Sexual Health Q&A

What is the refractory period?

After orgasm, both men and women experience a resolution stage. At this time, their bodies “recover” from sexual excitement and return to their normal states. For men, the penis becomes flaccid again and he goes through a refractory period.

During the refractory period, a man doesn’t think about sex or get aroused. His body does not respond to sexual stimulation and he is unable to reach orgasm again until the period is over. The length of the refractory period is different for every man. It may take a half hour or more for his body to perform sexually again.

Younger men may need only a few minutes of recovery time, but older men usually have a longer refractory period, sometimes between 12 to 24 hours. For some men, the refractory period can last a few days.

Experts aren’t sure why the length of refractory periods varies so much among men. But they do know that the length of time needed is not related to potency or testosterone levels.

Some men wonder how they can shorten their refractory period. No drugs have been approved for this purpose, but research has shown that Viagra and Cialis – two drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction - may reduce recovery time.

Women do not have refractory periods the way men do. But fatigue after orgasm can make them lose interest in sex temporarily. This can happen after one orgasm or multiple orgasms.