Sleep-related Painful Erections

painful erections


  • Painful erections are never normal
  • Sleep-related painful erections result in fragmented sleep patterns
  • Seek treatment to ensure they don’t lead to sleep deprivation

Every man is very likely to experience erections during REM sleep (you probably have three to five erections every night!). Sleep erections are completely normal and fun fact: they’re not even necessarily related to sexual dream content! You probably won’t ever know that you had an erection during your slumber unless you wake up during your REM sleep episode, or unless the erection is painful. Painful erections are never normal and sleep-related painful erections sound like the absolute worst way to be woken up.

How common are sleep-related painful erections?

Research suggests approximately 1% of men will have this experience.

Can they impact my health?

This parasomnia will cause multiple nighttime awakenings, depending on how many REM sleep episodes you have per night. This results in fragmented sleep patterns which can lead to sleep deprivation and cause all sorts of negative health impacts:

  • Brain: The neurons in your brain are firing more slowly when they are tired. This can lead to poor concentration and performance, slower reaction times, and can affect your balance and coordination.

  • Body: Lost sleep can weaken your immune system, increase your blood pressure, put you at a higher risk of heart disease, and cause headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

  • Mind: The strain on your brain and body can cause you to feel cloudy, unsteady, anxious, and irritable. More severe cases of sleep deprivation can lead to depression, and can even cause hallucinations.

What's the cause?

One research study suggested that the cause was an abnormal tightening of the pelvic floor muscles during REM sleep.

How can I prevent it from happening?

Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing sleep-related painful erections because many different medications have been found to reduce the number of painful nightly erections.

Bottom Line: Painful erections are never normal. Sleep-related painful erections result in fragmented sleep patterns. Treat sleep-related painful erections to ensure you stop the pain and stop the fragmented sleep before it leads to sleep deprivation.


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