Males often experience erections, sometimes called boners, without physical or psychological stimulation. While it is usually not a cause for concern, it can feel embarrassing.
Random erections are normal in adolescents and adults, especially when waking up. Fluctuations in testosterone may be responsible.
In this article, we explore the causes and management of random erections, as well as the link to erectile dysfunction (ED).
An erection usually happens when an individual becomes sexually aroused. A random erection refers to one that occurs “out of nowhere,” without any sexual stimulation.
They are most common in adolescents and young adults, but men of any age can experience random erections. This is entirely normal and may indicate healthy sexual functioning.
Waking up to a random erection is particularly common. This is known as nocturnal penile tumescence.
However, if a person has random erections but is frequently unable to produce or maintain an erection when sexually aroused, this could be a sign of ED.
An erection is often triggered when an individual becomes aroused by thinking about, seeing, or feeling something or someone who is sexually exciting.
The brain sends signals that widen the arteries connected to the penis, allowing more blood to enter. The veins that usually carry this blood back to the rest of the body shrink. This results in the penis swelling and stiffening, forming an erection.
Erections that occur without sexual stimulation can have several causes.
Nocturnal penile tumescence, which is sometimes called morning wood, may be caused by hormonal changes during the night or physical stimulation from contact with the bed sheets.
A healthy male will typically experience 3 to 5 erections while asleep, each lasting 25 to 35 minutes.
Levels of hormones also fluctuate throughout the day, particularly testosterone, and this can cause random erections.
In 2006, a review of studies concluded that testosterone is essential in the formation of an erection. Ten years later, a separate review also suggested that this hormone plays a significant role in sexual functioning.
However, the involvement of testosterone in random erections remains unclear.
It is normal for a person to be occasionally unable to produce or maintain an erection when sexually stimulated. This can be caused by fatigue or alcohol consumption. Or, there may be no clear reason.
However, if this begins to happen frequently, it can indicate ED.
Physical and psychological factors cause ED, and recognizing which are responsible can help to determine the best treatment.
If someone experiences random erections and frequent inability to produce and maintain an erection when stimulated, the condition is likely caused by psychological factors.
Physical causes may include problems with the nerves or blood flow, and medications such as sildenafil (Viagra), can help to increase blood flow to the penis. However, random erections are a possible side effect of these medications.
Random erections can be difficult to avoid because they occur unexpectedly. This can lead to embarrassment.
Tips to manage random erections include:
- Hiding the erection. Sitting behind a desk, using a bag or another object as a shield, or rearranging the fabric of the pants can help to disguise an erection.
- Focusing. It may be possible to reduce an erection by redirecting attention. Some may find it helpful to perform a mental task, such as solving simple math problems.
- Avoid stimulating the erection further. If an erection is further stimulated by movement or clothing, it may take longer to disappear.
- Getting cold. Going outside in cold weather or taking a cold shower can help, when possible.
Random erections are a common experience for men of all ages. They are not harmful and usually do not indicate an underlying health condition.
However, if random erections become troublesome or occur with other symptoms, seek medical advice. A person who suspects ED should also speak with a doctor.