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What to Know About Morning Wood

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 18, 2021

Morning wood is a slang term for nocturnal penile tumescence. This occurs when someone with a penis gets an erection in the middle of the night or the early morning hours while they are sleeping. If you have morning wood, you may often wake up with an erection.

Another name for morning wood is morning glory. This term is primarily used in the UK.

Why Does Morning Wood Happen?

Some people believe that dreams or a full bladder can cause morning erections. However, what truly causes them is your parasympathetic nervous system.

This part of the nervous system controls many of the things that happen in your body without you having to think about it, like digestion, urination, and sexual arousal. It also regulates your heartbeat after you've had a fight-or-flight reaction to a scary stimulus.

This system is active while you are sleeping, especially during REM. You may actually get more than one erection each night, but notice them most when you are closer to waking in the morning.

REM is the sleep stage in which you dream. Most people wake up after or during the REM stage of sleep, meaning you are more likely to wake up while you have an erection. However, your early morning erection is not often caused by sexual dreams.

It can cause hormonal changes during sleep that signals your body to send blood to your penis.

Experts believe the sacral nerve may play a role. When your bladder is full, it may press on this nerve, leading to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and an erection. 

You may usually get erections when you're thinking about something sexual. However, you can also get erections randomly, especially when you're going through puberty.

Sometimes a nighttime erection can also be caused by movement in your sleep that intentionally stimulates your penis.

Who Can Get Morning Wood?

Anyone with a penis, of any age, can get an erection while sleeping. Babies even get erections while they are still in the uterus!

Is It Normal to Get Morning Wood?

Getting erections during sleep is very normal. You may have up to five erections each night while you sleep. 

One study showed that you are less likely to get nocturnal penile tumescence as you get older. 

When to Talk to Your Doctor About Morning Wood

In most cases, morning wood is a sign that everything in your body is working properly. However, if your morning erection often lasts longer than an hour, you may want to contact your doctor.

If your erection lasts longer than four hours, you should contact your doctor. This is a condition called priapism.

Most morning erections last for a few minutes, but, in some cases, they may last as long as 35 minutes.

How Are Morning Wood and Wet Dreams Different?

Morning wood is the act of getting an erection while you're asleep. A wet dream, also called a nocturnal emission, is when you have an orgasm during sleep. Some experts believe that nocturnal emissions happen if you're already erect and have a sexual dream. 

In addition to morning wood, wet dreams are completely normal, especially during puberty.

How to Deal With Morning Wood or Wet Dreams

You might find nighttime erections and emissions embarrassing. You might try to prevent them, but there's no way to do this. They're perfectly normal.

If you have a wet dream, you may need to clean yourself up or change your sheets. If you simply have a nighttime erection, it will go away shortly after you wake up.

If you find your nighttime erections or emissions challenging, you can talk to a trusted friend, counselor, or other person in your life. Talking about it with someone may make you more comfortable, but don't worry -- it's totally natural and very normal. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Why Do Men Get Morning Erections? 5 Answers to Your Questions."

Good Therapy: "Parasympathetic Nervous System."

Journal of gerontology: "Nocturnal penile tumescence in healthy aging men."

Mount Sinai: "You Asked It: Is Morning Wood Normal?"

National Health Service: "5 penis facts."

Young Men's Health: "Wet Dreams."

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