Sexsomnia: People Who Have Sex While They’re Asleep

August 19, 2019

Sexsomnia is also known as sleep sex. It is a sleep disorder that involves performing sexual actions unconsciously while sleeping. Sexsomnia is linked to NREM. The strange thing is that a person with the disorder doesn’t usually remember anything about it the following morning. Data indicates that men are the most affected.

Sexsomnia or sleep sex

Sexsomnia is a rare disorder. Many of those affected don’t see a doctor or psychologist for fear of being judged, or simply out of shame. Research concludes that 10% of adults with parasomnia have this variety. There isn’t much literature on the subject, with research only beginning in 1996. The first actual cases described come from 2000,  and the term sexsomnia came into use in 2003.

Sexsomnia, addiction to sex

Sexsomnia occurs mainly in the NREM phase of sleep, as does sleepwalking. For this reason, sexsomnia is also known as sexual sleepwalking. During the NREM phase, people don’t dream.

Another interesting fact is that sexsomnia can occur at the same time as other parasomnias, such as sleepwalking or restless leg syndrome. The latter is a neurological disorder consisting of unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move and walk while sleeping.

What does a person with sexsomnia experience?

A person with sexsomnia performs unconscious sexual actions while sleeping. These behaviors include stroking, rubbing, moaning, masturbating and having complete sexual intercourse. In addition, the person often doesn’t remember having performed these sexual actions when they wake up.

Sexsomnia,woman fantasizing

There have been documented cases of sexsomnia of people having sexual intercourse with strangers while sleepwalking. Other cases report sexual assault or rape. As we’ll see, the consequences of sexsomnia can be very unpleasant, not only for those who suffer from it but also for those who sleep with them.

Factors that can trigger sexsomnia

There are several factors that can precipitate this disorder. The main causes of sexsomnia are:

  • Stress.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Drug use.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Certain medications (neuroleptics or sleeping pills).
  • Excessive fatigue.
  • Migraines.
  • Epilepsy.

Sexsomnia usually has a trigger, something that causes the person to wake up while they’re sleeping and carry out sexual behavior. This trigger could be a noise, the touch of a person sharing their bed, sleep apnea or even epilepsy associated with sleep.

Consequences of sexsomnia

A person with sexsomnia suffers, as do those who share a bed with them and those who are subject to the sexual behavior. In addition to relationship and personal problems, it can also have legal repercussions.

Couple in tension

The legal repercussions usually involve minors or penetration. The latter are often judged erroneously as rape. Some cases of sexual abuse have gone in favor of the aggressors because they have claimed that they have sexsomnia. Others cases have gone the other way. There is still a legal gap in this regard.

Sexsomnia may come along with confusion, denial, guilt and shame, among other emotions. They may also feel anger, fear and frustration. It often causes relationship problems.

However, the long-term consequences are still not very clear. The disorder doesn’t usually last as long as other parasomnias. It is, after all, a very new field of study where there are still more questions than answers.

Treatment of sexsomnia

There is no specific treatment for sexsomnia. In the medical world, some doctors have tried prescribing sedatives and antidepressants, but none have had very effective results. The best treatment involves targeting the risk factors. This may involve avoiding alcohol and drugs, creating an ideal sleep environment and checking for sleep apnea. Stressors should also be avoided.

As you can see, sexsomnia is a serious disorder that can have legal repercussions and really complicate a person’s relationships. There is still a lot left to learn.