Nocturnal Penile Tumescence: A Beginner’s Guide

You ever wonder how in the heck do you get “morning wood”? Well, the medical term for it is nocturnal penile tumescence. In this article, we will discuss what causes it and how it may be an aid to erectile dysfunction.

What is Nocturnal Penile Tumescence?

Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) is a spontaneous erection of the penis while asleep or upon waking up. They normally occur around three to five times during sleep.

The Relation Between Nocturnal Penile Tumescence and Erectile Dysfunction

Some in the medical field believe that NPT is a sign of good penile health. They cite that men who are not dealing with physiological ED experiences this condition.

Is Nocturnal Penile Tumescence the same as ‘Morning Wood’?

Now, you may be wondering “Is NPT just a fancy way of saying morning wood?”

Answer: Yes!

According to a May 2016 publication by Dr. David Samadi, a well-known doctor and Chairman of Urology, NPT is a good sign of penile health. He states that having morning erections is a barometer of a man’s physiological fitness.

The Causes of Nocturnal Penile Tumescence

According to Dr. Samadi, spontaneous morning erections are caused by the release from the brain of a hormone called noradrenaline. This chemical is released throughout the course of the night, causing a man to experience NPT. (Of course, this chemical is also released when a man is sexually aroused.)

It May be Caused by the Release of Testosterone

It is well-documented how vital testosterone is to a man’s sexual vitality; testosterone plays a significant role in practically every sexual function. NPT is no different.

In a 1988 study conducted by the Journal of Gerontology, healthy aging men typically experience NPT on a regular basis. We can safely assume that these men had average to above average T-levels.

Researchers in a 2007 study overview concluded that testosterone is associated with sleep-related erections. (This overview was presented at the 7th Congress of the European Society for Sexual Medicine.)

Some Theorize That it is a Response to a Full Bladder

Some men who need to urinate upon waking up experience NPT. This has led many to think that ‘morning wood’ is nothing more than a precursor of a full bladder.

Some theorize that the morning erection simply prevents a man from wetting the bed. Some called this reflex erection. There are two main types of erections: psychogenic and reflex.

Psychogenic erection is the typical erection a man would experience while sexually stimulated or aroused.

Reflex erection is basically another name for NPT. Its main objective is to cause an involuntary erection when the bladder becomes full while asleep. The nerves controlling reflex erections are located in the sacral nerves of the spinal cord which are also stimulated by a full bladder.

This theory sounds plausible but likely is not the case since NPT occurs even without a full bladder. Besides, the body has other methods that prevent you from wetting the bed.

Nitrous Oxide Could Be a Cause of Nocturnal Penile Tumescence

Some in the medical community believe that NPT may be caused by nitric oxide (NO).

NO is a colorless gas produced by the body that supports many bodily functions, including sexual performance. Various research has concluded that NO aids blood flow to the penis, causing an erection to occur.

REM sleep is thought to trigger certain events that lead to NO being released by nerve fibers. (This is also regulated by androgens such as testosterone.) This all ultimately leads to a man experiencing nocturnal penile tumescence.

How Does the Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Test Work?

In an effort to determine the exact cause of erectile dysfunction, a man can give himself an NPT test (also called erection self-test). The NPT test is conducted to confirm that you experience erections at night.

As stated earlier, most medical researchers conclude that a healthy male normally experiences involuntary erections 3 to 5 times per night. Each erection tends to last 30 to 60 minutes. The NPT test determines whether your ED is either due to mental or physical issues.

While most people are aware that physical issues (e.g., obesity) cause ED. However, most don’t know that psychological/emotional issues (e.g., death in the family, financial hardships) can cause erectile problems too.

Tests Can Help Determine Whether ED is Caused by Psychological or Physical Issues

Men need a lot of different body parts working the right way to get and maintain an erection; from the brain and glands that control hormones to blood vessels and the penis.

The following are different tests that can be administered to determine if your erectile dysfunction is psychological or physical:

  • Doctor Asking You About Medical & Sexual History

Now, this isn’t exactly a test but it is a necessary step. Your doctor asking questions about your medical and sexual history helps him/her determine a likely source of your ED.

Disclosing surgeries you’ve had, medications are taken, and other lifestyle choices help your doctor see if there is any link to erectile issues. They will also ask personal questions such as sexual history, any history of STDs, having issues with getting erect while being intimate, etc.

It is crucial that you be as honest as possible with your doctor with every question asked. You are only hurting yourself if you withhold any information.

  • Getting A Physical Exam

Your doctor will issue a physical exam by checking your penis and testicles. They will do this to ensure they look normal and their nerves are functioning properly.

The doctor will also will for abnormal breast size and hair loss. These are two clear-cut signs that you possibly have hormonal issues.

  • Getting A Blood & Urine Test

A blood pressure reading may be administered since high blood pressure is linked to ED. It also can check your thyroid function, a gland that helps regulate sex hormones.

Also, the doctor may conduct a urine test as well. This will check to see if you have any health ailments that lead to ED such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Type-2 diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Hormonal issues such as low testosterone
  • Injection Test

An injection test is also called an intracavernosal test.

The test is given by a doctor by injecting a medicine into the base of your penis. If it gives you an erection, then your ED is likely stemming from a mental or emotional issue. But if the medicine doesn’t give you an erection, you may have a problem with blood flow to your penis.

  • Get A Ultrasound

Also called a Doppler ultrasound, this test also checks blood flow to your penis. It may be used in conjunction with the injection test.

The doctor holds a wand over the penis to conduct the ultrasound. The wand creates a video by using sound waves to study the blood flow to your penis. The doctor analyzes the video to determine if your ED is due to bad blood flow.

The Rigiscan is Recent Technology Used to Test Nocturnal Penile Tumescence

In addition to the 5 aforementioned test, doctors may give you an overnight erection test or NPT test. The best way for them to do it is by giving you a device called a Rigiscan.

The Rigiscan is a portable home device used to evaluate the quality of nocturnal penile erections. You place a device around your penis before you go to sleep. It measures how many erections you have and how strong they are.

This procedure can be repeated several nights in a row. The results from each night are stored on the machine so your doctor can download and analyze it.

The Nocturnal Penile Tumescence Stamp Test Can be Self-Administered

Nocturnal Penile Tumescence

If you’re too embarrassed to go a doctor and discuss your ED issues, then you can perform the NPT stamp test. The stamp test is self-administered by using 4 to 6 postage stamps. Here are the exact steps to perform this test:

  • Change into boxers or boxer briefs prior to going to bed
  • Pull your flaccid penis through the fly in your underwear
  • Moisten one of the stamps on the roll and wrap the stamps around your penis
  • Overlap the stamps in the roll to ensure they’ll stay securely in place
  • It should be snug enough so the stamps break apart if you have an erection
  • Place your penis back inside your shorts and go to bed

It’s ideal to sleep on your back to ensure the stamps aren’t disturbed while you’re sleeping. To get an accurate result, perform the stamp test 3 nights in a row. The stamps breaking apart is a tell-tale sign that your penis is functioning properly.

What To Do About a Lack of Nocturnal Penile Tumescence

If you performed the stamp test and revealed a lack of NPT, then you may be suffering from physical erectile dysfunction.

If You Are Not Experiencing Erections at Night it Could be a Sign of ED

As stated earlier, healthy men tend to experience ‘morning wood.’ If you’re not, then that’s a sign of ED.

Discuss Treatment Options With a Doctor

While the stamp test determines whether you experience NPT, it is not the best method for determining ED.

The best method is going to your doctor and going through all the test (and answering questions). Once he/she determines that you are suffering from ED, it is time to weigh your treatment options.

Consider Medications like Cialis or Viagra

Medication such as Cialis or Viagra is widely known to help men dealing with erectile issues. However, it is not for everyone, especially if they have certain medical conditions. That’s why it is important to talk with your doctor to see if these medications are right for you.

You May Need to Change Your Lifestyle to Promote Penile Health

The best course of action for most ED sufferers is to change certain lifestyle habits.

Smoking, poor diet, high alcohol intake, and physical inactivity have all been linked to ED. All these issues are also linked to obesity, which is associated with ED. Changing these poor lifestyle choices will aid penile health tremendously. As well as eating the right foods.

The Final Word on Nocturnal Penile Tumescence

Most men aren’t aware that nocturnal penile tumescence (AKA ‘morning wood’) is a sign that their penile health is in order. If you haven’t been experiencing NPT, then it’s strongly suggested that you make a doctor visit and get tested for ED.