Erectile Dysfunction

Impaired Sleep-related Penile Erections

Nocturnal Penile Tumescence

Sleep-related Painful Erection

Painful erections during sleep

The medical term is sleep-related painful erection.  The individual suffers from pain in their penis during sleep. It affects men in their 40s. There are no anatomical or physiological problems with the penis. Neurological exam is usually normal. No one knows what causes this problem (there are only hypotheses).  It does not run in families and not genetic. Penile erection is typically normal during wakefulness.  

Sleep-related painful erection typically occurs in stage REM sleep. Sleep is overall disrupted and the affected individual suffers from frequent awakenings and sleep loss. During the day, they feel tired, have low energy and can experience tension. They commonly suffer from anxiety, but it is not related to any psychiatric illness.

Diagnosis can be confirmed with a sleep study (polysomnogram) at specialized sleep centers. During the study, a special technique, called nocturnal penile tumescence recording, demonstrates painful erections typically during REM sleep stage, although it may occur during non-REM sleep such as stage 2.  REM sleep makes up 20-25% of total sleep time in cycles.


  • Talk to your doctor.
  • You might need to see the urologist first to make sure there are no anatomical problems.
  • Consider seeing a sleep specialist in a specialized sleep center who is familiar with this condition. Find a sleep center that performs the nocturnal penile tumescence recording.