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If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
You’ve probably heard about some celebrities claiming to have 7-hour sex sessions. You know you don’t last nearly that long, but what is a “normal” length of time to maintain an erection? We can tell you this off the bat: it’ll be nowhere near seven hours, and it’ll vary for every person.
A penile erection can normally last anywhere from a few minutes to about half an hour. On average, men have five erections a night while they’re sleeping, each lasting about 25 to 35 minutes (Youn, 2017). Does that mean all of your erections should last that long? Read on to learn more about how long the average man can stay erect.
What is an erection?
An erection is the most obvious sign of sexual arousal for those with penises, and it’s important for a healthy sex life. It’s a physical response to chemical reactions in the body.
Erections are complicated—each one requires your heart, lungs, hormones, nerves, blood vessels, and mood to work together. One missed reaction in this chain can lead to erectile dysfunction or other problems with your sexual functioning.
How do erections work?
During sexual arousal, tiny blood vessels in the penis dilate, increasing blood flow. Three tubes of spongy tissue (known as the corpus cavernosum and corpus spongiosum) fill with blood, and an erection occurs.
After ejaculation, the extra blood drains away, and the penis reverts to its flaccid size and appearance. Then your penis enters a rest or refractory period before it can get hard again (Panchatsharam, 2021).
What affects erections?
Erection time is a range because no one has sat and timed thousands of men to try to figure out exactly how long the average erection lasts, down to the second. It would be a difficult study to undertake because many variables can affect how long an erection lasts, including:
- Health problems
- Side effects of medications
- Level of sexual stimulation or arousal
- Sexual activity—whether you’re masturbating or having sex
- Mental state—whether you are trying to become aroused vs. a surprise erection at work
There is a distinct upper end of the spectrum—erections can last too long. That’s a condition called priapism. If you ever have an erect penis that lasts more than four hours, seek medical attention to avoid permanent damage (Deveci, 2019).
Perhaps the best way to answer the question, “How long do normal erections last?” is with a question—why do you ask? If you’re concerned that your erections aren’t lasting as long as you like, read on.
Types of erections
There are three different types of erections (Yafi, 2016):
- Reflexive erections happen spontaneously, without thinking about sex.
- Psychogenic erections occur in response to sexual stimuli, memory, or fantasy (Schmid, 2004).
- Nocturnal erections happen during sleep (i.e., “morning wood”)
How to improve erections
If you find that you’re having difficulty getting an erection, your erections aren’t as firm as you’d like, or they don’t last long enough for satisfying sex, you might have erectile dysfunction or ED.
ED is very common—it’s estimated that more than 30 million American men experience erectile problems (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
Oral medications for ED are safe and effective, especially the phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors like sildenafil (brand name Viagra), tadalafil (brand name Cialis), and vardenafil (brand name Levitra) (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
You might be having erection issues because your head isn’t in the game, or you’re not sufficiently in the mood. Being stressed or distracted can affect the quality of your erections. Slowing things down and spending more time on foreplay might help.
Your erections will be best when you’re healthy. Making simple lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet, might be enough to improve ED (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
Avoid alcohol and smoking
Drinking too much and using tobacco products can definitely affect the quality of your erections. Knocking back too many might lead to occasional incidents of “whiskey dick.” Smoking can also lead to blood vessel damage and ED. It’s best to drink in moderation and avoid tobacco altogether (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
Open communication with your partner
Talking openly with your partner about your sexual likes, dislikes, and fantasies can keep sex in a long-term relationship more exciting. Try not to bring conflicts into the bedroom—relationship issues can certainly contribute to ED.
When to see a healthcare provider
ED can be more than a problem with your sexual health. It may be a sign of an underlying medical issue, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, among others. If you think you’re experiencing ED, get medical advice from your healthcare provider. They’ll help you find solutions that are right for you.
- Devici,S. (2019). Priapism. In UpToDate. O’Leary, M.P., Hockberger, R.S., Givens, J. (Eds.). Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/priapism
- Panchatsharam PK, Durland J, Zito PM. (2021). Physiology, erection. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513278/
- Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. (2021). Erectile dysfunction. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
- Yafi, F. A., Jenkins, L., Albersen, M., Corona, G., Isidori, A. M., Goldfarb, S., Maggi, M., et al. (2016). Erectile dysfunction. Nature Reviews: Disease Primers, 2, 16003. doi: 10.1038/nrdp.2016.3. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27188339/
- Youn, G. (2017). Why do healthy men experience morning erections? The Open Psychology Journal, 10(1), 49–54. doi: 10.2174/1874350101710010049. Retrieved from https://openpsychologyjournal.com/VOLUME/10/PAGE/49/FULLTEXT/
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.