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The Refractory Period

If you're wondering why you always fall asleep after sex. It's called the refractory period and we've got all the details for you.

The Promescent Team
Hands on, practical experience – this is our expertise

by The Promescent Team Last updated 04/25/2022

What is the refractory period?

Post-orgasm, both male and female bodies go through a recovery phase to restore normality after their stages of arousal.

This is a period of time that men go through after ejaculating. The amount of time differs for every man, but the symptoms are all the same.

When men go through the refractory period, they are unable to get an erection, and their body has little to no physical response to sexual stimulus.

Bummer, huh? It doesn’t have to be.

Like passengers stuck on a plane waiting to take off, air traffic control’s got you on a ground hold, and you just have to wait it out. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

If your partner is still raring to go and you’re mentally in the mood, try sex toys

or other partner-focused activities to fill the time.

You just might need to consider you could be waiting a while, depending on your age.

Quick FAQs

The refractory period is described as the recovery period after ejaculation or when arousal subsides. For men, this means a time period of inability to achieve a secondary erection until you feel a physical response to sexual stimulus.

Physicians believe hormones are at the root of the refractory period. Both men and women experience increases in the hormones prolactin and serotonin after orgasm. Both of which inhibit your ability to get your next erection.

The refractory period is still a fairly new diagnosis, and researchers have not found a solution that specifically targets curing symptoms of the refractory period.

What Causes the Refractory Period?

Physicians believe hormones are at the root of the refractory period.

Both men and women experience increases in the hormones prolactin and serotonin after orgasm. Both of which inhibit your ability to get your next erection.

Charles Walker, M.D., assistant professor of urology and cofounder of Yale’s Cardiovascular and Sexual Health Clinic, explains to Greatist that the sympathetic nervous system — which controls our body’s fight vs. flight response — releases neurotransmitters to calm the body down after ejaculation.

Those neurotransmitters also cause the muscles in the penis to contract and make you go flaccid.

Those neurotransmitters increase the production of prolactin that slows your body’s roll (so to speak).

You also get a decrease in the production of testosterone post-orgasm, which adds to the reproductive system’s pushing on the brakes.

And, what’s worse, there isn’t much you can do about it until the levels normalize again. At least, that’s what the theories have concluded so far.

A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Urology International 

noted that there could be new theories on what triggers the refractory period on the horizon.

The study in the BJUI posed that because men and women respond differently after orgasm, it could be more than just hormones that lead to the reaction in the body.

Certainly food for thought. In the meantime, you still have to wait a while before going at it again.

Timing (and age) is Everything

So, exactly how long do you have to wait? Well, as you age, the male refractory period gets longer.

That means the older you are, the longer it will likely take for you to get aroused and maintain an erection.

According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, young men don’t have long to wait:

Younger men may need only a few minutes of recovery time, but older men usually have a longer refractory period, sometimes between 12 to 24 hours. For some men, the refractory period can last a few days.

Medical professionals don’t know specifically why refractory periods vary so widely, but they do know it has nothing to do with potency or testosterone levels.

Feeling impatient? No drugs have been approved specifically to shorten the male refractory period, but research has shown that erectile-dysfunction drugs like Viagra or Cialis may help shorten the refractory period.

Do Women have a Refractory Period?

Ladies, get ready for some good news! You don’t really experience a refractory period, at least not in the same way that men do.

You might not really feel like getting it on so soon after orgasm, but it’s not the same type of physical response.

So gents, while you’re waiting to go again, whether it’s a few minutes or a whole day later, just relax and bask in that post-coital glow.

Your partner may be ready to go again soon — it wouldn’t hurt to turn a little of that sexual energy towards them until your time comes!

How to Avoid the Refractory Period

Once you’ve ejaculated, your waiting period kicks in before you can get an erection and get to it again. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prolong your sexual pleasure and your partner’s.

Try concentrating on foreplay before beginning penetrative sex to get your partner on your level.

Focusing on their pleasure and trying to bring them closer to the brink of orgasm before penetrative sex, you’ll help close the orgasm gap and hopefully allow you to orgasm at the same time.

Or, try using a product like Promescent Delay Spray; it's been proven to increase the time it takes to orgasm by up to 64 percent.

Both of these methods mean you’ll be less likely to have to wait through your refractory period to ensure your partner is satisfied — and more likely to collapse in a sexy, exhausted heap together when you’re done.

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The Promescent Team
The Promescent Team

Our team has over a decade of experience in the sexual wellness field and are experts in sexual dysfunctions, like premature ejaculation. We help couples and individuals better understand treatment options available for different types of sexual needs and educate the public on all things related to intimacy. All of our authored content is medically reviewed for accuracy and reliability.

Sources:

Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC (Promescent) has strict informational citing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic or research institutions, medical associations, and medical experts. We attempt to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references and only citing trustworthy sources. Each article is reviewed, written, and updated by Medical Professionals or authoritative Experts in a specific, related field of practice. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Chris G McMahon, Bronwyn G A Stuckey, Morten Andersen, Kenneth Purvis, Nandan Koppiker, Scott Haughie, Mitra Boolell. 2005, May. Efficacy of sildenafil citrate (Viagra) in men with premature ejaculation. National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16422868/
  • International Society for Sexual Medicine Staff. (n.d). What is the refractory period?. International Society for Sexual Medicine. https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-the-refractory-period/
  • Kenneth R. Turley, David L. Rowland. 2013, March 7. Evolving ideas about the male refractory period. https://bjui-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bju.12011
  • Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST. 2015, December 3. The Refractory Period: The Real Reason for Breaks Between Orgasms. https://greatist.com/play/male-refractory-period

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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