Penis Pain From Nocturnal Erections

Aside from people with fetishes in this area, no one really enjoys feelings of pain, and men especially tend to avoid anything that causes penis pain. Fortunately, careful attention to good penis health often reduces the chances of unwanted penis pain, but there are always exceptions. Certainly, accidents involving the penis and a zipper can happen, for example. But some men experience a different kind of penis pain, one which is related to the erections they experience over the course of the night.


In recent years, scientists and researchers have identified a condition known as sleep related painful erections, or SRPEs for short. Doctors at a clinic in the Netherlands conducted a retrospective study that looked at men who visited the clinic between the years 1996 and 2015 and were diagnosed as having SRPEs. They excluded men who presented with evidence of other conditions which might account for their painful erections. For example, men who were diagnosed with Peyronie’s disease, which is often marked by penis pain during erections, and some intact men whose penis pain was related to a swollen glans and/or too-tight foreskin were not counted.

So what are the characteristics of SRPEs? Basically, a man who was considered to have SRPE if he experienced erections while he slept that were so painful that they woke him from his sleep. (Most of the time, such erections occur during the rapid eye movement, or REM, portion of sleep.) But the erect penis pain should be limited to sleeping hours; if a man has pain-free erections during the day, he generally is excluded from classification of having SRPE.

The study

The study looked at 24 men who fit the criteria. The average time between the onset of the problem and the time they sought help at the clinic was 2 ½ years, indicating that there is some squeamishness about admitting to having this problem. This is not necessarily unusual when it comes to penis health issues, unfortunately.

The number of painful erections experienced in the course of a night ranged from 1 to 10, with the median number being 3. In 45% of the men, the erection lasted less than 15 minutes; only in 18% did it last for an hour. Testosterone levels did not appear to be higher than normal.

In addition to penis pain, the men tended to report fatigue due to poor sleep.


Much is still being learned about SRPE, and doctors are still determining what might be the best treatment method. Many men with SRPE find that urinating or walking around after waking up will cause the erection to fade.

In terms of preventive treatment, the study found that a particular muscle relaxer seemed to offer significant help, decreasing or eliminating SRPEs in a significant number of the men. However, it does appear that this treatment is effective only while being taken; after discontinuing treatment, SRPEs often return. And there are side effects to the medication which may discourage some men from using it on a continuing basis.

Other medications were used on some patients, with varying results. A larger prospective study is needed to better examine the treatment options and learn more about the pros and cons of each one.

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