Sven Wombwell
Article by: Sven Wombwell
Estimated 9 minutes read

Referred to as the refractory period, after reaching the peak of sexual pleasure, men become less responsive to further sexual stimulation. This is a common experience, completely normal, and a natural part of our body's functioning.

The exciting part is that you can shorten this 'break' by taking specific steps. In this article, we'll discuss the refractory period, what it means for most people, and how to get back to action faster.

What is the Refractory Period? 

In sexual health and urology, the refractory period is a phenomenon that has sparked the interest of researchers and clinicians alike. The term "refractory period" describes a period in the sexual response cycle that follows an orgasm or ejaculation. During this period, a person cannot have another orgasm or multiple orgasms. 

When this occurs in men, they find it hard to have a penile erection and satisfy their sexual desires. During this period, you're not able to respond (physiologically or psychologically) to sexual stimulation. Your blood pressure and pulse rate drop, and the brain produces hormones like prolactin and oxytocin. Your dopamine level also drops, encouraging your body to rest and recover during this period. 

Does Everyone Experience a Refractory Period? 

Regardless of your gender, everyone experiences the refractory period. The refractory period is not a standalone phase. It is the final stage of a four-human sexual response cycle. These four stages happen to both men and women while engaging in sexual activities.

  • Excitement Phase: During this phase, you may experience increased muscle tension. Your heart rate and breathing increase, and your skin becomes flushed. Then, increased blood flow into your genitals causes an erection or swelling in the vulva and clitoris.
  • Plateau Phase: During this phase, the sensitivity of the woman's clitoris increases. Then it starts retracting under the clitoris hood to avoid stimulation by the penis. In men, the testicles retract into the scrotum. 
  • Orgasm Phase: During this stage, you may experience an intensity of blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing at its highest. In women, a sudden release of sexual tension follows. Then, the virginal muscle contracts with rhythmic contractions in the uterus. And for men, orgasm is the rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis, followed by semen ejaculation. 
  • Resolution Phase: In this final stage, the body returns to its normal state. All the swollen and erected body parts return to their usual size and color. And an intense sense of accomplishment and fatigue follows - also called the recovery time.

Why Does The Refractory Period Happen?

As a man, you often feel calm after ejaculating. This is because your brain releases hormones that make you feel relaxed. These include serotonin and oxytocin. Levels of which increase significantly after ejaculation.

This increase is more notable in men, who feel relaxed for some time before they can continue. These hormones act on nerves in the penis, temporarily blocking another erection.

One hormone often associated with sex, especially in men, is testosterone. However, high testosterone levels increase sex drive in both sexes. For example, men taking testosterone replacement therapy experience restored energy and explosive sex drive, among other benefits. This means that if you have high testosterone levels, you may be able to get going faster. 

However, it's important to note some studies show testosterone reduces after ejaculation. Others find no correlation between sexual activity and testosterone. Also, while we can explain how this refractory period happens, explaining the exact purpose of this period isn't currently possible. 

The Male Refractory Period and The Female Refractory Period

Indeed, everyone experiences the refractory period. However, there is a difference in how it affects men and women. 

Men typically experience a more pronounced refractory period, which can vary in duration from a few minutes to potentially even days. Sexual activity can exert a more significant physical toll on men than women. Men must become physically aroused once more and attain an erection to resume sexual activity.

However, the refractory period isn't as clear-cut in women. The neurotransmitters the brain releases to stabilize the body after orgasm affect women differently. It's possible for women to orgasm and the refractory phase to only a few seconds before they can start sex again. Because of the very little time it takes for women to recover, it can go almost unnoticed by both parties.

Factors Affecting The Refractory Period 

The refractory period for men is different than for women, but it still varies significantly in individuals of the same sex. In men specifically, it can take a few minutes or even a few days. However, varying factors can contribute to how long both sexes experience it. These factors include:

Age significantly impacts the refractory period. As we get older, our sexual health and desire decrease, requiring more time for recovery after orgasm. On average, men typically need around 30 minutes to recover. But a 20-year-old may need only 15 minutes, while a 70-year-old might require up to 20 hours.

1. Libido and Arousal Level:

Someone with a high libido (sexual drive) who is aroused during sex may experience a shorter refractory period. This is because intense arousal can lead to a more rapid recovery after orgasm. A lower libido or arousal level might experience a longer refractory period. This can make it quite challenging to return to being ready for sex after orgasm.

2. Overall Health:

A person's heart health can impact their refractory period. Good cardiovascular health ensures proper blood flow, including to the genital area, for achieving and sustaining an erection. People with good heart health may have shorter refractory periods as their bodies recover more quickly. Conversely, those with poor heart health might experience longer refractory periods.

3. Type of Sexual Experience:

The type of sexual experience you have also influences your refractory period. Solo masturbation might result in a shorter refractory period, while sexual intercourse with a partner could lead to a longer one. This happens because certain hormones, like prolactin, dopamine, and oxytocin, surge more during partner sex than masturbation.

4. Sexual Function/Dysfunction:

Having healthy sexual function often results in shorter refractory periods. Conversely, if you're dealing with sexual issues like ED or premature ejaculation, achieving an erection shortly after an orgasm can be challenging. In such cases, your body may require more time to return to an aroused state.

5. Post-coital tristesse (PCT):

Post-coital tristesse (PCT), referred to as post-coital dysphoria (PCD, or post-sex blues, relates to feelings of sadness or anxiety following orgasm. This condition derives its name from the Neo-Latin term "postcoitalis" and the French word "tristesse," which translates to "sadness." Individuals affected by PCT often encounter intense feelings of anxiety that can persist from five minutes to two hours after sexual activity.

All these factors affect whether you will experience a short or long refractory period.

How Can You Reduce Your Average Refractory Period? 

There are a few ways to reduce your refractory period, including using erectile dysfunction medications. 

How Erectile Dysfunctions (ED) Medications Work

ED medications increase blood flow throughout the body and into your penis when you feel sexually aroused. These ED medications, also called PDE5 inhibitors, work by inhibiting the PDE5 enzyme, which serves as the erection's shut-off mechanism.

A natural substance known as cGMP instructs the penis' blood vessels to widen and swell with blood during an erection. Blood arteries constrict, and PDE5 breaks down blood drains from the penis as cGMP. Blood arteries continue to be dilated when PDE5 is blocked, extending erections or making them easier to obtain when you're sexually active.

Using Ed medications to shorten the refractory period isn't FDA-approved, but studies prove they are effective. 

Do ED Meds Shorten the Refractory Period

One study shows that 40% of the male participants, on average 32 years old, said that using sildenafil shortened the refractory time. It was cut down by 9.4 minutes, from a median length of 14.9 minutes to 5.5 minutes. This research shows sildenafil stays in the bloodstream for 3 to 4 hours, enabling blood flow to the penis throughout. This could help shorten the refractory period by allowing blood to flow to the penis faster after a previous climax.

The various types of FDA-approved Ed medications are Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), Stendra (avanafil), and Levitra (vardenafil). 

Other Ways to Shorten The Refractory Period

There are other ways to shorten your refractory period without using Ed medications. Here are some natural methods and techniques: 

  • Pay Close Attention To Your Health: To shorten your refractory period, you should focus on your general well-being. This applies particularly to cardiovascular health. Good cardiovascular function helps blood flow in the body, which enables you to achieve and maintain an erection. 
  • Try Different Sexual Techniques and Engage in Foreplay and Stimulation: To reduce your refractory period, explore different sexual techniques and positions that might offer prolonged pleasure. Also, try to engage in extended foreplay and sensual stimulation before having sexual intercourse. This might lead to heightened arousal and may reduce the refractory period.
  • Regular Exercise, Hydration, and Healthy Eating: These three things can help shorten your refractory period. Most issues about sex life stem from either a poor diet, dehydration, or being unfit. However, fusing these routines into your daily life can help shorten your refractory period and improve your general wellness. 
  • Reduce your Alcohol consumption: Often, sexual dysfunction results from excess alcohol intake. So, to enjoy a shorter refractory period, you should limit alcohol and choose healthy living. 

Are You Ready for Round Two? 

Many people get excited about having longer-lasting sex with their partners. But sometimes, even when your mind wants it, your body doesn't cooperate. Understanding the refractory period is a bit like studying how our bodies can trick our minds. It helps us see how physical and mental aspects affect our sexual experiences and sometimes don't collaborate.

Although there are no FDA-approved medications for shortening the refractory period, various studies have shown that it is possible. You can achieve this by trying exercises that improve blood flow, eating healthy, and exploring new sexual positions.

Still, you can also consider the use of ED medications. Don't know which ED meds to use? Male Excel can answer this for you. 

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