Is a lack of morning erections a sign of erectile dysfunction?


  • Putting Dr G On The Spot
  • Sunday, 17 May 2020

Dear Dr. G,

I am a young man in my early thirties and have an urgent matter that needs your help.

It has been nearly two months since the movement control order (MCO), that my wife and I noticed I have less and less of the "morning wood".

In recent days, I have not observed any sign of morning erection at all.

I was worried about being impotent and attempted sex last weekend. To my relief, I was still able to perform normally.

I read somewhere that lack of morning erection is a sign of erectile dysfunction. Therefore, I am terrified this is an early sign of impotency.

I am hoping this week will be my turn to put Dr. G on the spot about morning erection.

When do men start getting morning erection? Why is it happening in the morning?

What exactly is the purpose of the morning glory?

I read up on the Internet that morning erection can occur when I am asleep. How do I test I actually have the erections at night?

Admittedly, during the MCO, I am somewhat stressed about my job. Do you think the morning less glory is all stress related?

I hope to hear from you this Sunday, making my MCO Sunday Morning Glorious again!

Yours truly,

Formerly Glorious Gregory

The "morning wood" or "morning glory" is a colloquial term commonly used to describe a phenomenon called nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT). In fact, morning glory is actually a misnomer, as the spontaneous erections of the penis actually occur at night (hence the nocturnal description). The sleep related erections are observed, at least three to five times during a period of sleep, in all healthy men.

Such "erection" is also noted in women and known as nocturnal clitoral tumescence. The spontaneous natural erections are noted in the early waking hours, they are fondly referred as morning glory. As men are waking up at various stages of the natural sleep, the awareness of the frequency and degree of morning rigidity is quite variable between individuals.

The morning erections are common in the animal kingdom, especially among mammals. The observation of such rest related erections are noted even in human foetus in the womb. The exact physiological purpose of NPT is unknown. It was postulated the Noradrenaline neurons of the sympathetic systems are responsible to inhibit the daytime spontaneous erections (thank goodness for that). The suppression of such inhibitory neurons in the brain during REM sleep allows the relaxation and generates testosterone-related excitatory erections. The repeated tumescence is believed to contribute towards enhancing penile neuro-vasculature.

The frequency and the degree of the morning glory are naturally blooming in the youth, and the intensity and regularity diminishes with advancing age. As men get older, the natural levels of testosterone begin the decline between the age of 40 and 50, which coincides with the decrease in episodes of NPT. However, it is completely possible for men to maintain the morning woods well into the glorious senior years, by keeping active inside and outside the bedroom.

The decline of the morning woods is more pronounce in less healthy men especially those suffering from dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Stress and relationship strain can also affect sexual desire and frequency of spontaneous erection.

An individual faced with anxiety resulted in the sympathetic system enhancement to deal with challenges. When the neurological system is on overdrive, the individuals become agitated and short tempered. Over a prolonged period, this may manifest itself with symptoms of depression, such as insomnia, fatigue, lack of sexual appetite and erectile dysfunction.

The existence of Nocturnal Erection is useful in helping sexual health practitioners determine the cause of sexual dysfunction. The presence of NPT is a good predictor of erectile dysfunction association with psychological or physiological causes. In a formal setting, a device detecting NPT can be placed around the penis during sleep. The sensors at the tip and base of the penis detect changes of penile length and girth during sleep, and relay the information for computer analysis. Although it may seem a bit weird and kinky, the Postage Stamps Test can also be used to evaluate nocturnal erections. A length of postage stamps connected by perforations is secured loosely around the width of the flaccid penis prior to sleep. If the perforated connections are torn upon awakening, the presence of nocturnal tumescence is evident. Hopefully, the partner is overjoyed rather than horrified with the "kinky" practice of sticking postage stamps to the penis!

The emergence of the morning glory is technically a reflection of endurance in sexual and mental health of an individual. When couples are faced with the unprecedented times of MCO, it is inevitable to experience uncertainty resulting in performance anxiety. Keeping a healthy lifestyle and open communication are usually keys to avoid long-term setbacks in the bedrooms.

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Dr George Lee , Columnist , Health

Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. The column “Ask Dr G” is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at askdrg@thestar.com.my

   

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