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What are Nocturnal Emissions?

Nocturnal emissions, commonly known as "wet dreams," are involuntary ejaculations that occur during sleep, typically associated with vivid dreams. They're a natural part of sexual development, often starting in puberty. Understanding this phenomenon can ease any concerns about sexual health. Want to uncover the science behind these nighttime occurrences? Let's explore the biological mechanisms and myths surrounding them. What's your take on this natural process?
J.L. Drede
J.L. Drede

Nocturnal emissions are ejaculations and orgasms that occur while a person is sleeping. They can happen to men of all ages, but are most common during the early years of puberty in young adolescence. Nearly all men at one time will experience a nocturnal emission, which are often called wet dreams, and they are considered a normal part of sexual development. Ejaculations during sleep are most common during puberty, between the ages of 12 and 18. For many young adults it is one of the first signs that puberty has begun.

Most scientists agree that there is no set trigger that causes a nocturnal emission. While increased masturbation does seem to have an effect on the frequency of wet dreams, the correlation between the two is not absolute. Many young men masturbate frequently and still experience nocturnal emissions, though they usually have fewer occurrences. Conversely, some men rarely have them even if they don't regularly masturbate.

Women can have erotic dreams that lead to orgasms, just as men can have wet dreams.
Women can have erotic dreams that lead to orgasms, just as men can have wet dreams.

Ejaculations during sleep are most often tied to erotic dreams, but just like masturbation frequency, there is no direct link between the two. Some men will have vivid erotic dreams that lead to a spontaneous orgasm, while others will regularly have erotic dreams but never have a nocturnal emission. Some may wake up during their nocturnal emission, but it is just as common to sleep through it entirely. Others may not even achieve an erection during a nocturnal emission. It simply varies from person to person.

It's common for a person to sleep through nocturnal emissions without waking up.
It's common for a person to sleep through nocturnal emissions without waking up.

While nocturnal emissions are generally thought to be strictly a male phenomenon, women can experience them as well. Just like men, women can have erotic dreams, and they can sometimes lead to orgasms. Unlike men, the evidence of a female orgasm while sleeping is less obvious, and therefore not discussed as much. Also, women tend to have fewer wet dreams than men because their genitals are usually less susceptible to touching and stimulation while sleeping than male genitals can be.

Nocturnal emissions are most common in boys during adolescence and the early years of puberty.
Nocturnal emissions are most common in boys during adolescence and the early years of puberty.

Most medical doctors and child psychologists will say that a parent should not scold a child for experiencing a nocturnal emission since they have no control over them. If a child asks about nocturnal emissions, doctors usually recommend that the parent explain they are a normal part of growing up. A young adult entering puberty is often self-conscious about the changes their body is going through. They should be reassured that what they are experiencing is not unusual and that others their age are most likely having nocturnal emissions as well.

Discussion Comments

anon1006689

I hadn’t had a wet dream in years, with maybe one or two exceptions. Recently I moved into a shared house with the landlady and another guy. She’s attractive but not my type and was actually quite cold towards me. I was really shocked when I had a wet dream over her as it had been so long and I wasn’t thinking about her in a sexual way. A few weeks later I dreamed about her again. We didn’t have sex but I remember she was dressed very sexy and flirting with me. I got drunk with her at Xmas and I told her I’d had wet dreams over her! She was shocked and confused and now I’m totally embarrassed about it. I’ve never told a girl I’d had a wet dream about them before. I think it’s offended her.

anon1006605

I've had erotic dreams before, but my nocturnal emissions were often the result of a type of dream where I am running late for something. Whether I am missing the bus or trying to get to a class on time, I'd be failing to gather multiple items that I would need for the destination I am heading towards but would stumble on the way and in the anxious frustration of running late, the orgasm would arrive. It would then be like the firing of a shotgun, the head of my penis bursting out with semen. Lately I have been trying to cut down on sexual thoughts and masturbation due to religious concerns. I like to think because the subject of my nocturnal emissions (running late) is not inherently sexual, I am free of sin, but I'd be lying if I said the corral of my mind was completely clear of sexual thoughts before bed. One thing is clear and that is the fact that I am less ashamed about nocturnal emissions than when I consciously masturbate. With that said, it would be worth discussing, in a general sense, whether I should feel shame at all when it comes to my nocturnal emissions. I am a 23-year-old man.

anon1005437

Man, wish I could have them again. They were so pleasurable and enjoyable. I guess that I am too old. I would love to every now and then.

anon1003049

I had my first wet dream about 11, holding it in as long as I could since my parents told me never to masturbate. Then one night, I dreamed of my girlfriend and me naked and I guess I was making noise in my sleep because my stepfather came in just as I began orgasm and pulled me out of bed and woke me up so I was standing there in my underwear hard as a rock and spurting in my pants, and my penis head poked out the top of my underwear and it pumped out. He was yelling about me making noise and I tried to stand still but my body was quivering in orgasm and doing little humps when it stiffened and squirted.

anon996669

I really need the cause of nocturnal emission. I've been experiencing it for a while.

anon263545

All I do is if I feel an erection in the morning, is get up and go to the bathroom and go back to sleep and the erection goes away.

anon149560

After an erotic dream, I was awakened with a powerful orgasm. For the next hour, I had one every one to two minutes and stopped counting after 50. I finally made myself get up and use the bathroom. As good as it felt, I had to get some sleep! What's going on? I am 60 years old and have not been sexually active in over ten years.

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    • Women can have erotic dreams that lead to orgasms, just as men can have wet dreams.
      By: 9nong
      Women can have erotic dreams that lead to orgasms, just as men can have wet dreams.
    • It's common for a person to sleep through nocturnal emissions without waking up.
      By: Phase4Photography
      It's common for a person to sleep through nocturnal emissions without waking up.
    • Nocturnal emissions are most common in boys during adolescence and the early years of puberty.
      By: stillkost
      Nocturnal emissions are most common in boys during adolescence and the early years of puberty.
    • Children entering puberty may experience nocturnal emissions.
      By: Darrin Henry
      Children entering puberty may experience nocturnal emissions.
    • Nocturnal emissions are most common between the ages of 12 and 18.
      By: Luis Louro
      Nocturnal emissions are most common between the ages of 12 and 18.