Learn about the refractory period, which refers to the interval between sexual climax and the resurgence of sexual responsiveness.
Refractory period.

As you lay in bed with your partner, she may be ready to jump your bones only minutes after climaxing, but your body doesn't seem to want to cooperate.

What you're experiencing is called the post-ejaculatory refractory period.

Continue reading to discover the reasons behind the refractory period, its distinctions from the female refractory period, and the potential for its reduction.

In this article:

Note: Read the whole article or scroll down to the KEY TAKEAWAYS section at the end of this article for a short summary.


  • The time it takes men to recover after climaxing is shown to increase proportionally with their age. Even though some men's sexual activity remains consistent year after year, a 70-year-old is less likely to achieve the same levels of physical or psychological arousal as a 20-year-old.  
  • Although both men and women experience a drop in sexual desire after orgasm, the refractory period varies widely between these two populations. Generally speaking, the male refractory period can last from a few minutes to hours or even days. In contrast, the female refractory period may only last a few seconds before they can orgasm again.
  • The most common factors that affect men's refractory period include age, libido, type of sexual experience, sexual functioning, and overall health and fitness levels.
ALSO READ: How to Last Longer in Bed: 13 Actionable Tips for Men

What Is the Refractory Period?

The refractory period is a fancy way to describe the time following ejaculation when a person is not sexually responsive.

The refractory, or "recovery period" is the fourth stage of a man's sexual response cycle. During sexual activity, a man enters the excitement stage, followed by a plateau and orgasm before arriving at his refractory or resolution stage.

Phases of Sexual Response Cycle Characteristics
Phase 1: Excitement Heart rate, breathing rate, and muscle tension rise, while blood flow to the genitals increases.
Phase 2: Plateau Muscles remain tense. In men, the penis retracts against the body, while in women, the clitoris withdraws under the clitoral hood.
Phase 3: Orgasm Muscles tighten and release, causing a flushed appearance. In men, pelvic muscles contract to aid ejaculation.
Phase 4: Resolution Heart rate and blood pressure decrease, muscles relax, and your body becomes less responsive to sexual stimulation, marking the beginning of the refractory period.

The sexual response cycle consists of four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. These phases are shared by both genders, although the timing often varies as it's not uncommon for both partners to reach orgasm at the same time

The refractory period varies from person to person and age groups. It can take a few minutes to several hours and sometimes even days to recover. During this period, men experience difficulties getting an erection and may temporarily lose interest in sex.

ALSO READ: Sexual Performance Anxiety: What to Know

Why Does the Refractory Period Happen?

Women also excrete prolactin during orgasm but are also ready to get busy immediately following intercourse.

The refractory period is a mysterious phenomenon. While most men and some women would agree that it's real, research does not give us a conclusive answer as to why the refractory period occurs.

However, several evolving ideas and theories may help provide some insight into this phenomenon.

1. Post-orgasm Prolactin Secretion May Cause the Refractory Period

Many experts suggest prolactin to be the primary culprit that causes a prolonged recovery period in men.

Prolactin is a pituitary hormone known to be released around the same time as ejaculation in humans.

Studies have found that men who do not experience an orgasm-induced prolactin secretion have no refractory period.

However, this does not explain why women also excrete prolactin during orgasm but are also ready to get busy immediately following intercourse.

2. The Refractory Period May Be Linked to Semen Production

Another theory research has explored is that semen production during orgasm is closely linked to the recovery period rather than the orgasm itself.

In other words, men who do not ejaculate semen during their orgasms, such as with retroactive ejaculation, may experience a shorter refractory period.

3. Nervous System Activation May Cause the Refractory Period

According to research, male sperm contains high levels of prostaglandins, lipid compounds used within the body to control inflammation, improve blood flow, and assist in blood clot formation.

This theory assumes that prostaglandin production may affect the male nervous system response, which causes a longer refractory period.

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Male vs. Female Refractory Periods

For many women, having multiple orgasms back to back is a normal experience.

Similar to how men and women differ in the ways they enjoy sexual stimulation, it's no surprise that the aftermath of sex is different too. Compared to men, most women do not experience refractory periods after sex whatsoever.

However, due to a sudden rise and fall in hormones during and after climax, it's common for some women to experience mild fatigue, which can cause a temporary loss in sexual arousal. Since this often only lasts a minute or two, it's difficult to decide if this qualifies as a "short refractory period" or not.

For many women, having multiple orgasms back to back is a normal experience.

That plays into the fact that the physiological recovery period does not exist as it does for men. Though women can remain lubricated long after sexual intercourse, they may experience clitoral sensitivities after orgasm making oral sex less pleasurable at first.

ALSO READ: Home Remedies for Premature Ejaculation

Factors that affect the refractory period

A high libido or heightened arousal during sexual activity with a partner can cause you to experience a shorter-than-normal recovery time.

Several factors play into the duration and severity of the male refractory period.

Here are some of the most common factors involved.

1. Libido and Sexual Arousal

A man's libido and sexual arousal can influence the length of his refractory period.

A high libido or heightened arousal during sexual activity with a partner can cause you to experience a shorter-than-normal recovery time.

Imagine a moment when you felt incredibly aroused during intimacy due to heightened penile sensitivity or a strong attraction to your partner.

In that case, it's more likely that your body was able to bounce back faster and allow you to experience more than one orgasm within minutes of each other.

2. Sexual Function and Experience

Sexual function plays a significant role in the duration of the recovery period.

Men with any sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction or other sexual health conditions, are less likely to experience additional orgasms after the first time.

Another factor that contributes to a man's post-ejaculation recovery time is their sexual experience.

Research has found that solo masturbation can produce a shorter refractory period than any other partnered sexual encounter due to subtle differences in brain activity and level of hormone secretion.

3. Age and Overall Health

It's no surprise that age and health status both play an essential role in our sexual functioning and thus, the duration of our refractory periods.

Urologist Dr. Dudley Danoff has explored men's sexual health for years and found that younger individuals experience a much shorter refractory period than older individuals.

Because age is closely linked to hormone levels, libido, and sexual health, the shifts men encounter from age 40 and beyond can significantly prolong their recovery period, not just by minutes but potentially by hours!

Additionally, men who practice healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and eating a well-balanced diet tend to improve their sexual response cycle and have a shorter resolution phase.

ALSO READ: How to Get Harder: 7 Handy Erection Tips for Men

How to Shorten the Refractory Period

Trying out new sex positions is a great way to keep your libido and levels of arousal high.

Numerous lifestyle changes can help your mind and body prepare for sex earlier than before.

Here are some of our top recommendations!

1. Boost Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular health is closely linked to a man's sexual health and functioning. Boosting your cardiovascular capacity through diet and exercise can help improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and promote blood vessel activity.

Together, these factors are essential to improving the strength of an erection – both before and after orgasm!

2. Pelvic Floor Exercise

Kegel exercises are a popular form of physical therapy that experts agree helps improve the strength and control of a man's erection. For this same reason, kegels may also shorten men's recovery periods.

3. Change Sexual Frequency

What if we told you that having more sex is a good thing!?

According to experts, males who engage in less frequent sex (fewer than 1 time per week) are nearly twice as likely to develop erectile dysfunction. A man's sexual frequency may also be necessary for prolonging ejaculation latency, elevating orgasmic pleasure, and shortening their refractory period.

4. Explore Different Sex Positions

Trying out new sex positions is a great way to keep your libido and levels of arousal high. As a result, your mental state will be more motivated to continue having sex even after you've climaxed.

ALSO READ: What's your best sex position? Let's find out.


  • The refractory period is a common phenomenon that occurs in both men and women after orgasm
  • Men are more likely to experience a longer-lasting recovery period compared to women, which can last up to a few hours or even days
  • Men's post-orgasm recovery time is affected by their libido, sexual function, type of experience, age, and overall health status 
  • Many lifestyle changes can help improve men's recovery time, such as diet and exercise, kegels, having more sex and exploring different positions.
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Medical Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to give medical advice or substitute for the medical advice of a physician.

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