If you are male, you probably think that you are at your friskiest in the morning, mostly as a result of waking up stiff.
You might also have thought that it is a sign that you are still fertile, courtesy of the anecdotes passed down to you by your parents and grandparents.
If you’re getting hard in the morning on a daily basis, it’s a healthy sign
In fact, this is where such anecdotal wisdom happens to be grounded in scientific basis.
According to Colin Teo, a doctor and the founder of Colin Teo Urology, waking up hard in the morning, also known as morning tumescence, is normal due to the body’s release of testosterone throughout the period you are asleep.
“The very fact that a man is able to wake up and observe morning tumescence means that his testosterone levels are normal, “ Teo, a urologist, elaborated.
This release of testosterone is highest during the early morning, when REM sleep occurs, and is a sign of good health.
More importantly, once a man starts observing a drop in the frequency of morning wood, he is essentially seeing the earliest signs of erectile dysfunction, even if he can perform during sex, Teo added.
And given that erectile dysfunction stems from the poor health of blood vessels, this symptom can also be a harbinger of a far more serious system disease such as diabetes or a cardiovascular disease.
If you’re not getting hard, it can also mean you have a lack of testosterone
In addition, a lack of morning wood can be attributed to testosterone deficiency syndrome (TDS).
This condition commonly starts from the age of 40, when the production of testosterone in the body begins to decline by about 1 to 2 per cent every year.
Here, Teo clarifies that even if a man has good cardiovascular health and no diabetes, he can still suffer from erectile dysfunction if he has low testosterone.
“We usually think testosterone is a sex hormone, which is not true. For men, it is actually very important for almost all of our organ systems,” Teo said.
As such, a variety of symptoms will begin to manifest with falling testosterone levels.
The most common complaint about these symptoms have nothing to do with sex, but rather fatigue, exhaustion, a tendency to doze off earlier at night, less energy for exercise, sleeping poorly, and an overall loss of well-being, Teo pointed out.
“And, of course, with that comes the low sexual libido.”
The volume of semen a man ejaculates can also be noticeably reduced; not because there is a reduction in sperm production, Teo explains, but because the performance of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles, which produce up to 90 per cent of the fluid volume constituting semen, is affected.
In more serious cases, low testosterone can result in severe depression for a man as it also affects the performance of the male brain.
It also translates into a lowered life expectancy, as this means a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Yes, stress and overwork contributes to a drop in testosterone
This then brought Teo to his next point: that high cortisol levels produced by stress can cut your body’s production of testosterone.
Certain lifestyle choices such as using your phone or playing computer games late into the night can also hamper testosterone production.
Teo acknowledges that while it might be harder to avoid the stress produced by work, such an issue can be addressed primarily through exercise.
Teo clarifies that it is important not to overtrain, however, as it can have a counter-effect and that anaerobic exercises and power training are better in stimulating testosterone production.
He highlighted, “I actually have seen marathon runners who overtrained in aerobic exercises, and have low testosterone. And they look very lean, very fit, the last people you would think have diabetes but they have low testosterone.”
Diet is also another key in addressing the issue of low testosterone.
Here, Teo pointed out that the processed meat Singaporeans consume often have a lot of estrogen injected inside the meat, such as frozen chicken.
Some plants also have elevated levels of estrogen, such as soybean.
It is, therefore, important to minimise the consumption of such food and stick to eating organic food, as well as avoid food that is typically unhealthy, such as those with high fat content.
So what should I do to check my testosterone levels?
A simple blood test, done before 11am, when testosterone levels are at their highest, can help to determine if your level is healthy, Teo answered.
In the event that your testosterone level is not at a healthy level, the doctor will first counsel you on natural ways of boosting your testosterone, such as through exercise and changes in diet, as mentioned above.
If a person has TDS, they will either have to take testosterone tablets twice a day, apply a special kind of gel for their skin to absorb, or receive injections.
Thus far, the most convenient method of treatment has been injection, given that it only needs to be done once every three months, and has been shown to be the method where male patients are the most compliant by far.
Teo emphasised that such treatment is for the long-term however, as TDS means that the patient will no longer be able to produce enough testosterone for their body naturally.
He noted that some patients have tried stopping the treatment, although they eventually return after a while, as they start to feel exhausted.
“It’s not so much that they are addicted. The truth is, their condition is causing them to feel horrible. A lot of people have put the cause-and-effect wrongly.”
With the testosterone treatments, patients have seen a marked improvement in their quality of life.
“They get back their quality of life, they feel more energetic -- some say because of it (the testosterone injections) they feel younger -- their performance at work gets better. In that sense, their quality of life improves.”
If you are a male above 45 year of age, you can consider taking the one-minute ADAM questionnaire to see if you should have your testosterone level checked by your doctor.
If you need to speak to a doctor, you can click here to see list of clinics under Singapore Men’s Health Society.
You can also find out more about TDS on the TackleTD website.
The Tackle TD campaign and this article has been developed and funded by Bayer SEA Pte. Ltd. to educate the public about testosterone deficiency syndrome (TD) and its link to other health conditions..
This sponsored article made the author wary of staying up too late lest it affect his testosterone
Photo by F. Muhammad from Pixabay