Does no morning erection mean erectile dysfunction?

As a man, it’s easy to get used to waking up with an erection, but does a lack of this erection suggest erectile dysfunction? “Morning wood” is a slang term that refers to a person waking up with an early morning erection (or penile tumescence). 

Medically, it’s termed as nocturnal penile tumescence. You may be wondering what the causes behind no morning erection could be, or worry that it’s due to testosterone deficiency or is a sign of impotence. 

Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) is not caused by sexual arousal or having a dream relating to sexual activity. Instead, it is a regular expression of the male reproductive system.

Why do morning erections occur? 

Morning erections are associated with the timing of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.  Normal sleep cycles undergo many transitions between various sleep stages. As morning approaches, you’ll be in REM stage sleep for a more extended time. So, usually, when you wake up, you’re coming out of REM sleep. 

In addition to the vivid movie-like dreams typical of the REM sleep stage, the penis also becomes erect and engorged with blood during this stage. This is caused by activation of the parasympathetic nervous system on the sacral nerve. This nerve triggers the increase in blood flow towards the penis leading to the penis becoming engorged with blood and then hard.

Therefore, morning erections are due to the timing of REM sleep and the natural physiological phenomenon related to this sleep stage in men. It seems that our body is testing its various systems during sleep, including the function of the erectile tissue within the penis. 

Typical morning erections

Morning wood is a normal part of a man’s life. These erections generally start with the onset of puberty, and they are a common phenomenon in adult life.

How often should morning erections occur?

Men of various ages normally experience morning erections. Usually, younger adults with the highest testosterone levels will experience morning erections more often than children or older people. Meanwhile, it is perfectly normal for young adult males to have an erection every morning and a few times during the night.

The peak of sexual maturity generally occurs when males are in their late teens to late 30s. That is the age when they have higher testosterone levels. Due to these higher testosterone levels, people of this age experience more morning erections than other age groups.

As a person approaches their 40s and 50s, they may notice a decrease in the frequency of morning erections. This often occurs because of naturally decreasing testosterone levels. However, the erection episodes should decrease gradually, not suddenly. A gradual decline in morning erections with age is the rule. 

A hormonal imbalance affecting the penis and testis can result in few or no morning erections. This is one reason why having regular erections in the morning is an important indicator of male sexual health.

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Causes of no morning erections

It’s also perfectly normal to occasionally wake up without having an erection. Most individuals get an erection anywhere from one to four times during sleep. 

Sometimes, you’ll come out of sleep at the “wrong” moment and wake up without a morning erection. That wrong moment is coming out of the sleep stages other than the REM. You can also have a REM without having an erection. So basically, as long as it’s occasional, it’s normal. 

Some research says that a person’s sleep quality also plays an important role in the frequency of erections. If someone is not getting a sound sleep and entering the REM cycle, they may not experience erections.

Research on 61 men with obstructive sleep apnea and ED found that getting better quality sleep resulted in an increased frequency of erections. The participants who used continuous positive airway pressure devices experienced more erections than those who did not. 

Hormonal factors, such as low testosterone levels, can also lead to the absence of morning erections. A research study demonstrated that men with hypogonadism, a condition preventing the sexual organs from fully functioning, experienced an increase in the frequency of morning erections after undergoing testosterone therapy.  

Some other health and psychological conditions affecting morning erections are: 

  • Heart problems

  • Anxiety 

  • Spinal cord diseases

Another factor that also decides the frequency of morning wood is age. For example, men in their 60s and 70s — are likely to have a decreased morning erections than younger males. 

Finally, certain medications can often affect morning erection. 

Some important medications in this regard are: 

  • Painkillers

  • Antidepressants

If you are taking these medications, there is a chance these medicines may be interfering with your ability to have an erection.  

Does no morning erection mean erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction or impotence means that a man is incapable of getting an erection or that his erection is weak, making him unable to achieve penetration.

There can be many causes of erectile dysfunction. It could be due to a disturbance in physiological or psychological processes. A lack of morning erection may help to differentiate between these causes.

Physiological causes of erectile dysfunction are related to an underlying inability to fill the penis with blood to make it firm and erect. Avascular causes such as the diseases of the blood vessels could be underlying this. Antidepressants, as stated above, are also a major cause of the inability to have an erection. 

Additionally, erectile dysfunction may be more common in men with decreased testosterone levels. As a result,  men with a physiological cause of erectile dysfunction will not have morning wood. 

Alternatively, some people are not able to become erect due to psychological issues. A lack of sexual arousal or responsiveness may lead to erectile dysfunction. Generalized or situational anxiety can also lead to this.  

Moreover, performance anxiety can also lead to situational sexual dysfunction. Men with a psychological cause for erectile dysfunction can still experience morning erections since they are physically capable of having them. A lack of morning wood may still not necessarily indicate a problem. 


The lack of a morning erection isn’t necessarily a problem. Sometimes, men wake up at different stages in a sleep cycle when an erection isn’t occurring. There can also be some other factors behind this. Still, morning erections can provide some valuable indications about male sexual health and erectile dysfunction.

If you are concerned about having no morning erection, you should consult with your healthcare provider. They can take a complete history and can provide insight into the underlying cause of your problem. 

Fortunately, healthcare professionals have plenty of pharmacological and non-pharmacological ways to help you in any such case. 

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  4. Jastrzębska, S., Walczak-Jędrzejowska, R., Kramek, E., Marchlewska, K., Oszukowska, E., Filipiak, E., Kula, K., & Słowikowska-Hilczer, J. (2014). Relationship between sexual function, body mass index and levels of sex steroid hormones in young men. Endokrynologia Polska, 65(3), 203–209.
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  7. Hernando-Berríos, M., Rivera-Martínez, M. S., & Gualda-Vergara, V. (2008). Intervenciones no farmacológicas para el tratamiento de la disfunción eréctil en varones adultos: revisión sistemática [Non-pharmacological interventions for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in adult men: systematic review]. Enfermeria clinica, 18(2), 64–69.
  8. Sperling, H., Lümmen, G., Schneider, T., & Rübben, H. (2003). Neue Therapieoptionen zur Behandlung der erektilen Dysfunktion. Medikamentöse und nichtmedikamentöse Möglichkeiten [New treatment options for erectile dysfunction. Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic options]. Herz, 28(4), 314–324.

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