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If you have trouble with erections, you probably think about erections quite a lot. An erection, by definition, is the penis filling with blood and becoming stiff.
Some may wonder, how many times a day do guys get hard? That’s a question without a one-size-fits-all answer. There can be many factors in how many erections (or how few) a guy has in a day. Read on to learn how erections work and what to do if you’re not getting as many erections as you’d like.
What is an erection?
Learning about erections starts with a lesson on the anatomy of the penis. The penis has three chambers that run along the inside—two of these chambers are called corpus cavernosa, and the other is the corpus spongiosum. These chambers are then covered with a fibrous sheath that helps support the penis. There are also many ligaments, blood vessels, and muscles that are in the penis as well.
When something causes sexual arousal or some other form of sexual stimulation, the brain sends signals through the nerves to the penis, allowing the blood vessels in the corpus cavernosa to relax and fill with blood. The increased blood flow to the penis enables it to become firm and erect.
As the erection continues, the corpus spongiosum will contract, playing a role in ejaculation. After ejaculation, the muscles of the penis will relax, allowing the blood to flow back out, leaving the penis soft and flaccid again. Although, it’s not uncommon for an erection to last a bit after ejaculation (Panchatsharam, 2022).
Although most erections are caused by sexual arousal, erections can occur randomly without sexual stimulation.
How many erections per day is normal?
Someone with a penis can have multiple erections during the day, while some may not have any. Nocturnal erections frequently happen numerous times at night when you’re sleeping, with usually three to six erections each night, most commonly occurring during REM sleep. Sometimes the erection is there when waking up, in a phenomenon called morning wood (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022).
The average erection typically lasts a few minutes to less than an hour. When you’re sleeping at night, the duration of an erection can be around 25–35 minutes (Youn, 2017). It’s unhealthy for the penis to have an erection for too long. If an erection lasts for four hours or more, seek emergency medical evaluation—this is called priapism, and needs prompt medical attention.
During the day, erections generally only happen when there’s sexual arousal or stimulation (Panchatsharam, 2022). So, if you’re not getting spontaneous erections during the day, don’t fret—after all, that would probably get in the way of your daily life, wouldn’t it?
What if you don’t get enough erections?
Although there is no set “normal” number of erections someone should have, you may question if you’re doing okay in that department. When those with previously well-functioning penises have difficulty getting an erection that is unable to become firm enough or last long enough for satisfying sex (whether through masturbation or sexual intercourse), this is referred to as erectile dysfunction (ED) (Liu, 2018).
While ED is incredibly common and certainly nothing to be embarrassed about, it can cause both physical and psychological distress. ED can happen to anyone—even younger men. It is estimated that 52% of men have ED between the ages of 40 and 70, and that number increases to 70% after 70. There are many factors and health problems that can contribute to ED, some of which include (Kim, 2021):
- Increasing age
- High blood pressure
- Having overweight or obesity
- Alcohol use
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Side effects of some medications, such as antidepressants and blood pressure medicines
So, if you have erectile dysfunction, can you still get hard? Yes, you can still get an erect penis, with the help of some of the many treatment options for ED. These include medications (like Viagra [see Important Safety Information] or Cialis [see Important Safety Information]), vacuum erection devices, and penile implants (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022).
If you’re concerned about any erection problems and how it’s impacting your sex life, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. Sexual health is a part of someone’s overall health and shouldn’t be ignored.
- Kim, S., Cho, M. C., Cho, S. Y., et al. (2021). Novel emerging therapies for erectile dysfunction. World Journal of Men’s Health, 39(1), 48-64. doi:10.5534/wjmh.200007. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7752520/
- Liu, Q., Zhang, Y., Wang, J., et al. (2018). Erectile dysfunction and depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(8), 1073-1082. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.05.016. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1743609518310075.
- Panchatsharam, P., Durland, J., & Zito, P. (2022). Physiology, erection. StatPearls. Retrieved on Aug. 14, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513278/
- Sooriyamoorthy, T. & Leslie, S. (2022). Erectile dysfunction. StatPearls. Retrieved on Aug. 14, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
- Urology Care Foundation. (2018). Erectile dysfunction. Retrieved from https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/e/erectile-dysfunction-(ed).
- 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.