Is there anything more frustrating than having great sex and wanting to go for another round, but not being physically able to? There’s actually a scientific term for this: the refractory period.
“A refractory period is the time after a man ejaculates when he is no longer able to have an erection,” Emily Morse, sexologist and host of the Sex With Emily podcast, tells MensHealth.com.
While there’s not much you can do to eliminate your refractory period altogether (hey, you can’t fight science), there are things you can do to make your recovery time shorter. Here’s everything you need to know about refractory periods, from why they occur in the first place, to how you can try to shorten yours.
Why do guys have refractory periods?
It all has to do with the changes in your body that occur after you have an orgasm. Post-ejaculation, “your penis becomes flaccid from neural signals telling your body to relax,” explains Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, Urologist at Orlando Health and Assistant Professor at UCF College of Medicine. “Dopamine and testosterone levels drop, and prolactin [a hormone produced by your pituitary gland] rises.”
Elevated prolactin levels post-ejaculation could play a role in your inability to get it up again. “Increased prolactin and subsequent lower testosterone is like a double whammy affecting your sex,” says Brahmbhatt.
By contrast, women generally have a much shorter refractory period — or even none at all. “Women are designed to be multi-orgasmic, which means they can have one after another after another,” Morse says.
But just because they can doesn’t necessarily mean they want to: your partner may be ultra-sensitive post-orgasm, which might make her wary of further stimulation. You should always check in and make sure your partner is up for Round 2 before trying anything further.
How long does a refractory period generally last?
Refractory periods are different for every guy. “Some men can be ready in a half hour or less, and others may take hours or even a full day,” says Morse.
You may have noticed that the length of your refractory period changes at different points in your life. “Recovery depends on age, how much arousal you get in between sessions, hormones, and your overall health,” Brahmbhatt says. “Studies have found teenagers can take minutes to recover, while men in their 30 and 40s can take 30-60 minutes or longer. There is no hard and fast rule on how quickly you will recover.”
Can you do anything to shorten your refractory period?
While it’s often a good idea to let your body rest, if you really want to be able to go again ASAP, there are a few things you can do to try and shorten your refractory period.
“Increasing arousal is the fastest way for guys to get back into the game,” Morse says. “This could be doing something different, like trying out a toy or talking dirty (or dirtier than usual). Even small changes can be just the novelty and excitement needed to rev up the engines for round two.”
Getting into shape can also help to reduce your refractory period, “The fitter you are, the better your hormones will be able to regulate themselves,” says Brahmbhatt.
If you’re looking for external help, there are supplements that claim to be able to get you harder, faster — but you should be extremely wary of them, says Brahmbhatt. “There is no hard science backing up the proposed claims. Plus, supplements are not FDA-regulated so what you think you are taking, may not be what you are taking.” Instead, you can try manual penile pumps or cock rings to help speed up the process.
And remember that if your partner wants to go again ASAP, you can always pass the time by getting her off again, which should help to get you in the mood for Round Two.
“Remember that guys don’t need an erection to give pleasure to their partners,” Morse says. “Just because he’s not ready to go again, doesn’t mean a female partner isn’t ready for more. As long as he has his hands and fingers, he’s more than equipped to keep the party going.”