When a young man wakes up, most of the time he’s not alone: His morning wood is usually there to greet him. An indicator of good penis health, a hard penis upon awakening can help get the day off to a good start. If one has the luxury of time to attend to it, morning wood can allow a man to engage in a little self-gratification. If there’s no time for play, it’s still a friendly reminder that this special friend is always ready for some a.m. fun.
But why do guys get morning wood so often? What is it that brings this pleasant state of affairs to be?
Yo, look at my nocturnal penile tumescence!
While guys casually refer to a hard penis upon rising as morning wood, there’s actually a technical term for it: nocturnal penile tumescence, although that jaw-breaking phrase is often shortened to NPT. And, like a surprising number of things, scientists have actually studied this subject in some depth.
While men frequently just concentrate on the fact that they are waking up hard, the phrase nocturnal penile tumescence refers to a number of erections that typically occur between the time a guy hits the covers and when he yawningly tosses them off. Unless a man has an erectile issue, he generally will pop three to five boners over the course of a good night’s sleep, the final one being the crowning morning glory with which he is so familiar.
It starts young.
While guys tend to associate morning wood with virile manliness of an adult sort, the fact is that NPT starts early. Before adulthood. Before puberty. Before birth, even. Yes, male fetuses have been observed to be sporting a wake-up call even in the womb.
The obvious answer to “Why does a guy get morning wood?” is: “Why not?” Erections happen throughout the day, so it seems obvious that they would occur during the night as well.
But why specifically do they occur at night and upon waking? Despite the studies they’ve done, scientists don’t have a definitive answer just yet. But the best guess is that it is related to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM periods are times during the night when sleep is especially deep and when there is a significant amount of dreaming. REM occurs in cycles, not necessarily lasting a long time.
During REM sleep, scientists theorize that a couple of things happen that may cause a hard penis to develop. One is that special neurons (called noradrenergic cells, if one must know) get switched off during REM sleep. These are the neurons that have an inhibiting effect on the penis. So, with these neuron cats away, the penis mice get to play.
Another theory is that the body produces more nitric oxide during periods of REM sleep. Nitric oxide plays a big role in facilitating blood flow throughout the body – including in the penis. That increased blood flow is essential for the achievement of erections.
There are also theories that NPT has a practical aspect to it: It allows a man to sleep without having to get up to urinate. With the penis in an erect state, urination is more difficult.
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