Wet Dream Background

Just as nocturnal erections are spontaneous erections that occur during sleep so nocturnal emissions are the emission or ejaculation of semen while sleeping.  Nocturnal emissions are commonly called wet dreams since they are typically accompanied by a dream. 

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Just as nocturnal erections are spontaneous erections that occur during sleep so nocturnal emissions are the emission or ejaculation of semen while sleeping.  Nocturnal emissions are commonly called wet dreams since they are typically accompanied by a dream. 

Throughout this site we will most often refer to nocturnal emissions as wet dreams.  To date, there have been few studies on wet dreams.  In fact, one of the only studies performed was a survey performed by the Indonesian Ministry of Health in 2012.[i]  However, since this survey only looked at one ethnic group, it was unknown if the results were similar to men of other ethnic and religious backgrounds.  Because so little was known about wet dreams, we conducted two surveys in adult men worldwide about their experiences with wet dreams to improve the knowledge base regarding this often understudied event that occurs in most men.

These surveys showed that one-third of men experience their first ejaculation as a wet dream.  Wet dreams occur in most men at some point in life.  Our survey in 370 men found that 92% of men had experienced a wet dream at some point in their life while 8% had not.  So even though wet dreams may be thought of as being universal to men, nearly one in twelve men will may not experience a wet dream during their lifetime.  Wet dreams are thought to be triggered in part by excessive sexual fluid buildup, so ejaculating by other means (masturbation or sexual activity) may prevent the necessity of having a wet dream.  In fact, of the 8% of men in our study who had never had a wet dream, 93% of them masturbated regularly since the onset of puberty while the other 7% masturbated occasionally (likely enough to prevent wet dreams).

 

 

WHY WET DREAMS OCCUR

The male body becomes sexually functional about a year or so after puberty begins.  Wet dreams or nocturnal emissions begin about one year after a young man is able to ejaculate through manual stimulation (masturbation).  This may be due in part to the fact that wet dreams are nature’s way of eliminated congested sexual glands.  During the first year or so, a young man’s body may be able to resorb more seminal fluids than he produces.  When wet dreams start occurring, it is a sign that sexual development has reached a point where the young man is producing more seminal fluid than his body can resorb.  It may also be a sign that testosterone levels are sufficiently high enough to trigger spontaneous nocturnal erections with enough frequency and intensity to cause a wet dream.  As erections become more frequent, additional seminal fluid is produced during sleep, and ejaculation becomes more likely during sleep. 

As testosterone increases, sexual desires and libido can come into play causing dreams that can be sexual in nature.  Although little is known academically about wet dreams, we do know that they occur during REM sleep.  REM is the cycle of sleep where nocturnal erections and dreams occur – thus wet dreams are often accompanied by vivid dreams.  Many men report having sexual dreams, which is fairly common as dreams are often the brains way of sorting through unresolved input received.  As the body sends sexual sensations to the central nervous system they can be implemented into a sexual dream and vis versa.   However, sexual dreams are not always present as they are not required for a man to ejaculate during a wet dream.  Some men may dream about urinating, others may dream they are in a high stress situation like being late for work or school.  Still others have random dreams or don’t remember the dream at all.  In short, what we do know is that during REM sleep, the ejaculation generator in the spinal cord can trigger the signals that start ejaculation. 

AGE WHICH WET DREAMS BEGIN

The age at which wet dreams begin has also been poorly studied; however, it is generally believed that wet dreams start occurring a year of more after a boy is sexually mature enough to ejaculate through sexual stimulation.  Overall, our survey found that wet dreams occur in 60% of young men before they are 15 years old.  However, since not all men experienced their first ejaculation as a wet dream, we also looked at men who reported having had a wet dream as their first ejaculation. 

Nearly half of all men reported their first wet dream occurred at age 13 to 14, with one-fourth having a wet dream at age 12 or younger and the other one-fourth not having a wet dream until age 15 or later.  Our results for age at first wet dream are as follows:

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KNOWLEDGE OF WET DREAMS BEFORE FIRST WET DREAM

Unfortunately, wet dreams often come as a surprise to young men.  In some, having a wet dream can cause anxiety as they feel they may have wet the bed or that something is wrong with their urine.  We surveyed 206 men and asked where they had first learned about wet dreams and found that nearly half had not been told that wet dreams would occur before they had their first wet dream.  Results are shown below.  Keep in mind men were allowed to indicated multiple choices if they had been informed in multiple ways.

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WHEN WET DREAMS OCCUR

Wet dreams can occur at any time during sleep, but are oftentimes more common at certain times of the night than at others.   In addition, wet dreams are not always confined to night sleeping and it isn’t unusual for men to experience wet dreams during a daytime nap. 

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Our survey found the following times being most common times men had wet dreams:

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CONSCIOUSNESS DURING WET DREAMS

Some men wake up just as orgasm and emission is beginning while others sleep completely through ejaculation, sometimes not awakening until long after ejaculation has occurred.  

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In one of our studies, we surveyed 174 men and found the following in regards to awareness (consciousness) during wet dreams:

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PREDICTING/PREVENTING WET DREAMS

Even though wet dreams are a normal and natural function of the male reproductive system, men can have issues that arise from wet dreams.  In fact, our survey found that one-third of men felt that they had wet dreams at an abnormal frequency.  They felt they had wet dreams either too frequently (18% of men) or not frequently enough (14% of men). 

Most “issues” men face with wet dreams come from not knowing when they’re going to have one.  In some cases, men worry that it will occur at the “worst possible time” (such as a vacation or campout with friends).  Currently there are no ways to predict when a wet dream will occur.  It’s simply a natural function that works on Mother Nature’s timetable. 

[i] Indonesia Demographic and Health Survey, Adolescent Reproductive Health, 2012, Statistics Indonesia, National Population and Family Planning Board, Ministry of Health, Jakarta Indonesia.

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