So you’ve been waking up in the morning recently, noticing that you have a “morning wood”?
While it can be a little nuisance as sleep erection forces you to stay in bed for a couple extra minutes before it goes away, not having the erection can be a sign of bad health. And what is REM sleep, and what does it have to do with erections?
What is REM Sleep?
Standing for Rapid Eye Movement, REM is one of the stages that form your sleep pattern, along with the Non-REM stages. As the name suggests, your eyes move quickly in various directions during the REM stage. The more active brain activity while sleeping triggers this eye movement.
Surprisingly, our brain is not entirely inactive while we’re having a zizz. Instead, there are several short, alternating spells when we might experience visual images or dreams. This occurrence happens even when our eyes are shut and not sending any optical information to the brain.
But wait! We do not only have dreams during sleep. There’s another “bonus” that most people, especially our fellow gentlemen, get and notice after waking up from the snooze. It’s the sleep erection, or “morning wood,” as many would refer to it. However, why men have their “joystick” straight up is a scientific question that needs thorough scrutiny.
Why Do We Get Sleep Erection?
Male Sleep Erection
Scientifically, the male sleep erection phenomenon is known as “nocturnal penile tumescence.” This event happens when the brain sends signals that cause the blood vessels in the penis to expand, allowing more trapped blood volume in the male sexual organ. More blood flows result in a temporarily enlarged and more rigid penis.
In general, male erection is associated with external arousals that initiate brain signaling. However, during sleep, the brain is somehow also stimulated, causing the same reaction as when awake. So simply put, nighttime erections aren’t the results of external stimulation but instead of your nervous system.
So how does male sleep erection have anything to do with the REM stage? As mentioned earlier, your nervous system is more active during REM sleep, when you may have an erotic dream. That’s right! We all have those sexy dreams sometimes. Another hypothesis is that our bodies perform a “testing system” while sleeping to maintain normal bodily functions.
Since the REM stages alternate with the Non-REM stages spontaneously, and most people wake up after the final REM stage, we tend to notice the erection as soon as we open our eyes in the morning.
Female Sleep Erection
Sleep erection isn’t unique in men. The truth is women can have an erection, too! A phenomenon similar to nocturnal penile tumescence occurs among the ladies called female erection, or clitoris erection. During REM sleep, the clitoris of a woman can become engorged with blood flow and erect.
What Does It Mean to Get Sleep Erection?
Your Penis is Functioning Properly
Having erections while sleeping may help your penile functions in the long run. A nocturnal erection keeps the tissues in your penis soft and stretchy, preparing the organ for the aroused erections you get while you’re awake. Imagine getting hard while sleeping is like having some gentle exercise that strengthens your penis.
In contrast, the regular absence of sleep erection may result in the contraction of your penile tissues, affecting the size and length of the organ over time. Moreover, some people without sleep erection may suffer from physiological conditions like diabetes. This metabolic disease damages the blood vessels in the body, including those in the penis. As a result, blood cannot flow to the organ and form an erection.
So, don’t blame yourself for having the morning wood. Instead, feel lucky because your tool is working correctly.
You Are Psychologically Healthy
People suffering from stress, anxiety, or trauma may find that they don’t get sleep erection regularly. The reason is that this phenomenon is multifactorial, so besides the physiological factors, having an unhealthy mental state may harm the brain signaling that initiates the erection response.
It’s hard to fall asleep soundly, let alone have an erotic dream, when you’re overwhelmed with stressful work and life. So being able to “get hard” when you’re asleep is a sign that you’re psychologically sound.
You Have Normal Hormone Levels
Whether a man or a woman, your sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen, play a vital role in erectile functions. Typically, testosterone is at its highest in the morning, which can be another reason for male sleep erection. However, if your hormones drop below average, it may become harder for you to get an erection.
Therefore, as long as you notice the morning action, your body is still maintaining normal hormone levels.
What to Do if We Don’t Get Sleep Erection?
You’re not necessarily unhealthy if you don’t wake up with an erection. It could be that you didn’t wake up from the REM stage or had a night of insufficient sleep. It’s also possible that you did have a sleep erection, but it went away shortly before you were awake.
However, some underlying causes, either physiological or psychological, may make it hard for you to develop a normal erection response. Below are some strategies to follow if you notice a long-term, somewhat worrisome absence of sleep erection.
Manage Stress and Anxiety
You can tackle the stress and anxiety that you’ve been experiencing by carrying out some stress management techniques, like meditation or deep breathing, before sleep. It’s no good keeping all the life burdens when all you need is some rest and then suffering from the silent impact on your sexual health.
In the long run, chronic stress may cause you to lose your bedtime erection and the fuel you need in the bedroom. And, remember that coping with stress is a process rather than an event. So, it would be best if you had time to regain your vigor.
Get Hormone Replacement Therapy
Since not having a sleep erection doesn’t necessarily mean low testosterone, you may need to go through several checking procedures to determine whether your absence of sleep erection or regular erections results from deficient hormones.
Visit a Urologist
The worst scenario is that you may have erectile dysfunction if your sleep erection is off for a few weeks or months. But don’t be too concerned about this; you’re still far from suffering from this condition.
Your urologist will ask you several questions about your sleeping habits, whether you’re too stressed, and examine your physique before diagnosing you with any dysfunction.
Now you’ve understood male and female REM sleep erection. I know it’s a sensitive topic to discuss with anyone, but keeping everything in check is still better than silently suffering from a minor condition that can escalate over time.
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