Wet Dream Frequency

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For many religious men, wet dreams are the only acceptable form of ejaculation prior to sexual intimacy within marriage.  Because of this, many young men worry about what is normal or what to do when wet dreams either occur “too often” or “not often enough”.  Typically, the body regulates the timing (even if it’s not always the best).  Many young men worry about having wet dreams at sleep overs, on vacation, or other times when it isn’t convenient.  There is currently no way to predict, cause, or prevent a wet dream from occurring.  Wet dream frequency varies from one man to the next and even from one year to the next in the same man.  There are a few factors that affect wet dream frequency that we studied for Men's Health Handbook.

EFFECTS OF MASTURBATION ON WET DREAM FREQUENCY ​

First, wet dreams are nature’s way of eliminating excess seminal fluids.  As stated previously, frequency of wet dreams usually decreases significantly during times when ejaculation is occurring by other means (masturbation or sexual activity).  Since sexual activity increases in adulthood, we asked men in our survey to indicate how frequently the remembered having wet dreams as a teenager.  Our study found that increased masturbation rates significantly decreased wet dream rates.  When we compared men who stopped masturbating, their rates were similar to men who had never masturbated.  Overall, more than half of men who masturbated regularly rarely if ever had wet dreams compared to just one-fourth of men who didn’t masturbate.  The general results of our study are shown below:

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The specific wet dream frequency in these men is shown below:

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EFFECTS OF AGE ON WET DREAM FREQUENCY

Age can be a factor in wet dream frequency, but not as much as we once thought, and the decrease in wet dream frequency may be more of a factor involving increased sexually activity as an adult rather than age.    Clinical trials have also shown that the frequency of wet dreams increases in young men who had low testosterone that receive testosterone replacement.[i]  Since testosterone levels drop with age, so wet dream frequency may as well.  However, even as testosterone levels may drop, ejaculation functionality often peaks during the child bearing years (20's and early 30's).  This can result in some men having more frequent wet dreams as adults than they did as teens if they are sexually inactive and don’t masturbate.  To determine the frequency of wet dreams without having sexual activity and masturbation being a confounder, we gather information from men where were sexually inactive and did not masturbate for at least one year as teens (115 men) or as adults (85 men). We found that lack of wet dreams or rare wet dreams were more common in adults than in teens.  This may be due to lowering levels of testosterone.  However, the rates of frequent wet dreams (more often than once a month, were almost exactly the same in the teen years and adult years.

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EFFECTS OF SLEEPING POSITION ON WET DREAM FREQUENCY

Different sleeping positions apply different pressure to the penis during nocturnal erections and may change the frequency of wet dreams.

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One survey we performed asked men what position they were sleeping in when they experienced wet dreams.  This may have some impact on how regularly men experienced wet dreams.  Back sleepers were far more likely to have wet dreams every month to every few months while side sleepers were more likely to have wet dreams every week to two weeks.  Stomach sleepers were on both extremes, as the most likely to not have wet dreams as well as the most likely to have extremely frequent wet dreams.  Incidence rates adult men who were not sexually active and did not masturbate are as follows:

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UNDERWEAR EFFECTS ON WET DREAM FREQUENCY

One of our surveys asked men what type of underwear they were wearing to see if wet dream frequency varied depending on whether an individual wore looser fitting boxers or tighter fitting briefs. 

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The results found that the choice of underwear had very little impact on wet dream frequency (even men who slept nude had little difference from men who wore underwear).  However, the numbers do see to lean toward men who wore briefs having wet dreams more frequently than men who wore looser fitting underwear.  This may be due to increase physical stimulation of the penis as nocturnal erections press against tighter fitting underclothing, thus increasing some stimulation and possibly making ejaculation more likely.  Below are the results of the survey:

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INDIVIDUAL VARIATION

However, perhaps the biggest contributor on how often a man has a wet dream is based on his own unique physiology.  Individual men may have a nervous system that is more sensitive to input that triggers wet dreams thus triggering more frequent wet dreams.  In addition, individual men may produce more seminal fluid or resorb excess seminal fluid less efficiently than other men which can increase wet dream frequency.  It’s also important to remember that just because an individual has a wet dream once a month on average doesn’t mean that his body won’t experience multiple wet dreams one week then not experience another wet dream for a couple of months.  This again comes back to fluxes in hormones, sexual fluid production, resorption of excess seminal fluid in addition to ejaculation frequency when awake, age, and sleeping position.

 

 

CONCERNS/ISSUES REGARDING WET DREAM FREQUENCY

As stated in previously, wet dreams are completely normal.  Some websites give the impression that wet dreams are “disorders” that need treatment – nothing could be further from the truth.  They are a natural bodily function and indicate that the male reproductive system is working.  Frequent ejaculation either through sexual activity or masturbation typically causes wet dreams to decrease significantly or cease altogether.  Since masturbation is extremely common, this decreases the number of men (young and old) who experience wet dreams regularly.  Because of this, treatments for the below abnormalities are often overlooked in clinic studies.  However, many religious groups adhere to moral values that prohibit masturbation and sexual activity before marriage.  Because of this, it is important to understand possible issues and treatment options to men who experience issues with wet dreams that may indicate physical disorders of the male reproductive system and cause emotional and spiritual distress in these individuals.

 

However, 18% of men felt wet dreams occurred to frequently while 14% of men felt they didn’t occur frequently enough.  Some men are even concerned that something is abnormal if they have never experienced a wet dream.  

 

Absence of Wet Dreams

The main reason men don’t have wet dreams is most often due to the fact that they are sexually active or masturbate regularly enough that the body does not have excess sexual fluid that needs to be ejaculated through wet dreams.  However, absence of wet dreams can be a concern to some sexually inactive men and young men.  In addition, nearly one-fifth of men in our survey indicated that they have “dry” wet dreams – they experience orgasm but ejaculate little to no semen.  This can also be another cause of never having a wet dream. 

 

In young men just beginning puberty, this occurs because they are not physically mature enough to have a wet dream.  Wet dreams are one of the later stages of puberty a young man will go through.  In fact, a young man will be able to ejaculate through masturbation more than a year before he would naturally start having wet dreams.  This is thought to occur because the body resorbs sexual fluids and the pace of production often doesn’t outstrip the pace of resorption until mid-puberty.  In sexually inactive adult men, wet dreams may cease if testosterone levels drop too low or due to certain testosterone blocking medications like 5-alpha reductase inhibitors.  Some antidepressant medications that increase serotonin can inhibit sexual function and halt wet dreams. 

 

At this point, there are limited treatments for lack of wet dreams.  For younger men, simply watching and waiting will often result in the onset of wet dreams.  Since many young men report they have wet dreams in the morning, it may be worth letting teenage boys sleep in from time to time to allow their bodies the opportunity to ejaculate naturally during sleep.  In adults, if wet dreams have ceased it may be an indication that testosterone levels are too low, in which case testosterone replacement therapy may be warranted for other symptoms (testosterone is not administered to adult men simply so they can have wet dreams).  If medications that increase serotonin are causing the problem, a healthcare provider may suggest changing to another medication.  If switching medications is not an option, a healthcare provider may prescribe cyproheptadine at bedtime from time to time to create a window of opportunity to have a wet dream.  In the case of 5-alpha reductase inhibitors in non-sexually active men over the age of 18, the provider may suggest a drug holiday (stop taking the medications for 7-14 days) to allow a window of opportunity to have a wet dream.  For men with prostatitis or pelvic tension disorder, taking a warm soaking bath that submerges the pelvis prior to bed may help relax the muscles and “loosen” up sexual fluids to make ejaculation easier or more likely.

 

 

Overly Frequent Wet Dreams

 

Overly frequent wet dreams can also be a concern for some men and young men.  In some cases, wet dreams may occur nightly or even multiple times a night.  Regularly having wet dreams every night is rare, and in many cases is a symptom of an overly congested prostate.  This may be due to prostatitis or prostatic congestion.  The first step is to ascertain whether or not there is an underlying problem that is causing the frequent wet dreams.  If so, treatment of that condition typically resolves the issue.  If there is no underlying cause of frequent wet dreams – treatment is usually not necessary.

 

Perhaps the biggest problem these men complain of is the need to up every night or multiple times a night to clean up.  Moving showers from bedtime to mornings can be an easy solution for many men.  However, if frequent wet dreams are bothersome or problematic, then certain medications that inhibit sexual function can sometimes decrease the number of wet dreams.  This may include antidepressants that increase serotonin.  In adults, 5-alpha reductase inhibitors can sometimes be prescribed to reduce the amount of sexual fluids produced in an effort to decrease the frequency of wet dreams.

 

 

Infrequent Wet Dreams

 

Infrequent wet dreams are somewhat relative.  Our survey found that 98% of men had masturbated at some point in their life.  Since masturbation decreases the frequency of wet dreams, it is also the most common cause of wet dream infrequency.

 

However, in men who are sexually inactive and don’t masturbate, the infrequency of wet dreams can either be normal or caused by a disorder.  For some sexually inactive men, wet dreams could be less frequent but heavier.  For example, some men may have a wet dream every week or two that leaves a wet spot the size of a golf ball.  Other men may not get the “full” signal until the sexual glands are more full and may have a wet dream every month or more that ejaculates enough semen to leave a wet spot the size of a tennis ball or baseball.

 

The only study[ii] to date that looked at men with prostatitis found that men who did no masturbate had wet dreams every three to six weeks.  If you feel that you are feeling congested and unable to have wet dreams, seeing a healthcare provider that is knowledgeable about prostatic congestion be helpful or reassuring.

[i] Finkelstein JW, et al. Effects of Estrogen or Testosterone on Self-Reported Sexual Responses and Behaviors in Hypogonadal Adolescents, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 83(7), 1998, 2281-2285.

[ii] Yavaşcaoğlu I, et. al. International Journal of Urology (1999) 6, 130-134.

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