Does No Morning Wood Mean Erectile Dysfunction?

A lack of "morning wood," or an erection upon waking, can be a sign of erectile dysfunction. However, that's not always the case.

Learning more about what causes morning erections can help you better understand what's happening to your body.

This article explains the causes of morning erections, what the lack of one means, and when you should be concerned.

What Causes Morning Erections
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

What Causes Morning Wood?

An erection—the enlarged, rigid state of the penis—can occur throughout the span of a male's life. Infants, toddlers, and pre-adolescent boys have erections. They are caused by the physical stimulation of the penis, rather than by sexual arousal seen in adolescents, teens, and adults.

Nocturnal penile tumescence are erections that occur during sleep or when waking up. The latter are popularly referred to as "morning wood" or a "morning glory."

They tend to start as a boy enters puberty and increase in frequency as they get older. Morning erections are common in adulthood.

The cause of morning wood is not well understood, but there are two main thoughts:

  • Hormone theory: Norepinephrine is the hormone that counters the effects of nitrergic hormones, which are the ones that promote erections. During deep sleep, levels of norepinephrine drop, causing nitrergic hormones to spike. This leads to an erection while you sleep that may still be present when you wake.
  • Bladder theory: A full bladder at night can provoke a reflex to prevent urination. The sacral nerves responsible for an erection can be compressed by the enlarged bladder, which can cause what's referred to as a "reflex erection." This can linger into the morning, usually until you pee.

Why ED Can Affect Morning Erections

Erectile dysfunction (ED), defined as the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex, is one possible reason some men don't have morning wood.

Physiological causes for ED—meaning problems with the nerves, hormones, blood vessels, and smooth muscles that enable an erection—may contribute to this.

The same is not true if you have psychogenic ED, however. This is a form of ED caused by psychological issues such as relationship problems, performance anxiety, low self-esteem, or depression.

If ED is purely psychogenic, you can still get nighttime and morning erections. Tests can confirm this.

Before assuming that not having morning wood means that you have erectile dysfunction, it may help to know that some healthy men have a.m. erections that they aren't even aware of.

Morning wood may be present, but begin to resolve while you are transitioning to a waking state. As such, it's possible to have a morning erection that subsides before you even realize it was there.

Could You Have Erectile Dysfunction?

If you suspect that your lack of morning wood is due to ED, you will likely be having problems with erections during sex as well. It would be odd to have one without the other.

Even so, the lack of a morning erection may be the first sign of ED, partially if you are not sexually active.

There are a number of risk factors that may support your suspicions, some of which include:

If you believe that what you are experiencing ED, speak with a doctor. Tests can be performed to diagnose ED, a condition that affects around 40% of males over 40 and 70% of males over 70. And if ED is not present, you can be examined for other concerns.

Other Possible Causes

In the same way that it is normal to have morning wood, it is also perfectly normal not to wake up with an erection in the morning.

However, if you are having increasing difficulty getting or sustaining an erection, it may be time to speak with your healthcare provider. While ED may be the first thing your healthcare provider explored, ED may end up being the effect rather than the cause of your symptoms.

A number of health conditions are known manifest with ED, including:

It is for this reason that you should also speak with your healthcare provider if ED persists despite treatment. Additional tests may be needed to explore other possible causes of your symptoms.

Summary

Morning erections are thought to be caused by changes in hormones during sleep or by a full bladder that presses on the nerves that trigger an erection.

The lack of morning wood may mean nothing, but it could be a sign of erectile dysfunction if your case is due to physiological issues, such as nerve or blood vessel problems. If that's the case, you'll likely also have issues with erections during sex.

It's worth mentioning the fact that you're not having morning erections to your doctor, especially if you're experiencing other signs of ED. They can run tests to diagnose you or sort out whether or not there may be another health condition at play.

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A Word From Verywell

If you have problems achieving or maintaining an erection, speak with 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 if you are young and don't have any of the common risk factors of ED. The same applies if there are any other unusual symptoms, irrespective of your age. ED may end up being a sign of a more serious condition, like prostate cancer, that requires immediate attention.

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6 Sources
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