Morning wood, also known as nocturnal penile tumescence, is a common occurrence for many men. During sleep, men can get multiple erections that often occur during REM sleep. While the exact purpose of morning wood is not fully understood, scientists believe it contributes to penile health and function. As men age, they may notice fewer or less firm erections when they wake up. But does morning wood eventually stop altogether as part of the natural aging process?
What Causes Morning Wood?
Morning wood is prompted by signals from the brain and body during sleep. Here are some of the factors that contribute to nocturnal erections:
- The body’s circadian rhythm – There are certain times during the sleep cycle where hormones like testosterone rise, triggering erections. This is the body’s natural rhythm.
- REM sleep – During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when dreaming is most common, erections occur. This is because the brain is active but the body is paralyzed during REM sleep.
- A full bladder – The pressure from a full bladder can stimulate nerves that trigger erections. Waking up needing to urinate causes blood flow to the penis.
- Hormones – Higher testosterone levels while sleeping naturally lead to more erections. Testosterone is highest in the mornings.
- Blood flow – When sleeping, blood circulation slows down and causes engorgement or swelling of the penis. The veins are constricted to keep blood in the area.
Morning wood helps facilitate healthy penile function. The regular oxygenation that occurs during erections is believed to help keep the penis tissue and muscles healthy.
Normal Changes as You Age
It’s normal for morning erections decrease naturally starting around age 40. Here are some of the reasons morning wood may happen less often or be less firm with age:
- Lower testosterone – Testosterone levels start decreasing after age 30, causing less frequent erections.
- Medical conditions – Health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes contribute to erectile dysfunction.
- Medications – Drugs like blood pressure meds, antidepressants, and other medications can inhibit erections.
- Poor sleep – With less REM sleep, fewer erections occur. Sleep disorders become more common with age.
- Anatomical changes – The penis and erectile tissue can undergo some natural atrophy. Vascular disease can also contribute to changes.
According to research, men ages 40-80 have an average of 3-5 erections per 8 hours of sleep. Erections last around 25-35 minutes total. As this study shows, most men maintain some level of morning wood well into old age.
Warning Signs to See a Doctor
While less frequent morning wood and softer erections are normal, some changes could signify an underlying problem. See your doctor if you:
- Have no erections in the mornings
- Wake up without rigidity
- Have erectile issues at other times
- Have reduced libido or difficulty ejaculating
- Have other unexplained symptoms
Sudden erectile dysfunction, especially in younger men, warrants medical evaluation. It could indicate health conditions like vascular disease, low testosterone, neurological issues, or side effects of medications. Don’t assume it’s just age without consulting your doctor.
Can You Prevent Loss of Morning Wood?
While you can’t totally prevent changes as you get older, certain lifestyle habits can help promote healthy erections:
- Exercise and stay active – Physical activity maintains blood flow and helps manage conditions like obesity and high blood pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet – Nutritious foods support vascular health. Limit saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and processed foods.
- Reduce alcohol – Chronic drinking can lower testosterone levels and contribute to erectile dysfunction.
- Stop smoking – Smoking restricts blood flow and impairs sexual function. Quitting improves symptoms.
- Prioritize sleep – Get on a schedule allowing 7-9 hours of quality sleep, and treat issues like sleep apnea.
- Manage stress – Chronic stress and mental health issues can affect sexual function. Therapy helps.
- Take medications properly – Work with your doctor to make adjustments to medications that may cause side effects. Never alter dosages or stop taking prescription medications on your own.
Making positive lifestyle changes reduces the risks for erectile dysfunction and promotes men’s sexual health as they age. When issues arise, communicate openly with your healthcare provider.
If you’re experiencing erectile difficulties, whether or not you have normal morning erections, your doctor has many options to explore:
- Medications – Drugs like Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra treat erectile dysfunction through different mechanisms.
- Testosterone therapy – If blood tests confirm low testosterone, supplements can restore levels.
- Penis pumps – Using a pump before sex can aid blood flow to the penis. A constriction ring helps maintain an erection.
- Alprostadil injections – This drug injected into the penis promotes blood flow for a firmer erection.
- Penile implants – Surgical implants provide rigidity when other treatments fail.
- Lifestyle changes – Diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management enhance the effects of medical therapies.
Don’t assume erectile dysfunction is just a natural result of aging without consulting a doctor first. There are many solutions available. With an open and honest conversation, most men can find a treatment plan that enables them to restore satisfying sexual activity.
Maintaining Intimacy with Your Partner
Aging inevitably brings changes to the sexual relationship between long-term partners too. While morning wood may diminish with age, intimacy and pleasure don’t have to. Here are some tips:
- Focus on open communication and foreplay. Take time to build arousal.
- Try sexual positions that require less direct penetration. Prioritize intimacy.
- Explore forms of touch and stimulation outside of intercourse. Erections aren’t necessary for orgasms and satisfaction.
- Use lubrication to enhance comfort and pleasure.
- Remain affectionate. Kiss, cuddle, hold hands, and keep the emotional connection.
- Seek counseling or sex therapy if you’re struggling to adapt. There are always solutions.
The natural progression of aging shouldn’t end a couple’s sex life. Adjusting techniques, reading each other’s needs, and communicating desires allows couples to maintain intimacy despite changes in physiology.
The Bottom Line
Some reduction in the frequency, firmness, and duration of morning erections is common as men enter their 40s and beyond. Hormonal changes and medical conditions contribute to these natural decreases. However, lack of morning wood does not necessarily indicate erectile dysfunction or serious health issues. The causes are often manageable with medications, lifestyle adjustments, open communication, and a patient, loving attitude toward change. Men can continue enjoying healthy intimate relationships well into old age through adaptation and prioritizing emotional intimacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main cause of losing morning wood with age?
The natural decline of testosterone as men age is the biggest contributor to less frequent and softer morning erections. Lower T leads to fewer spontaneous erections overall.
Does losing morning wood mean poor health?
Not necessarily. Some reduction with aging is normal. But a sudden or total loss of rigidity could indicate an underlying condition requiring medical attention, especially for younger men. Don’t ignore changes.
What percentage of men over 50 have erectile dysfunction?
About 50% of men over 50 experience some degree of erectile dysfunction. But only 5% of men in their 50s have complete inability to achieve erections. The majority have temporary or situational issues.
Can you get morning wood after age 70?
Yes, many men still get erections into their 70s and 80s, though they may be less firm or frequent. About 62% of 80-year-olds still have regular erections upon waking. Staying sexually active also helps maintain function.
What helps stop loss of firmness in older age?
Staying fit, managing chronic conditions, proper sleep, reducing stress, limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, and open communication with your partner will help you maintain sexual health and satisfying intimacy.