Nocturnal emission

Nocturnal emission

A nocturnal emission involves either ejaculation during sleep for a male, or lubrication of the vagina for a female. It is also called a wet dream, and is sometimes considered a type of spontaneous orgasm.

Nocturnal emissions are most common during adolescence and early young adult years. However, nocturnal emissions may happen any time during or after puberty. The emission may happen with or without an erection, and it is possible to wake up during, or to simply sleep through, the ejaculation. Though nocturnal emissions are commonly associated with men, women also have them.[1]



In Men

The frequency of nocturnal emissions is highly variable. Some men have experienced large numbers of nocturnal emissions as teenagers, while others have never experienced one. 83% of men in the United States will experience nocturnal emissions at some time in their life.[2] For males who have experienced nocturnal emissions the mean frequency ranges from 0.36 times per week for single 15-year-old males to 0.18 times per week for 40-year-old single males. For married males the mean ranges from 0.23 times per week for 19-year-old married males to 0.15 times per week for 50-year-old married males.[3] In some parts of the world nocturnal emissions are more common. For example in Indonesia surveys show that 97% of men experience nocturnal emissions by the age of 24.[4]

Some men have the dreams only at a certain age, while others have them throughout their lives following puberty. The frequency that one has nocturnal emissions has not been conclusively linked to frequency of masturbation. Alfred Kinsey found there may be "some correlation between the frequencies of masturbation and the frequencies of nocturnal dreams. In general the males who have the highest frequencies of nocturnal emissions may have somewhat lower rates of masturbation. Some of these males credit the frequent emissions to the fact that they do not masturbate; but it is just as likely that the reverse relationship is true, namely, that they do not masturbate because they have frequent emissions."[5]

One factor that can affect the number of nocturnal emissions men have is whether they take testosterone-based drugs. In a 1998 study, the number of boys reporting nocturnal emissions drastically increased as their testosterone doses were increased, from 17% of subjects with no treatment to 90% of subjects at a high dose.[6]

During puberty, 13% of males experience their first ejaculation as a result of a nocturnal emission.[7] Kinsey found that males experiencing their first ejaculation through a nocturnal emission were older than those experiencing their first ejaculation by means of masturbation. The study indicates that such a first ejaculation resulting from a nocturnal emission was delayed a year or more from what would have been developmentally possible for such males through physical stimulation.[8]

In Women


In the 18th and 19th centuries, if a patient had ejaculations outside of marital intercourse, or released more semen than is typical, then he was diagnosed with a disease called spermatorrhea or "seminal weakness." A variety of drugs and other treatments, including circumcision and castration, were advised as treatment.[9][10] Some alternative practitioners, especially herb healers, continue to diagnose and advise treatments for cases of spermatorrhea.

Religious views

There are numerous religious views on nocturnal emissions. Below is a limited summary of some perspectives.

Patristic Christian view

Saint Augustine held that male nocturnal emissions, unlike masturbation, did not pollute the conscience of a man, because they were not voluntary carnal acts, and were therefore not to be considered a sin.[11] Augustine did, however, pray that he may be released from the "glue of lust" and thus recommended the beseechment of God's assistance in clearing one's soul of all such carnal affections.[12]

Saint Augustine interprets the references to the uncleanliness of discharge of seed (and menstruation) in Leviticus as symbolizing disorder and unruliness as opposed to the seed forming a human being through conception which symbolizes the form and structure of a just life.[citation needed]

Jewish and Samaritan views

Some examples of passages under the Mosaic law of the Bible teach that under the law of Moses a man who had a nocturnal emission incurred ritual defilement.

"If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean [Hebrew tameh] until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening."

Leviticus 15:16–17 English Standard Version


"When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing. If any man among you becomes unclean [Hebrew lo yihyeh tahor, literally 'is not clean'] because of a nocturnal emission [literally: 'by reason of what happens to him by night'], then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp."

Deuteronomy 23:9–11 English Standard Version

"16. And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. 17. And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.",[13] (Leviticus 15:16-17, King James Version).

A third passage relates more specifically to priests, requiring "a man who has had an emission of semen," among other causes of ritual defilement, to abstain from eating holy until after a ritual immersion in a mikveh (see paragraph below) and a subsequent night-fall (Leviticus 22:4).

The regulations required the defiled person (tamei) bathe in a mikveh. A man who had normal intercourse with his wife was also considered ceremonially unclean, and he too was required to bathe in a mikveh and he became pure after the sun had set (Leviticus 15:18). Leviticus makes similar statements about menstruation (15:19–24) and childbirth (Leviticus 12).

In Judaism, the Tikkun HaKlali, also known as "The General Remedy," is a set of ten Psalms designed in 1805 by Rebbe Nachman whose recital is intended to serve as repentance for nocturnal emissions.

Most rabbis feel that nocturnal emissions are associated with daytime thoughts, and there are comments impinging the wisdom of those who suffer from immodest dreams. A midrash relates that the prophet Elisha did not have nocturnal emissions any time he was a guest in someone's home, and attributes this control as being an attribute of holiness.

Islamic view

Muslim scholars consider ejaculation (regardless of cause) something that makes one spiritually impure; it means that a Muslim who has ejaculated cannot pray until he performs a full bath ghusl. The prayer would not be accepted until the full bath has been taken.

A wet dream itself is, however, not a sin in Islam. Moreover, whereas a person fasting (in Ramadan or otherwise) would normally be considered to have broken his or her fast by ejaculating on purpose (during either masturbation or intercourse), nocturnal emission is not such a cause. He or she is still required to bathe prior to undergoing some rituals in the religion.

Medieval folklore

In medieval Western occultism, nocturnal emissions were believed to be caused by a succubus copulating with the individual at night, an event associated with night terrors.


  1. ^ "Pleasant Dreams! A Guide to Nocturnal Emissions". Planned Parenthood. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  2. ^ Kinsey, Alfred C. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 519
  3. ^ Kinsey, Alfred C. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 275
  4. ^ "Knowledge about Human Reproduction and Experience of Puberty". Indonesia Young Adult Reproductive Health Survey 2002–2003. Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS-Statistics Indonesia), Jakarta, Indonesia; National Family Planning Coordinating Board, Jakarta, Indonesia; Ministry of Health, Jakarta, Indonesia, ORC Macro, Calverton, Maryland USA. p. 27. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  5. ^ Kinsey, Alfred C. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male p. 511.
  6. ^ Finkelstein, Jordan W.; Elizabeth J. Susman, Vernon M. Chinchilli, M. Rose D’Arcangelo, Susan J. Kunselman, Jacqueline Schwab, Laurence M. Demers, Lynn S. Liben, Howard E. Kulin (1998). "Effects of Estrogen or Testosterone on Self-Reported Sexual Responses and Behaviors in Hypogonadal Adolescents". The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (The Endocrine Society) 83 (7). doi:10.1210/jc.83.7.2281. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  7. ^ Kinsey, Alfred C. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male p. 190
  8. ^ Kinsey, Alfred C. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male p. 299
  9. ^ Moscucci, Ornella (1996). "Male masturbation and the offending prepuce". In Miller, Andrew H.. Sexualities in Victorian Britain. James Eli Adams. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0253330661. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  10. ^ William Acton. "Victorian London - Disease - Spermatorrhoea." From Prostitution, considered in its Moral, Social, and Sanitary Aspects. 2nd edition, 1870. Compiled in Lee Jackson's The Victorian Dictionary.
  11. ^ This view is confirmed by the Protestant theologian Philip Schaff. S.23
  12. ^ Confessions, Book X, Chapter XXX
  13. ^ Leviticus 15:16-17


Kinsey, Alfred C.; Wardell B. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co. 

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  • nocturnal emission — n an involuntary discharge of semen during sleep often accompanied by an erotic dream compare WET DREAM * * * reflex emission of the semen during sleep …   Medical dictionary

  • nocturnal emission — n. an involuntary emission of semen during sleep, usually accompanying a WET DREAM (sense 1) …   English World dictionary

  • nocturnal emission — noun ejaculation during sleep (usually during a dream) • Hypernyms: ↑ejaculation • Part Holonyms: ↑wet dream * * * nocˌturnal eˈmission 7 [nocturnal emission] noun …   Useful english dictionary

  • nocturnal emission —    an involuntary ejaculation of semen    Spitting, vomiting, sweating, sneezing, or ejaculation during copulation are not included:     He got a good deal of pleasure from nocturnal emissions. (Sharpe, 1978) …   How not to say what you mean: A dictionary of euphemisms

  • nocturnal emission — noun An ejaculation or orgasm while asleep, often accompanied by an erotic dream. Syn: night emission, wet dream …   Wiktionary

  • nocturnal emission — the release of semen during sleep, often during a sexual dream. Also called wet dream. [1925 30] * * * …   Universalium

  • nocturnal emission — wet dream , instance in which a man involuntarily ejaculates semen during sleep …   English contemporary dictionary

  • nocturnal emission — noun an involuntary ejaculation of semen during sleep …   English new terms dictionary

  • nocturnal emission — noctur′nal emis′sion n. psl phl involuntary ejaculation of semen during sleep • Etymology: 1820–30 …   From formal English to slang

  • nocturnal emission — /nɒkˌtɜnəl əˈmɪʃən/ (say nok.ternuhl uh mishuhn) noun an involuntary ejaculation of semen during sleep. See wet dream …  

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