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Refractory Period in Human Beings: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn about the refractory period, a period between sexual climax & renewed sexual stimulation, its causes in men & women & the factors governing it below

8 min read
Refractory  Period  in  Human  Beings:  A  Comprehensive  Guide

Think  about  this:  You  are,  panting,  sweating,  and  prepared  for  round  two  in  bed  with  your  partner;  your  brain  is  ready  to  rock,  but  your  body  isn’t  prepared  for  it.  Have  you  considered  why  you  lack  the  limitless  energy  required  to  keep  up  with  your  brain's  hypersexual  pace?  There  is  a  name  for  this  cosmic-level  dissatisfaction:  the  refractory  period.

What  is  the  refractory  period?  And  why  is  it  the  sexual  desire's  natural  foe?  Continue  reading  to  know  the  answers.

What's  The  Refractory  Period?

You  enter  the  refractory  period  (resolution  phase)  right  after  the  sexual  climax.  It  describes  the  duration  between  having  an  orgasm  and  feeling  ready  to  be  sexually  stimulated  once  again.  You  won't  feel  aroused  or  think  of  engaging  in  sexual  activities  during  this  period.

Does  Everyone  Have  One?

Yes,  absolutely.  According  to  Masters  and  Johnson's  Four-Phase  Model,  a  four-stage  sexual  response  cycle  includes  the  refractory  phase,  which  is  experienced  by  everyone.  It  is  not  only  limited  to  men  or  women.

Here  are  the  four  phases:

  • Excitement: During  this  phase,  your  heart  rate  gets  faster,  your  breathing  rate  increases,  and  your  muscles  tense.  Simultaneously,  blood  flow  increases  toward  your  genitals.
  • Plateau:  During  this  phase,  your  muscles  continue  to  get  tense.  In  men,  the  penis  begins  to  pull  up  against  the  body.  In  women,  the  clitoris  (pleasure  centre  in  the  female  reproductive  system)  retracts  under  the  clitoral  hood.
  • Orgasm:  In  this  phase,  your  body  gets  red  flushed  as  muscles  tighten  and  release  tension.  In  men,  the  pelvic  muscles  contract,  helping  them  ejaculate.
  • Resolution: In  this  phase,  your  heart  rate  and  blood  pressure  begin  to  slow  down,  your  muscles  begin  to  relax,  and  your  body  becomes  less  receptive  to  sexual  stimulation.  The  refractory  period  starts  at  this  point.

What  is  The  Absolute  Refractory  Period?

The  absolute  refractory  period  is  when  the  neuron  cannot  send  any  further  action  potentials  (signals  to  act).  This  is  due  to  the  shutting  down  of  voltage-gated  sodium  channels.  These  channels  do  not  open  for  a  brief  period.  Thus,  during  the  absolute  refractory  period,  you  don't  feel  aroused  or  sexually  stimulated,  no  matter  how  significant  stimulation  is  applied.

Also Read: How to Get Periods Immediately to Avoid Pregnancy

Refractory  Period  Heart

The  refractory  period  heart  helps  it  beat  in  a  controlled  and  regular  rhythm.  Even  with  the  stimulus,  your  heart  cells  cannot  initiate  another  action  potential  during  the  refractory  period.  This  is  due  to  blocked  sodium  channels,  and  it  helps  to  maintain  a  normal  heart  rhythm.

Absolute  and  Relative  Refractory  Period

So  by  now,  you  know  what  is  refractory  period.  This  refractory  period  is  classified  into  two  subcategories.

1) Absolute  refractory  period

The  absolute  refractory  period  is  the  first  phase  of  the  refractory  period.  This  is  a  small  duration  during  which  another  response  cannot  be  produced,  even  with  the  stimulus  of  maximum  strength.  During  the  absolute  refractory  period,  neurons  cannot  receive  or  transmit  stimulus.  Due  to  open  and  active  sodium  channels,  the  cell  membranes  (outer  layer  of  the  cells)  do  not  respond.  

Simply  put,  even  with  solid  stimulation,  your  body  cannot  be  aroused  sexually  in  an  absolute  refractory  period.

2) Relative  refractory  period

The  relative  refractory  period  is  the  second  phase  that  follows  the  absolute  refractory  phase.  During  this  phase,  the  sodium  channels  are  closing.  A  more  potent  stimulus  is  needed  to  open  the  closed  channels  in  this  phase.  

To  put  it  in  simple  words,  in  a  relative  refractory  period,  your  body  can  be  sexually  aroused  but  with  much  stronger  sexual  stimulation.

Also Read: 12 Signs Your Period Is Coming Tomorrow

Men  Refractory  Period

Generally,  men  do  not  get  an  erection  and  cannot  ejaculate  during  the  refractory  period.  This  physical  response  is  followed  by  a  psychological  refractory  phase  in  which  the  man  is  uninterested  in  sex.

Men's  refractory  period  might  last  from  a  few  minutes  to  24  hours  or  longer,  varying  from  man  to  man.  Furthermore,  not  all  males  experience  a  refractory  period.

As  per  a  study  report,  a  25-year-old  man  who  had  never  experienced  a  refractory  period  did  not  secrete  prolactin  after  ejaculating  as  most  men  do.  This  finding  indicates  that  prolactin  plays  a  significant  role  in  a  man's  ability  to  experience  numerous  orgasms.

As  per  another  study,  the  peptide  somatostatin lowers  sexual  excitement  immediately  following  ejaculation.  Thus,  this  may  explain  the  prolonged  refractory  period  that  guys  usually  have.

Also,  some  men can  experience  orgasms  without  ejaculating.  That  means  they  can  feel  multiple  "dry"  orgasms  with  no  refractory  phase.

Refractory  Period  Women

In  the  refractory  period,  women  are  quite  different  from  men.  Women are  likely  to  experience  more  orgasms  than  men.  However,  this  doesn't  mean  that  women  do  not  have  a  refractory  period.

Women  lose  interest  in  sexual  activity  after  experiencing  orgasms,  but  they  can  engage  in  sexual  activity  physically.  As  per  one  study, a  woman's  clitoris  may  become  too  sensitive  to  engage  in  further  sex  after  orgasm.  96%  of  the  174  female  participants  in  this  study  reported  this  symptom,  and  many  expressed  a  lack  of  interest  in  indulging  in  sexual  activity.  This  response  is  considered  a  refractory  period  for  women  where  arousal  and  orgasms  are  difficult.

How  Age  Affects  The  Refractory  Period

Sexual  function and  desires  decline  as  you  age.  With  age,  men  and  women  may  take  longer  to  feel  physically  and  psychologically  aroused.  In  fact,  couples  need  more  time  to  rebound  following  sex,  which  could  result  in  a  longer  refractory  period.

Changes  in  your  refractory  period  are  also  based  on  how  long  it  was  while  you  were  young.  A  person  with  a  long  refractory  period  in  his  teenage  may  continue  to  have  longer  with  ageing.

Younger  men  recover  more  quickly  from  ejaculation  and  reengage  in  sexual  activity  than  older  men.  Men’s  refractory  period  of  12  to  24  hours  is  needed  in  older  males,  while  young  men  might  only  need  a  few  minutes.  Some  people's  refractory  phase  can  go  on  for  several  days.

In  men,  the  pressure  in  the  seminal  vesicles  (the  glands  that  produce  and  store  semen)  plays  a  prime  role  in  ejaculation.  Typically,  this  pressure  declines  after  each  orgasm  and  ejaculation.  As  men  age,  hormones  decrease;  thus,  it  takes  more  time  to  produce  semen  and  rebuild  the  pressure  needed  for  another  ejaculation.

Also Read: Leg Pain During Periods ~ Top Instant Relief Remedies

How  Long  Will  It  Last?

Now  that  you  know  the  how  and  why,  we  can  discuss  the  more  important  issue:  how  long  does  that  fourth  phase  last?

Unfortunately,  there  is  no  definitive  answer  to  this  because  the  length  of  the  refractory  period  varies  from  person  to  person.  Some  people  could  experience  a  brief  refractory  period  that  lasts  a  few  minutes,  while  others  might  not  feel  like  having  sex  for  several  hours  following  orgasm  and  ejaculation.

However,  as  a  thumb  rule,  the  men's  refractory  period  is  often  longer  than  the  refractory  period  for  women.  As  a  result,  men  typically  have  to  wait  for  a  few  minutes  to  a  few  hours  before  they  can  ejaculate  again,  while  women  typically  have  to  wait  for  a  few  seconds  to  a  few  minutes.

Factors  Affecting  The  Refractory  Period

The  hard-hitting  truth:  every  person  is  unique,  and  so  is  their  capacity  for  sexual  activity.  Here  are  ten  factors  present  in  the  equation  of  a  refractory  period  action  potential:

1) Age:  

Younger  men may  need  a  few  minutes  to  recover  after  sex.  Older  men  may  need  up  to  12  to  24  hours  to  recover.

2) Heart  health:

The  key  to  erections  is  proper  blood  flow.  Blood  pours  into  the  soft,  sponge-like  tissue  of  your  penis  when  you  are  sexually  stimulated,  causing  it  to  erect.

3) General  health:

Your  sexual  fitness  and  endurance  are  affected  by  your  general  health.

4) Dopamine:  

This  is  a  chemical  released  in  the  brain  that  plays  a  significant  function  in  your  sexual  activity.  Lowered  dopamine  secretion  can  affect  your  refractory  period.

5) Medical  conditions:

The  part  of  your  nervous  system  that  controls  involuntary  functions  like  arousal  can  be  affected  by  disorders  like  diabetes  and  rheumatoid  arthritis.

6) Sexual  dysfunction:

Issues  like  delayed  or  early  ejaculation  can  reduce  a  person's  sexual  confidence.  Thus  indirectly  impacting  the  refractory  time.

7) Sexual  quality  and  frequency:

Your  ability  to  respond  to  sexual  stimuli  is  influenced  by  the  quality  and  frequency  you  enjoy  sex.  This,  in  turn,  may  affect  the  refractory  period  in  both  men  and  women.

8) The  number  of  sexual  partners:

As  per  the  study,  men  having  several  or  new  sex  partners  recovered  more  quickly  and  experienced  multiple  orgasms.

9) Mental  health:

Mental  disorders  like  postcoital  dysphoria (  a  psychiatric  illness  where  women  feel  exhausted,  sad,  or  depressed  after  having  sex)  or  Sexual  performance  anxiety in  men  can  also  have  an  indirect  impact  on  the  refractory  period.

10) The  arousal  component:

You  can  feel  ready  to  have  sex  again  quickly  if  you  want  it.  However,  it  could  take  longer  to  feel  prepared  for  round  two  if  you  are  simply  not  in  the  mood.

Also Read: How to Delay Periods Naturally at Home Without Taking Any Pill

What's  The  Average  Refractory  Period  by  Sex  and  Age

There  are  no  precise  numbers  for  this.  It  varies  from  person  to  person  depending  on  several  variables,  such  as  general  health,  health  issues,  age,  libido,  and  food.

It  can  take  a  short  while,  a  few  minutes,  an  hour  or  more,  a  day  or  even  longer.  As  per  average  statistics  for  females,  it  may  just  take  a  few  seconds  for  sexual  arousal  and  orgasm  to  be  feasible  once  more.  However,  there  is  a  lot  more  variation  in  men.

As  per  a  study,  sexual  function  begins  to  decline  around  40  years  in  both  men  and  women.

Can  You  Shorten  the  Refractory  Period?

The  refractory  period  is  just  the  time  following  an  orgasm  when  you  temporarily  lose  the  ability  for  sex.  Yet,  people  link  sexual  pleasure  to  their  orgasm  intensity,  the  length  of  their  intercourse,  and  how  frequently  they  ejaculate  or  have  orgasms.  

There  are  no  foolproof  methods  to  shorten  the  refractory  period.  However,  some  lifestyle  modifications  can  improve  your  sexual  health  and  eliminate  blocks  to  a  "second  round"  of  sex.  This  includes:

  • Regular  exercise can  improve  your  heart  health,  libido,  and  sexual  performance  in  both  men  and  women.
  • Sexual  fantasy,  which  increases  desire  in  females  and  orgasms  in  males.

Also Read: What to Eat to Get Periods Fast ~ According to a Doctor


What  is  the  Refractory  Period?

Ans.  The  interval  after  an  orgasm,  when  a  person  is  not  sexually  responsive,  is  known  as  the  refractory  period.  A  person  can  feel  a  lack  of  interest  in  having  sex  or  not  be  able  to  have  it  during  the  refractory  period.  It  might  last  anywhere  between  a  few  minutes  and  several  days.

How  Long  is  a  Refractory  Period  for  a  Man?

Ans.  The  duration  of  the  refractory  period  varies  from  man  to  man,  so  there  isn't  a  single,  conclusive  answer  to  this  question.

However,  the  men's  refractory  period  is  typically  longer  than  the  refractory  period  for  women.  As  a  result,  men  often  have  to  wait  anywhere  from  a  few  minutes  to  a  few  hours  before  they  may  ejaculate  again.

What  is  an  Example  of  a  Refractory  Period?

Here  is  an  example  of  a  refractory  period.  Suppose  you  are  talking  on  the  phone  while  driving.  The  traffic  in  front  of  you  stops  suddenly.  So,  it  will  take  longer  for  you  to  respond  over  the  phone  while  putting  breaks  in  your  vehicle.  The  refractory  period  here  is  the  time  when  the  task  of  talking  disturbs  due  to  the  abrupt  stopping  of  your  car.  The  breaks  here  are  refractory  period  action  potential  blocks.

Is  There  a  Refractory  Period  at  Age  30?

Ans. Teenage  boys  can  experience  refractory  periods  of  a  few  minutes.  For  example,  a  30-year-old  man  usually  cannot  have  a  second  orgasm  for  at  least  half  an  hour.  Men  over  50  years  of  age  and  older  may  only  be  able  to  have  one  orgasm  each  day.

What  are  the  Two  Parts  of  the  Refractory  Period?

The  two  parts  of  the  refractory  period  are

  • The  absolute  refractory  period
  • The  relative  refractory  period

The  absolute  and  relative  refractory  periods  are  the  normal  physiological  responses  in  sexual  activity.

Does  Viagra  Reduce  Refractory  Period?

Ans. Studies  have  shown  that  erectile  dysfunction  drugs  like  sildenafil  (brand  name  Viagra)  help  decrease  the  refractory  period.  During  a  study,  40%  of  the  male  participants  of  an  average  of  32  years  experienced  shortened  refractory  time.  It  was  cut  down  by  9.4  minutes,  from  a  median  length  of  14.9  minutes  to  5.5  minutes.


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