What’s the science story behind that morning stiffy!?
Morning glories, or nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT), are spontaneous erections during sleep or while waking up. All blokes without erectile dysfunction experience them, and they usually occur around three to five times during sleep.
NPT starts in utero or the womb (seriously) and continues throughout life. If it’s any consolation, men aren’t entirely alone—women also get clitoral erections and vaginal engorgement during sleep, and various nonhuman mammals also get NPT.
While a few different theories have been proposed over the years to explain NPT, what causes it remains uncertain. NPT, just like clitoral erections, is associated with REM(rapid eye movement) sleep. One concept is noradrenergic cells (neurons that release the neurotransmitter noradrenaline [norepinephrine]) are switched off during REM sleep. Those are located in an area of the pons (part of the brainstem) called the locus coeruleus are switched off. It is thought that these cells are associated with the inhibitory tone of the penis; therefore, when their activity is reduced during REM sleep, testosterone-dependent excitatory tones can be expressed, which result in an erection.
It has been proposed NPT is triggered by the release of nitric oxide (NO). Cells release NO to line the inside of blood vessels. This then diffuses into smooth muscle, causing it to relax. That also causes blood vessels to dilate, therefore increasing blood flow to the penis and, voila, an erection. It’s thought that increased activity of part of the pons during REM sleep triggers a cascade of events that ultimately lead to NO release by nerve fibres. This is also regulated by androgens such as testosterone.
So we have discussed how, but what about why? One idea is that these sleep exercises contribute to the health of your junk. Erections cause the erectile tissue (corpora cavernosa) to swell, which in turn oxygenates the tissue. This oxygenation maintains its viability and helps to prevent cavernous fibrosis, a condition that can ultimately lead to erectile dysfunction.
Another interesting theory is that pitching a tent prevents men from wetting the bed. There are two main types of erections: psychogenic and reflex. The former starts with stimulating thoughts or images which trigger an erection via nerve signals. The latter is an involuntary process that occurs without sexy ideas, and it’s believed that a full bladder can trigger them. The nerves controlling these reflex erections are found in the sacral nerves of the spinal cord, which are stimulated by a full bladder. Since it’s difficult to pee with a stiffy, it’s thought that NPT may prevent accidental nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting). While this may sound plausible, it seems unlikely because the body has many other methods to prevent you from wetting the bed. Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense, given that nocturnal enuresis also affects women.
It seems the most likely explanation is that all of that nighttime mischief is helping to keep your crown jewels healthy. Be pleased he is looking out for you.
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Story credit – http://www.iflscience.com/