Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/16/2021
Sex is an important part of life that can improve both your physical and mental health. However, it’s far from uncommon for your body to impose limits on how often you can have sex on a daily basis.
After reaching orgasm and ejaculating, most men need a few minutes, several hours or even an entire day to rest, recover and regain an interest in sex before they’re ready to do it again.
This time is referred to as the refractory period -- a period of time in which you switch from being interested in and able to have sex to feeling fatigued, less interested in sex and less capable of getting and maintaining an erection.
Both men and women experience a refractory period after orgasm. However, the male refractory period is the most physically obvious of the two, since most men physically can’t get an erection in this period and show little response to sexual stimulation.
The length of the refractory period varies dramatically between men, with some guys needing a few minutes to “recover” from sexual activity and others needing several hours.
One factor that’s closely linked to the duration of the refractory period is age. Most of the time, younger men tend to have shorter refractory periods than older men, although the link between age and refractory period isn’t very precise.
ED Pills like sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®) have long been rumored to shorten the refractory period in men. If effective, this could let you have sex sooner after orgasm.
In this guide, we’ll look at the scientific evidence behind the claim that ED drugs help to shorten the refractory period, as well as the mechanisms by which ED medications may help to improve post-orgasm recovery.
We’ll also share a few practical tips that you can use to speed up recovery after sex, without the usual need to wait for so long before round two.
However, our understanding of the factors that contribute to the male refractory period isn’t quite so clear.
One factor that’s known to have an effect on post-orgasm recovery time is age. According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, younger men may only need a few minutes to recover after sex, while for older guys, it may take as long as 12 to 24 hours.
Another factor that may have an impact on your refractory period is your general cardiovascular health.
Erections are all about healthy blood flow. When you feel sexually aroused, your penis becomes erect as blood flows into your corpora cavernosa -- the two areas of soft, sponge-like tissue that form the bulk of your penis.
There’s also the arousal factor. If you’re in the mood for sex, you might feel ready to go again in relatively little time. However, if you’re tired, or just not feeling in the mood, you may take longer to feel ready for round two.
All of these factors, in addition to the hormonal response that occurs in your body after orgasm, likely play a role in the amount of time it takes for you to recover after sex.
Unlike with erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance issues, there’s no FDA-approved pill that you can take to get rid of a long refractory period.
However, the right habits may help to improve certain aspects of your sexual function, including your ability to recover after sex. Try the following tactics to improve your sexual function and cut down your post-sex recovery time:
Work on your cardiovascular health. For the most part, good cardiovascular health means good sexual health. Since erections are all about blood flow, anything that you can do to improve your heart function may also help you to perform in bed. Try to stay active by exercising regularly. The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week, plus at least two workouts that build strength.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Research shows that maintaining a healthy weight helps to promote good erectile function. Try to eat a balanced diet and maintain a BMI in the normal range.
Avoid masturbating before sex. If it takes you several hours to recover after reaching orgasm, it’s best to avoid masturbating on the days you plan to have sex. Instead, try to resist temptation and wait until you’re able to have sex with your partner.
Try spicing up your sex life. Since arousal plays a major role in sexual function, it may help to try something new, whether it’s a new sex position, extra foreplay or role-playing with your partner.
Use prescription ED medication. Although the findings of research are mixed, there’s some evidence that ED drugs may help to speed up recovery after sex. We’ve looked at the scientific evidence to support this in the section below.
Our guide to the best ways to naturally protect your erection shares a range of lifestyle changes that you can make to promote better erectile function and sexual health.
Scientific studies on ED drugs like sildenafil show mixed but promising results when it comes to shortening the male refractory period and speeding up recovery from sex.
One study from 2000 found that normal men aged 28 to 37 without erectile dysfunction showed a significant decrease in the amount of time required to recover after sex when taking sildenafil citrate (the active ingredient in Viagra®).
Another study used self-reported data to analyze the effects of sildenafil on men aged between 41 and 57. Of the nine men that participated in the study, four noticed that their refractory time after sexual activity was shorter than normal.
There’s also a study from 2005 on the effects of sildenafil on men with premature ejaculation, which found that sildenafil almost halved the amount of time required for men to recover after sex (from 6.4 +/- 0.7 minutes to 3.2 +/- 0.7).
Other studies, however, seem to refute these findings. A 2005 study on the effects of sildenafil citrate on ejaculation latency and refractory period found that while sildenafil prolongs the time required to ejaculate (ejaculation latency), it doesn’t have any effect on the refractory period.
cGMP is one of several essential chemicals for developing an erection. Normally, after sex, the body has low levels of cGMP as a result of PDE5 breaking down the chemical.
This means it’s more physically difficult to get an erection -- after all, the chemical that’s needed for relaxing the blood vessels and supplying blood to the penis just isn’t there, at least not in the amounts required for an erection.
Because sildenafil and other ED medications block PDE5 (hence the name "PDE5 inhibitor"), a smaller amount of cGMP is broken down after sex, resulting in less of a biological barrier to stop you from getting an erection again after you orgasm.
In simple terms, the same mechanism that makes sildenafil so effective at helping you get ready for round one could also make it a helpful medicinal shortcut in preparing for round two.
If you’re prescribed sildenafil or other medication for ED, it may help you to recover faster after orgasm, allowing you to enjoy a second round of sex without having to wait or deal with weak, inconsistent erections.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue that can affect men of all ages. If you have ED, you can get help by talking to your healthcare provider.
You can also access ED treatment online via our telehealth platform. We offer generic forms of several widely-used ED treatments, including sildenafil (the generic form of Viagra), tadalafil (generic Cialis) and the newer, faster-acting ED medication Stendra.