Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/19/2019
After orgasm, most men need some downtime in order to rest, recover and regain an interest in sexual activity. This time is called the refractory period — a period in which you switch from being actively excited by and engaged in sexual activity to feeling fatigued and unable to reach orgasm again.
Both men and women experience a refractory period after orgasm. However, the male refractory period is the most physically obvious of the two, as most men physically can’t get an erection in this period.
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 hours.
One factor that’s closely linked to the length of the refractory period is age. Most of the time, younger men tend to have shorter refractory periods than older men (in some cases, just a few minutes), although the link between age and refractory period isn’t very precise.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs like sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil have long been rumored to shorten the refractory period in men, potentially letting you have sex sooner after orgasm. While most aspects of ED drugs have been extensively studied, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to back up this particular claim.
In this guide, we’ll look at the scientific evidence behind the claim that ED drugs can shorten the refractory period, as well as the mechanisms by which ED medications can potentially improve post-orgasm recovery.
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 (Viagra®).
Researchers measured the amount of time required to regain an erection after sexual activity, noting an improvement in the sildenafil citrate group compared to placebo.
Another study used self-reported data to analyze the effects of sildenafil on men aged from 41 to 57. Of the nine men that took part in the study, four noticed that their refractory period 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.
Sildenafil is a phosphodiesterase type 5, or PDE5, inhibitor — a type of drug that directly blocks the enzyme responsible for accepting and breaking down cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or cGMP.
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 necessary chemical just isn’t there in sufficient amounts.
Because sildenafil and other ED medications block PDE5 (hence the name "PDE5 inhibitor"), less cGMP is broken down after sex, meaning there’s much less of a biological barrier preventing you from getting an erection again after you orgasm.
In simple terms, the same mechanism that makes sildenafil so effective at helping you prepare for round one could also make it a helpful medicinal shortcut in preparing for round two.
Right now, the scientific evidence supporting sildenafil as a medication for shortening the male refractory is mixed but promising. Most studies show it works (with one study showing a major reduction in post-sex recovery time), although one shows no real improvement.
The science behind sildenafil’s role in shortening the refractory period also makes sense — after all, it directly targets the enzyme responsible for regulating blood flow to the penis.
So, should you view sildenafil as a miracle medication for helping you go straight onto round two after orgasm? Not quite. Even though some study data — as well as numerous anecdotal reports from sildenafil users — certainly suggest it could be useful for speeding up post-orgasm recovery it’s not an approved use for sildenafil or other ED drugs.
ED medications are prescribed for the treatment of erectile dysfunction which is the inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual activity. Erectile dysfunction drugs like sildenafil (Viagra) are not approved for men who do not suffer from ED and will not be prescribed by a healthcare professional unless necessary.
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