What is The Refractory Period? Ways To Shorten It

After an orgasm, most men and women need some time to rest, recover, and regain interest in sexual activity. This time is known as the refractory time. The refractory period can affect you both mentally and physiologically. The person may feel disinterested in sex, and also he may not be able to get an erection or orgasm. The refractory period in females is not as apparent as it is in males. It is also known as the resolution stage.

How does it work?

The refractory period is the final stage of the four-stage sexual response cycle. Both men and women experience these stages during sex.


1. Desire

During this stage, your heart rate quickens, your breathing is accelerated, and your muscles tension increases. During this stage, the blood flow to the genitals increases, which results in the swelling of the woman’s clitoris and labia and an erection of the man’s penis.

2. Arousal

The changes that began in the first stage intensify now. The woman’s clitoris becomes highly sensitive and retracts under the clitoral hood. The man’s testicles are drawn up into the scrotum. Your breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure continue to increase.

3. Orgasm

This phase is the shortest phase of the sexual response cycle, and it lasts only a few seconds. For women, during this stage, the muscles of the vagina contract and the uterus undergo rhythmic contractions. In men, the rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis result in the ejaculation of semen.

4. Resolution

During this phase, your body slowly returns to its normal stage. The muscles relax, the breathing and heart rate comes down, and the swollen and erect body parts back to their standard size and color. The body is less responsive to sexual stimulation.

Refractory period for men

The refractory period for males (MRP) is the time when a person is unable to get an erection and ejaculate again. This physical response is accompanied by a psychological response when the person just doesn’t feel interested in sex.

The length of the refractory period can vary quite a bit between men. Some men need just a few minutes to recover, while others may need 12 to 24 hours.

Age plays a vital role in the length of the refractory period. Younger men have shorter refractory periods as compared to older men. The scientists do not fully understand what causes refractory periods and why it varies so much.

After ejaculation, the sympathetic nervous system controls the fight or flight response and pushes for calm. Certain neurotransmitters cause the smooth muscles in the penis to contract, making it limp. Dopamine levels in the body also come down.

At this stage, the production of serotonin and prolactin increases, which counteracts arousal. Prolactin levels are very strongly associated with prolactin levels.

According to a 2002 study, a 25-year-old reported an average refractory period of just three days found that he did not secrete prolactin after ejaculating (1). This study shows that prolactin determines whether a male can have multiple orgasms.

Refractory period for women

Some women can return to the orgasm phase with further sexual stimulation and can experience multiple orgasms. Others lose interest in sexual activity post-orgasm, even though they are physically capable of engaging in sexual activity.

Studies have also shown that some women do go through a physiological refractory period. According to a 2009 study published in The Canadian Journal of human sexuality, of the 174 female university students who took part in this study, 96% reported post-orgasmic clitoral hypersensitivity, and a comparable percentage indicated an aversion to further post-orgasm clitoral stimulation (2).

This study shows that the refractory period also exists in women, and more research should be done to understand it further.

How does age affect the refractory period for males and females?

The refractory period can differ from person to person, depending on their age, diet, and health. The refractory period is more extended for both men and women as they grow older.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research in 2005, sexual function changes occur most noticeably for both men and women in their 40s (3).

For older men, their penises may return to their flaccid state, and their testes may lower from the body faster as compared to younger men. The refractory period increases for older men because their body needs a longer time to recover from the physical exertion.

While a young man may take just a few minutes, as he ages, he may take an hour, several hours, or even a day to become aroused again. For older women also, the refractory period increases as they age. For younger women, the body takes less time to return to a neutral state after orgasm. It is also tough for the body to remain aroused after stimulation.

Is the refractory period for masturbation different from the refractory period for partner sex?

Many studies have reviewed the refractory period for masturbation and penile-vaginal intercourse. According to these studies, the prolactin levels in the body 400% higher after penile-vaginal intercourse than after masturbation. This result shows that the refractory period after masturbation is much shorter than that of partner sex.

What are the other factors that affect the refractory period?

Several factors influence the length of the refractory period other than age. These include –

  • Overall health
  • Quality of the relationship between the partners
  • Quality of sex
  • Frequency of sex
  • Dopamine levels in the body

Research has shown that dopamine levels in the body can influence whether a man can get an erection. Exercise helps to improve dopamine levels in the body. Enjoyable company and doing something new can also boost dopamine in the body.

How can you shorten the refractory period?

It is always a good idea to take a bit of rest after sexual intercourse. However, if you want to shorten your refractory health, you must improve your overall health, sexual health, and arousal.

To boost overall health, you need to eat a healthy diet. Salmon, citrus fruits, and nuts improve blood flow. You should also exercise for 30 minutes a day to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. To boost your sexual health, you must do Kegel exercises. These exercises improve your pelvic muscles, which give you better control while ejaculating.

If you have erectile dysfunction, you can talk to your doctor about it. Your doctor may prescribe erectile dysfunction medicines like sildenafil (Viagra). A therapist or a doctor that specializes in sexual health can also help.


To boost arousal, you can try new positions, experiment with erogenous zones, and even fantasize or role play. It would help if you also skipped masturbation as it can interfere with the ability to get off with your partner. Try and change your schedule as it may also help to shorten the refractory period.

Final thoughts

The refractory period is when most men and women take to rest, recover, and regain interest in sexual activity after an orgasm. This time is different for men and women, and it also changes as you age. The refractory period for masturbation is much lower as compared to regular sex.

Other factors like overall health, sexual health, the relationship between partners, and dopamine levels in the body also affect the refractory period. You can shorten your refractory period by improving your overall health, doing kegel exercises, and using different methods to boost arousal.


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