as when dreams occur, REM sleep transpires in 90-minute cycles throughout the night, similar to the frequency of nocturnal erection cycles.
So steamy dreams during REM sleep lead to morning wood? Not always. Research has shown that the production of organic hormones–like norepinephrine, which keeps the penis relaxed–tapers off during REM sleep. This makes natural excitement during deep sleep more likely. Meanwhile, the body's parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for sexual arousal, is also active at night while the body rests.
All of these factors set the scene for frequent erections throughout the night–it's only called "morning wood" because that's when we're most likely to notice.
Just as scientists have differing opinions as to the causes of morning wood, the jury's still out on its primary function as well. Some see sleep-induced erections as an evolutionary failsafe for procreation. Others point to how frequent erections keep the penis in working order by strengthening those nerve fibers and blood vessels vital to erectile health.
Better understood is what morning wood means for your overall penile health–most agree that sleep-induced erections are a clear sign that your body is functioning how it's supposed to.
Medical professionals understand that ED can crop up for a variety of physical and psychological reasons, from stress, poor diet, and inactivity, to more serious issues such as hypertension, low blood pressure, and heart disease. The presence of morning wood means there's a good chance psychological factors play a predominant role in an individual's ED.
That's why keeping an eye on morning wood is so important–no morning wood may indicate the presence of a bigger problem affecting erectile health.
If morning glory goes away, consult your doctor–they might prescribe medication, such as a PDE5 inhibitor, or other holistic treatments, like those featured in Regimen, to help you regain erections when both asleep and awake.
One mainstay of ED treatment is particularly useful in helping men achieve the benefits of morning glory, even if the underlying infrastructure still isn't in working shape: the vacuum erection device (VED), colloquially known as the penis pump.
VED therapy has long been used in rehabilitating men who recently underwent a prostatectomy. But the device's general safety, even in combination with PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra, make it suitable for alleviating symptoms at all levels of ED. When used daily for three to six months, VED therapy can strengthen the internal plumbing of your penis in the same way as nocturnal erections. That increases your chances of eventually regaining the rigidity needed for intercourse.
Questions about the right type of pump, or how to design therapy around your specific needs? Consult your doctor: VED therapy is safe for most and easy to begin, but your doctor can provide worthwhile advice on the best pump for your circumstances.
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