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What is the Refractory Period and Can You Shorten It?

8 min read
What is the Refractory Period and Can You Shorten It?

With sexual intimacy being one of the most pleasurable acts a human can experience, it’s no surprise that many people want sex frequently. As a result, society imposes expectations on men and places value on those who can last a long time in bed and have sex multiple times within short durations.

For those who can’t live up to these standards, it can leave them feeling inadequate. After all, why can some men have sex multiple times a night whilst others may only be interested in sex once a week or even less? The answer to this may be due to what’s known as the refractory period (RP).


A males RP may lead them to be temporarily disinterested in sex, unable to become aroused and physically incapable of having penetrative sex. The inability to go again quickly can leave men feeling confused and even frustrated. In this article, we’ll be exploring exactly what the refractory period is and whether you can do anything about it.

What is the Refractory Period?

The refractory period refers to the length of time it takes between climaxing and being able to become sexually aroused again.

When going through the refractory period, men will become sexually unresponsive.

Even if they experience attempted stimulation that would be pleasurable outside of the refractory period, they won’t become sexually aroused and may even feel pain instead of pleasure.

Refractory period in Men

During this timeframe men won’t be able to get an erection or ejaculate. This means that even if they want to continue pleasuring their partner, penile penetration is off the cards. The length of the refractory period varies widely in men. Some men may be ready to go again in just minutes, while others can take hours or even days.

The refractory period is a double-edged sword for men as it’s a physiological and a psychological barrier.

The changes that their body undergoes (i.e. lack of erection) means they are physically unable to have sex, but the psychological change of state means that they are mentally disinterested too.

Men with high libido partners or ejaculation problems such as premature ejaculation (PE) may be more conscious of their refractory time. After all, if they can’t match their partner's sex drive, or ejaculate too early it’s only natural to want to find a way to have sex more frequently.  

Does it change with age?

There’s a common consensus a male’s sexual function can decline with age and in the case of the refractory period, it does seem to increase with age. It’s said that 18-year-olds can have refractory periods of around 15 minutes while men of a senior age take approximately 20 hours before they feel sexually aroused again.

About the Sexual Response Cycle

Leading up to sexual intimacy individuals experience four different stages that make up the sexual response cycle.

Diagram on the Sexual Response Cycle

The table below details each of these stages, and highlights how individuals respond under regular circumstances compared to those going through the refractory period. Although both men and women experience the sexual response cycle the points below refer specifically to men.


Regular Response

Refractory Period Response


This phase can last from a matter of minutes to hours. Individuals may experience physiological changes such as an increased heart rate, blood flow to the genitals and a slight or even full erection.

The signals from the regular response column aren’t present. Individuals don’t experience a desire for sexual intimacy when going through the refractory period.


When the stage moves from desire to arousal, the traits above can become more intense. Additional muscle tension and even spasms can occur as well as a further increase in heart rate. This stage lasts until the point of orgasm.

Physical signs of arousal aren’t present. Men don’t experience erections so are not able to take part in penetrative sex. Even if foreplay is attempted, the male won’t become aroused.


All the build-up leads to this stage of released sexual tension. Involuntary contractions of the muscles in the pelvic area, combined with the release of semen leads to ejaculation. Muscles may cramp up and further muscle spasms can become prevalent.

Even if the previous stages are attempted, the lack of erection and absence of psychological arousal means that men aren’t able to reach orgasm during the refractory period.  


During this stage the body is slowly returning to its regular state and the size of the penis returns from its erect length to its regular flaccid size.

This stage is where the refractory period takes place, waiting for the return of regular sexual function.

Why does the Refractory Period happen?

Unfortunately, nobody knows why the refractory period happens. There is no scientific consensus explaining why RP’s take place. However, plenty of researchers have their own theories.

Ultimately, if you want to know why the refractory period takes place, you won’t find an answer yet.

With one of the most frequently discussed theories suggesting that prolactin, a hormone that is released when men ejaculate, may play a role in the refractory period. This theory has not been proven and other research counters the idea, making reference to the controversy surrounding the theory. Ultimately, if you want to know why the refractory period takes place, you won’t find an answer yet.

Is it possible to shorten the Refractory Period?

There is no scientifically proven way of shortening an individual’s refractory period. Research into this area is somewhat limited and without a general consensus on why the refractory period takes place, being able to identify ways to shorten may prove a complex challenge.

An internet search is likely to return plenty of results from forums with stories of men who have tried to make their refractory periods shorter. However, it’s important to remember that their methods are not medically proven and by imitating them you may be putting yourself at risk.

Why do people try to shorten their refractory periods?

Most people’s refractory periods are perfectly normal, yet plenty of people are interested in reducing theirs. Some men who enjoy sex just want to be able to have it more frequently, but certain circumstances can lead to men feeling pressured into having a shorter refractory period.

For men who can’t last long in bed without ejaculating, or for those who have a sexual dysfunction such as premature ejaculation, the ability to go again within a short period of time would be a huge benefit to their sex life. Other people might find themselves unable to match a partner’s high libido and feel pressured into being able to keep up with their partner's sex drive.

Best tips and techniques to shorten the refractory period

As there’s limited research to support successful methods of reducing refractory periods, the best techniques to try are those which are known to improve overall sexual function. Even if these don’t help improve the refractory period itself, they may improve things for individuals with sexual dysfunctions such as premature ejaculation and ED.

Diagram on the Tips and Techniques on How to Shorten The Refractory Period

Kegel exercises

Kegels (also known as pelvic floor exercises) involve strengthening the pelvic floor muscles which can improve sexual function. The exercises are known for improving the length of time an individual can go without ejaculating. This makes them perfect for people who are looking to shorten their refractory period as a result of PE.

The exercises can be done by initiating the same feeling an individual would experience when holding in urine.

Once the individual has spent enough time doing these exercises, they may be able to hold in their ejaculation the same way they would with urine.

For men with premature ejaculation, this technique may mitigate the need to shorten the refractory period due to an increase in the overall duration that they can have sex. Although there’s very limited research into the effectiveness of Kegels in relation to refractory periods, journals have made reference to their importance to the male erection and suggested that they may indeed have an impact on the refractory period.

Learn more about Kegels for Men

Exercise more

Frequent exercise can have a positive impact on an individual’s sexual function. Regular exercise can improve the function of an individual’s heart and blood circulation, acting as a preventative for cardiovascular diseases. These types of diseases are strongly linked to sexual dysfunction including premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.

Exercise may also help the sexual ability of men who have testosterone deficiencies. There have been associations made with an increased release of testosterone (the male sex hormone) after weightlifting sessions. Men who don’t produce enough testosterone often have erectile difficulties and may benefit from implementing exercises known to boost their testosterone.

Change lifestyle habits

An effective way for men to improve their sexual function may be through changing their lifestyle habits. Some factors linked to decreased sexual dysfunction include:


Smoking is heavily linked to erectile dysfunction. Although ED becomes more common as men get older, smoking is said to increase an individual’s chances of getting the ED regardless of their age. Controlled trials show improvements in the erectile function of men who quit smoking. For men who smoke heavily and have erectile issues, cutting down or even quitting may result in improvements to erectile function.

Alcohol consumption and dependency

Consuming large amounts of alcohol can cause sexual issues. A study examined male subjects who were admitted with alcohol dependence, with 72 percent presenting with sexual dysfunctions. These included premature ejaculation, ED and lack of sexual desire. It found that the amount of alcohol consumed was the most significant factor in predicting sexual dysfunction. Consuming less alcohol could have a positive impact on overall sexual function.

Excessive food consumption

Overeating can cause men to become more susceptible to developing weight related diseases which affect their sexual function. Type 2 diabetes can often occur as a result of an individual’s food consumption. The risk of developing sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction are known to be higher in men with diabetes compared to men without the disease. By eating a healthy and balanced diet, men may avoid such diseases which can damage their sexual function.

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The refractory period is the length of time between ejaculation and when an individual is able to become sexually aroused again. This duration can change with age and generally increases as men get older. There’s no general consensus on why the refractory period occurs and there’s very little evidence that individuals can reduce their RP.

Individuals may attempt to reduce their refractory period by using general techniques for improving sexual function.

These may include Kegels, getting more exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. This article is designed to be informative but can’t be considered a replacement for medical advice. If you are worried about abnormalities surrounding your refractory period you should always consult a medical professional.

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