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Your Smartphone Wants to Monitor Your Erection

Just as you open your eyes tomorrow morning, a notification might pop up on your phone asking, “Did you wake up with morning wood?” When you click "yes" or "no", the app calculates the length of your “boner streak.” There’s an app for that? Oh, yes. It’s called Morning Glory, and it officially launched in the iTunes store yesterday morning. The new app, from the men’s health startup Roman, wants to gamify your morning erections.

The app is ridiculous, but its mission isn't. Roman CEO and cofounder, Zachariah Reitano, says, “We’re using humor, but there’s a real medical rationale behind the app. This really is something for people to pay attention to.” Morning Glory has a similar concept to health-tracking apps like Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, but instead of assessing your health based on how much activity you get during the day, it tracks only one thing—your morning wood. According to Dr. Michael Reitano, Zachariah’s father, and the company’s physician-in-residence, morning erections are an important indicator. “Men get around five erections a night, and these sleep-related erections seem to occur in a pattern that is very similar to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a period of sleep that’s associated with dreaming,” he says. The last of those sleep-related erections happens around when the man is waking up. He notes that while REM sleep, or dreaming, and erections are linked, “The dreaming doesn’t have a sexual context. Those erections will occur regardless of the type of dream the person is having.”

For a man to wake up at full salute, his biological functions—including his hormones, nervous system and vascular system—all have to be working in a synchronous way. When that isn’t occurring, Dr. Reitano says, “It could be a sign that something is brewing. It could be a sign that they have underlying diabetes, high blood pressure, the beginning of a vascular problem, or they could have a hormonal issue. Sometimes in young people in particular, when they lose these erections at night, it’s more of a sign of a physical problem than an emotional problem, because it occurs when the person is sleeping and their emotions aren’t as likely to play a role.”

What kinds of physical problems could leave you erectionless in the AM? Dr. Reitano resolves, “It might be that they’re under enormous stress, they’re drinking too much alcohol, they’re smoking, they’re not exercising, they’ve gained weight, but one of the key things is the sleep pattern. If the person has poor sleep patterns, it seems to affect the number of sleep-related erections they get.” That’s where Morning Glory becomes useful. Dr. Reitano believes the app may draw a man’s attention to a potential health issue early on, before other symptoms reveal themselves. He says, “If we can bring some attention to the idea that this can be the earliest sign of either a simmering problem or a brewing lifestyle issue, then we’ve gone a long way toward trying to make sure that these things don’t become far more permanent or serious.”

That said, if you woke up without an erection this morning, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It could just mean you drank too much the night before, that you’ve been under a lot of stress or that you didn’t sleep well. Dr. Reitano says, “One time isn’t a big deal, but if it becomes a pattern, and you’re able to identify that this is different and it extends over a period of even a week or two, that should call your attention to the idea to look at your lifestyle. If it persists longer than that, or if it becomes associated with some decrease in your capacity to either achieve or maintain an erection, I think that calls for a more significant approach, perhaps even seeing a healthcare provider.”

The CEO has first-hand experience (Does everything sound like a euphemism in an article about boners?) with erectile dysfunction. He tells Playboy, “This is actually something I experienced personally when I was 17 years old. It was the first symptom of a far more serious heart condition. Thankfully I had this guy who was a doctor and my dad who was an expert in sexual health and was able to create an environment where I felt comfortable bringing this up to him.” The younger Reitano had a stress test, followed by heart surgery a few days later.

Since most guys probably don’t have live-in access to a sexual health professional, he sees the app as a way to make men more comfortable discussing their morning erections, whether it’s with a friend, a partner, or his doctor. Reitano, now 26, says, “I think it’s about making it approachable, and I think it provides an excuse to talk about it, which is always a good thing, right? If you can provide people with an excuse to talk about something that was previously embarrassing, and what that does is call attention to it in general, I think that’s going to be a really good thing.”

The younger Reitano knows Morning Glory is unlikely to become the top app in the App Store, but he hopes it will emphasize the value of morning erections as a health indicator. “Do I expect someone a year from now to be opening up this app and be tracking and logging their erections? It’s very unlikely, although it would be awesome if it happened,” he says, adding, “Even if for a week or two, guys download the app and every day they get the push notification asking whether they woke up with an erection, hopefully it just causes them to pay attention to it more. If a month from now, or two months from now, if they go a few days—maybe a week or two—without waking up with one, they realize the importance of paying attention to it.”

Roman's CEO points out that the Morning Glory app doesn’t track the number of erections you have, and that was intentional. “That’s actually not the most important thing. It’s tracking whether you woke up with one.” He quotes one of the team’s medical advisors, Dr. Steven Lamm, the head of Men’s Health at NYU, who says, “If I had one question to assess the overall health of a man, I would ask whether or not he woke up with an erection in the morning.”

So… did you?

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