If you’re used to waking up to morning wood, that’s totally normal. It’s one of the most normal things you can expect from the male body.
In fact, it’s so normal that it’s been noted to happen throughout life - even whilst male babies are still in the womb. And subconscious erections don’t just happen first thing in the morning - that’s just when you’re most likely to notice one. You actually get around 5 erections per night, each sticking around for about 25 minutes.
Known medically as nocturnal penile tumescence, morning wood is a strong indicator for good sexual and overall health.
Despite it being a - literally - daily occurrence, it’s not known what causes morning wood. But we do know that it’s not caused by needing to pee.
It’s thought to be down to a combination of factors. Your brain relaxes whilst you sleep, reducing the release of chemicals which stop you getting hard in your day to day life. Your testosterone levels are also at their highest when you just wake up, and nitric oxide levels are high whilst you’re asleep.
When this concoction of chemicals meets accidental physical stimulation - like your penis rubbing against the duvet - and you have the recipe for regular nighttime boners. But really, no single cause has been established. One theory suggests that you get hard throughout the day as your body’s way of checking everything is still working.
Firstly, it might be nothing. You’re not going to be hard throughout the night, so it could well just be that you woke up at a soft stage of your sleep cycle. It’s no biggie.
But if you start to notice it happening more often, it might be the first indicator of a wider problem. It may be one of the earliest signs of atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque builds up in the arteries, impeding the flow of blood.
When the only problem it’s giving you is less morning wood, it’s not much of an inconvenience. But over time this plaque build up can lead to something more serious - not just erectile dysfunction (ED), but problems with your heart. As the veins in your penis are much smaller than the arteries in your heart, a serious issue might show up downstairs first.
Don’t brush it off. It’s always better to speak to your doctor - even just to put your mind at ease.
Conversely, if you’re suffering from ED but have no difficulty waking up hard, it could be a sign your problem has a psychological, not a physiological, root. Erections require a fine balance of mental willingness and physical ability, and if they’re not aligned, ED crops up. Again, speaking to your doctor can help you to identify the cause of your problem so it can be treated in the most effective manner.
Men are half as likely to visit a doctor than women are - which is one of the reasons women outlive men. By speaking to your GP as soon as you start to notice something is wrong, you can tackle health problems head on and take preventative action early.