Did you know that you could engage in physical sexual activities while asleep? And we are not talking about those sex dreams, no. In sexsomnia or rather sleep sex, you engage in real activities without your knowledge – just like how you would sleep talk or sleepwalk. Strange, right?
While it may seem like such a new and rare occurrence, researchers believe that the frequency is higher than we could imagine. One study targeting sleep disorder clinics found that the prevalence of sleep sex was at 11% in men, which was three times higher than that of women. Considering that this was just a case study of patients in sleep disorder clinics, you can bet that there are other cases that go unreported.
What is sexsomnia?
Like sleep talking, sexsomnia is a type of parasomnia when your brain is caught between sleep stages. It can happen during the non-rapid eye movement (NREM), the rapid eye movement (REM) stage or in between wakefulness and the aforementioned sleep stages. Patients experience amnesia after waking up. If not distracted, patients with sexsomnia continue with their physical sexual activity until they are done before going back to sleep like nothing happened.
Could I be suffering from sexsomnia?
As we had mentioned earlier, sexsomnia has nothing to do with the sex dreams you have. With sexsomnia, things get real. So real that you might end up having sex with your partner or attempting to do it with the person you are sharing a bed with.
You might have sexsomnia if you exhibit these signs and symptoms:
2. Engaging in sexual intercourse
3. Fondling with your bed partner
4. Spontaneous orgasms
5. Pelvic thrusting
7. Initiating foreplay with someone else
8. Denying that any of the above happened when you wake up
Consequences of sexsomnia
While sleep sex can be pleasurable, it can also result in undesirable consequences. Think of it this way: your friend comes visiting, you happen to share a bed or a room and then you start fondling with them during sleep. Do you really think that they would believe that you were not aware of what was happening?
In one sexsomnia study, sexual behaviours resulted in the assault of a family member, intra-conjugal rape, and, even rape of a friend. In the study, one intra-conjugal rape case ended up in a divorce of the sexsomniac husband and exclusive custody of their daughter since it was feared that she might also be at risk of being raped by the father in his sleep.
It’s, therefore, a condition that does not only put you in trouble with those around you but one that can also result in criminal prosecutions.
Treatment of sleep sex/sexsomnia
While experts are not certain of what really causes sleep sex, there are triggers and risks that need to be dealt with in order to treat it. For instance, people who sleepwalk or sleep-talk are at a higher risk of sexsomnia than those who do not. Some drugs and conditions such as sleep apnea also trigger sexsomnia and should thus be dealt with first as a way of treatment.
Scientists believe that factors such as anxiety, sleep deprivation, fatigue, stress and irregular sleep patterns could also contribute to sexsomnia. Dealing and treating the underlying problem is, therefore, the best treatment for sexsomnia.