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What is the Refractory Period and Can it Be Shortened?

What is the Refractory Period and Can it Be Shortened?
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

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Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 4 min read

The refractory period is a natural process that takes place after orgasm. During a refractory period, the body is unable to engage in sexual activity, because it is recovering from a sexual encounter. The refractory period is a natural process during which one cannot have another orgasm, ejaculate, or participate in more physical activity. Though men also have refractory periods, the process in females is a bit different.

The refractory period is a natural process. Experts say that before the refractory period, men reach the apex of pleasure. During the refractory period a man is unable to have sex. Women do not have the same type of refractory period. In fact, a woman has the ability to have multiple orgasms, despite being tired after orgasm. The refractory period begins when a man feels sexually satisfied and is no longer stimulated. 

A woman can remain lubricated after sex, making it possible to climax multiple times. During the refractory period, a man feels no desire for sex and recovers from the act of sex itself. Women also go through a refractory period, although it may not be the same as a man’s refractory period. Although women may feel tired as well, their refractory period tends to be shorter and more fleeting.

To understand what a refractory period is, it is important to understand the process of sexual response. According to Healthline, there are four steps in the process of sexual response. Excitement is the first stage. During this time your heart rate goes up, and your body’s muscles become stiff as a response to sexual thoughts or physical touch. As a result, blood goes directly to the genitals, and muscles continue to get tense as the sexual process continues. 

The plateau comes next. During the plateau, a man’s testicles raise up against the body. For women, the clitoris goes back to its natural state under the clitoral hood. Orgasm is the next stage in the sexual process. During orgasm, “muscles release and retract tension, causing the body to become flushed and red. For men, pelvic muscles contract as he releases ejaculate. You typically don’t have sexual thoughts during the refractory period.      

The final stage of the sexual process is resolution. During this time, muscles begin to relax, and the heart slows. At this point, the body is less responsive to sexual touch. After this, the refractory period starts. According to experts, this process is more complex for men than it is for women. Experts speculate that compounds known as prostaglandins affect a man’s nerves. This makes the refractory period longer. A peptide known as somatostatin is believed to lessen sexual stimulation after orgasm.  

Many people believe that the refractory period can be shortened, and science has speculated this. The length of the refractory period varies from person to person and can be affected by a number of factors. The length of the refractory period can be affected by your age. Unfortunately, there is a lack of research on whether or not the refractory can be shortened. However, scientists have found that Viagra may help you recover faster from the refractory period. 

Online searches typically bring up a number of products that promise to shorten the refractory period. Most of these are over-the-counter remedies. However, these remedies are not backed by science or clinical studies on sexual recovery and response. Although these products may be effective for some people, they are not guaranteed to work for everyone.

There is no accurate way to shorten the refractory period, despite many attempts by scientists. The majority of men need a bit of down time after sex before they can be ready for a second round of sexual activity. However, there is speculation about exactly how long it takes a man to recover after sex. The length of the refractory period can depend on such factors as masturbation frequency and drug and alcohol intake. With the legalization of many drugs for medicinal purposes, these drugs are having an effect on the body’s functioning. The refractory period is very likely to be extended if one takes drugs. The refractory period lengthens after every subsequent act of intercourse. 

Men typically have better erections when they are in good health. Improving your overall health can help improve the quality of erections and may help shorten the refractory period for this reason. To help improve your health and speed the refractory period, it may help to exercise regularly, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, avoid tobacco and alcohol, and maintain a healthy weight. Doing these things may help shorten the refractory period, allowing you to be ready for subsequent sexual encounters.

A number of factors affect the amount of time it takes to recover from the refractory period. In some cases, recovery can depend on your libido and level of sexual arousal. Those who have a higher level of arousal have a quicker refractory time when compared to those who take longer to become aroused.  If your body has a healthy sexual functioning, your refractory period many be shorter than those who have a harder time getting aroused. Those who have erectile dysfunction or ED may have a hard time recovering from the refractory period. As a result, it may take them longer to be ready for sexual activity again. 

Your overall health plays a crucial role in determining how long your refractory period will be. Those who exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet are likely to recover from the refractory period more quickly. Healthy foods have the ability to “increase blood flow.” Regular exercise helps lower blood pressure, therefore lowering your risk of certain conditions, like heart attack. Age also plays a role on how long your refractory period is. Younger individuals tend to have a faster recovery time than individuals in their forties. People age 40 and above typically experience changes in sexual function. This makes the refractory period longer. It typically takes men longer than women to recover from the refractory period.

While there are no established and proven methods to shorten the refractory period, experts have suggestions for shortening the refractory period. One way to shorten the refractory period is to enhance your arousal. You can also adopt a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet will allow you to feel better overall. You can also look into enhancing your sexual functioning. You can increase your arousal by boosting your libido. Two ways to do this are to encourage blood flow and improve prostate health.   

For women, improving vaginal health is one good way to enhance sexual function. Some natural vegan supplements are designed to do that. You can also change the frequency of sexual activity to see if this builds anticipation and excitement. Masturbation can also have an effect on how long it takes you to recover from the refractory period. Some people may find it difficult to enjoy sex with a partner if they masturbate shortly before engaging in intercourse. Masturbating extends the length of your refractory period. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to avoid masturbating before engaging in sex with a partner.

Those with sexual functioning issues may want to explore alternate options that shorten their refractory period. Drugs, such as sildenafil and tadalafil have the potential to shorten the refractory period. In fact, a study in 2003 found that some men taking these drugs experienced a shorter refractory period. Scientists have yet to determine an average recovery time for the refractory period. However, some experts suggest trying something new during sex to shorten the refractory period. Trying new sexual positions may help heighten arousal and shorten the refractory period, making it easier to be ready for intercourse shortly after. 

 An organized study that analyzed refractory periods gave men in a focus group sildenafil, while giving another group a placebo. The men who took sildenafil found that their refractory period was shortened by 11 minutes. Another study found documented evidence that sildenafil has an impact on recovery time. Of all the men in this study, 40 percent of them found that their refractory period was shortened. Psychological factors can also have an impact on one’s refractory period. Men with performance anxiety may find that they have a longer refractory period than men without performance anxiety. 

Your mood can also affect the length of your refractory period. Your energy levels also significantly affect the length of your refractory period. Testosterone levels may play a role as well. The amount of testosterone you have in your body may cause your body move more quickly through the sexual response process. If you have high levels of testosterone, you may be able to engage in sexual activity more quickly than others without an abundance of the hormone. 

To help shorten your refractory period, you may want to load up on certain vitamins, such as Vitamin B6. You can buy Vitamin B6 supplements to speed up the recovery process. It may also help to consume more Zinc. Zinc boosts testosterone levels. Neurotransmitters released during female orgasm operate differently than men. Because of this, the female refractory period can be over in mere seconds. Also remember that men lose their erection after ejaculation. This may explain why it takes men longer to be ready for another sexual encounter.   


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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.