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The Science of the ‘Piss-Moan’

What causes that sigh of relief with a much-needed pee?

There is but one universal sound of urinary relief: The piss moan. (Not to be confused with the idiom pissing and moaning, which is its polar emotional opposite.) The piss moan is the sort of unearned bodily relief generally reserved for the heavily constipated. It’s mediative; it’s poetic; it’s a sun-dappled Japanese garden with a stream tinkling through it. And the wonderful thing is, most of us will have at least one opportunity to bask in its glory every single day.

But as with other slightly sexual sounds of minor pleasures being indulged — the ‘ahhh’ someone might make after they’ve taken a sip of really good drink — the piss moan is not beloved by all. In fact, some men have some major feels about it. “I’ve heard a lot of dudes do this in public restrooms, and I just can’t understand what the fuck is going on,” complained redditor Crucial-Monkey a couple of years ago. “I’ve never had a piss that felt so good that I had to make moaning/sex sounds.”

However you feel about the piss-moan, the question Crucial-Monkey posed remains: What causes that sigh of anatomic relief in both male and female pee-ers?

“You can call it a moan or a sigh,” says Jamin Brahmbhatt, a board-certified urologist. “It’s a natural response to pain or pleasure. A lot of the time you hear it happen in the bathroom and that’s because men or women have held it too long, and it’s just a huge sense of relief.”

As to what’s actually causing that relief to be vocalized, “There’s a lot of science that suggests it’s a change in the way you’re breathing and exhaling, which causes a change of pressure in your lungs,” says Brahmbhatt. This pressure change, he explains, can occur during any activity that brings stress on your body, whether it’s finishing a marathon, taking an exam, or in this case, relieving your body of excess liquid.

“You naturally have these innate behaviors that occur when your body is under pressure,” says Brahmbhatt. “You may not always make a noise when you breathe a sigh of relief, but that doesn’t mean your lungs and your body aren’t actively working to adapt to that change.”

In other words, your piss moan is your lungs telling you that the air pressure inside of them is in transition.

Aaaah, what a relief.