Medication for erectile dysfunction is proven to be highly effective in helping you get an erection when you’re sexually stimulated and keep it long enough to have sex. But once the deed is done, how long will it be until you’re ready to go again, and can Sildenafil help shorten this downtime we call the ‘refractory period’?

What is the refractory period?

Unlike women, who can achieve what men consider the holy grail of life itself, multiple orgasms, men are limited to the one. And after it happens, it’s pretty obvious it isn’t going to be happening again anytime soon. Even men with the greatest sexual appetite and stamina will experience some downstairs downtime. The penis is completely flaccid and not likely to become erect, even with stimulation.

The exact length of the refractory period varies from one man to the next, with a few factors usually having an influence. One common factor is age – the older you are, the longer your refractory period is likely to last. While teenage boys may only need to wait a few minutes before they can get aroused again, a 30-year-old will likely have to wait upwards of half an hour. The 50s-and-over bracket may only be able to have one orgasm a day – so says Harvard Urology Professor Abraham Morgentaler, M.D.

Most of the time, having to wait a little while before being erect again isn’t too much of a problem. Post-sex sex isn’t something that’s regularly necessary. But if you’re finding that it takes longer than normal for you to get an erection again after sex, there are a whole bunch of reasons why this might be. It could be that you’re simply not turned on, it could be your emotional state, or it may just be down to the number of beers you’ve had that evening. If these lengthy sessions of downtime become frequent, they can get in the way of you enjoying your sex life to the fullest.

So, can ED medication help you get back down to business more quickly?

How ED treatment might help reduce post-sex downtime

To understand one argument for the use of Sildenafil as a way to reduce the refractory period, we’ll need to take a closer look at the biology of the male body. When you have an erection, it’s thanks to a chemical called cGMP. This chemical is responsible for the dilation of your penile blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the penis and making it hard. Once you have ejaculated, most of the cGMP has been broken down, leaving little left of it in your body to allow for round two.

But throw Sildenafil into the mix and it’s a very different story. The medication works by acting as a PDE5 inhibitor – PDE5 being the enzyme responsible for breaking down the cGMP. So, while the body is usually depleted of cGMP after orgasm, if Sildenafil has been taken, there will still be cGMP leftover – potentially enough to stimulate blood vessel relaxation and allow for a second erection and orgasm much sooner.

A number of studies have been carried out to put Sildenafil to the test and see if it does, in fact, have a shortening effect on the refractory period. One such study from 2003 found that out of 60 young men taking Sildenafil, 40% reported a significant reduction in the time between orgasming and being able to achieve an erection again. The median refractory time before taking Sildenafil was 14.9 minutes, which reduced to 5.5 minutes after taking the medication – that’s a reduction of 9.4 minutes. Of the control group, who received placebo pills, it was just 13% who reported an improvement, where the median time dropped by just over a minute – an insignificant change.

Although proof remains limited due to a lack of research, many are convinced by the findings to date, including Chicago urologist Dr Laurence A. Levine. He confirms, “The erectile refractory period can be shortened by Viagra. That is to say, if a man is on Viagra and ejaculates, with restimulation of the penis, he will be able to obtain a satisfactory erection to engage in sex more quickly than if he was not on it.”

The erectile refractory period can be shortened by Viagra. That is to say, if a man is on Viagra and ejaculates, with restimulation of the penis, he will be able to obtain a satisfactory erection to engage in sex more quickly than if he was not on it.

Dr Laurence A. Levine

Why Sildenafil may not be enough to reduce the refractory period

The human body is a complex thing, and while we did go into a little detail about how it works on a chemical level, there’s much more to it in reality. Along with the cGMP that’s causing an erection and the PDE5 that breaks it down, there are hormones including serotonin and prolactin having their own effects on your body, too.

The hormone most strongly associated with the men’s refractory period is prolactin, as it essentially counteracts arousal entirely – the lower your levels of prolactin, the more easily you’ll be able to achieve an erection. This explains why orgasming through self-pleasure often leads to a much shorter refractory period than that experienced after having sex – the amount of prolactin released after sex is four times higher than the amount released after masturbation. It may sound like you’re paying a bigger price for having sex, but it just means your body has had a bit more fun and needs a bit more rest.

Working in tandem with prolactin is the more well-known hormone serotonin. Regularly hailed for being the holy fountain of happiness and wellbeing, it does have one other effect on the body – putting it to sleep. The body releases a healthy dose of serotonin after sex which not only makes you feel pretty good about what just happened but also makes you feel sleepy enough not to want to try again right away.

So, in order for Sildenafil to work as a means of shortening the refractory period, it needs to overcome high levels of prolactin and serotonin, both of which are working hard to ensure sex won’t be happening any time soon.

Can I use Sildenafil to shorten my refractory period?

While there is some scientific theory that suggests Sildenafil could have dual functions – treating ED and reducing the refractory period – the latter is yet to be officially confirmed. The truth is, simply not enough scientific research has been done on the subject matter, which means labelling and approving it as a pharmaceutical treatment is not yet possible.

Most anecdotes of personal experiences do tell stories of success, so if you are using Sildenafil to treat ED, you might just find a shorter refractory period is an added bonus of your medication. We’re not saying you’ll be able to keep going all night, but round two could very well be on the cards.

As for those of you who don’t suffer from ED, but would like to see if Sildenafil could help you recover from sex faster, you’ll just have to wait until the men in lab coats can produce some more substantive results.

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