Why you get a boner when you’re dead asleep – Guy Smarts

You wake up from a deep sleep to notice that not every part of you has been resting.

Middle-of-the-night erections—also known as morning wood, since you often notice them when you awaken—are pretty damn common.

But think of it: They pop up even if you’re not in the middle of a sexy dream. So what’s the purpose of these nighttime erections?

Regular nighttime erections can actually signal that your body is in good health, says Adam Ramin, M.D., urologist and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles. A healthy man can expect to get hard three to five times per night, and this can serve as an indicator how your entire body is functioning.

How so? First, you need to understand how erections work in general, Dr. Ramin says. Stimulation in your parasympathetic nervous system—say, when you see something sexy, or feel a touch—causes the release of neurotransmitters.

That leads to dilation of the arteries in the penis. As a result, more blood flows into the penis, less blood flows out, causing your erection to swell up, get hard, and grow.

During sleep, there’s a general increase in the activity of your parasympathetic system, too. This is what slows your heart rate, relaxes your muscles, and kicks off a deeper dream state. It’s also what sparks the development of nocturnal erections.

It’s about your nervous system, Dr. Ramin emphasizes, so it doesn’t occur as a result of somehow touching your penis inadvertently or having sexy dreams.

What’s the point of this automatic response? Nobody really knows.

“There is no true purpose to development of nocturnal erections,” he says. “They are merely a byproduct of a natural stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system at night.”

So even though we’re not sure why they exist, they can end up helping your erection in the long run, urologist Tobias Köhler, M.D., M.P.H., told us previously. These erections keep your penile tissue soft and stretchy. They also prompt the smooth muscles in your penis to relax, allowing the blood to rush in and get you hard. That keeps it in fighting shape for when you’re awake and need it.

Without this regular sleepytime workout, Dr. Köhler says, the muscles may become too contracted, and eventually, the length of your erect penis may shorten.

Although it’s often tough to determine if you’re getting the proper amount of nighttime erections or not, you should notice nighttime erections or wake up at full mast occasionally.

If you never do—or if you don’t notice it as frequently—you might want to mention it to your doctor, Dr. Ramin advises. Some medical problems could be at play like nerve malfunction, arterial disease, hypertension, or diabetes. It’s also possible you may have low testosterone, since men whose levels fall below average tend to pop fewer erections at night, according to researchers from the University of California.

Even depression or anxiety could lead to parasympathetic nerve malfunction, affecting both your daytime and nighttime boners. Best thing to do is, if you notice a change in your nighttime erections, get it checked out.

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