Erection Self-Test

Written by Brian Krans | Published on June 20, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD on June 20, 2012

What Is an Erection Self-Test?

An erection self-test is a procedure a man can do by himself to determine if the cause of his erectile dysfunction is physical or psychological.

It is also known as the nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) stamp test.

Why Is an Erection Self-Test Performed?

According to a review published in the Journal of Endocrinology, the average healthy pubescent male will have between three to five spontaneous erections a night. Those with physiological difficulties, such as a spinal cord injury, will not (Benson, 2005).

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical, emotional, or mental problems. This test helps determine if a man’s erectile functions are impacted by physical problems.

The test is considered outdated. More reliable tests, such as nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) testing using the RigiScan test, are now available. Also, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find postage stamps, which are used in the test, that aren’t already sticky on the back.

However, it may be used as a discreet way of testing yourself if you are embarrassed to discuss the subject with a doctor.

How to Prepare for an Erection Self-Test

You will need to buy four to six postage stamps. The denomination of the stamps does not matter, but they should be the roll style with the dry glue on the back.

Abstain from alcohol or any chemical sleep aids for two nights before the test. Avoiding caffeine during these days is also advised to ensure you get a good night’s rest.

How an Erection Self-Test Is Performed


Prior to going to bed, change into a pair of briefs or boxer-brief underwear. Take enough stamps to circle the shaft of your penis.

Pull your flaccid penis through the fly in your underwear and ensure the majority of your pubic hair remains close to your body.

Moisten one of the stamps on the roll and wrap the stamps around your penis. Overlap the stamps in the roll to ensure they will stay securely in place. It should be snug enough so the stamps break apart if you have an erection. Place your penis back inside your shorts and go to bed.

For best results, sleep on your back so the stamps aren’t disturbed by your movement.

Do this three nights in a row.


When you awake in the morning, check to see if the roll of stamps is broken. You could have had an erection in your sleep if the stamps are broken. This indicates that your penis physically functions properly.


There are no risks associated with an erection self-test. There may be some slight discomfort if the stamps used during the procedure become stuck to pubic hair, but these easily become unstuck during a morning shower.

After an Erection Self-Test

Failure to have an erection (not breaking the stamps) during the course of the test suggests that your erectile dysfunction is caused by a physical problem. If so, you should see your doctor.

This test only indicates whether you are capable of having an erection, but does not indicate why you might have problems getting or maintaining an erection. Failure to have an erection during sex may be psychological in nature, and would require a discussion with a doctor or a counselor.

Talk to your doctor if you regularly experience erectile dysfunction. While many men don’t feel comfortable about talking about the subject, it is a fairly common condition, especially as you age.

There have been numerous advances—namely in pharmaceutical drugs (e.g. Cialis or Viagra)—that can help men with erectile dysfunction.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Send us your feedback

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Show Sources

Read This Next

Tips for Sexually Frustrated Couples
Tips for Sexually Frustrated Couples
Even if you are unable to benefit from pharmaceutical treatment and therapies to improve erectile dysfunction, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on sex.
Laser Surgery for BPH: In the Spotlight
Laser Surgery for BPH: In the Spotlight
Doctors can choose from many different treatments to shrink and enlarged prostate (BPH), including laser surgery. Lasers can remove extra prostate tissue.
7 Common Side Effects of Erectile Dysfunction Medication
7 Common Side Effects of Erectile Dysfunction Medication
While erectile dysfunction medications can be a boost in the bedroom, there are some common side effects to learn about before asking for a prescription.
Is Erectile Dysfunction Psychological?
Is Erectile Dysfunction Psychological?
Erectile dysfunction is a common sexual problem that can occur for a number of reasons. Find out how mental issues, like depression and stress, can affect ED.
Beta Blockers and Other Drugs That May Cause Erectile Dysfunction
Beta Blockers and Other Drugs That May Cause Erectile Dysfunction
Many medications can cause ED, including beta blockers. These blood pressure drugs may affect your nervous system's ability to cause an erection. Learn more.