Sexsomnia is a distinct type of sleep disorder (parasomnia) which is also known as sleep sex. It is an abnormal activity that occurs during the non-REM (NREM) sleep stage. The sexual activities that occur during Sexsomnia can be entirely different from sexual activity that the person engages in while awake.
In some cases, the person experiencing Sexsomnia is gentler and more focused on the partner’s pleasure than they are during sexual encounters while they are awake. In other cases, the person is violent when they are normally gentle. One man assaulted his wife so viciously during an episode of Sexsomnia that she had to have surgery to repair the damage. Although there aren’t any reports of Sexsomnia associated with someone leaving their home, there are many cases where the person left their bed and assaulted someone in the home, including assaults on children.
Some people with a sleep disorder actually drive their car while they are asleep so it might be possible that someone could drive and then attack someone outside their home but this series of events has not been reported so far.
Various parasomnia disorders such as sleep talking, sleepwalking, and night terrors are discussed and studied widely. However, Sexsomnia is under-reported and understudied. Most research reports that exist end by calling for additional research. Reporting is hampered by people feeling ashamed of their nocturnal activities and because people may be unaware they are engaging in them. One of the symptoms of Sexsomnia is amnesia about the event.
People with Sexsomnia may appear fully awake at the time because their eyes can be open, but they fail to recollect their sexual behavior after they wake up. They can also be difficult or impossible to wake during an episode. One couple where the wife was repeatedly assaulted by her husband during episodes of Sexsomnia considered using electric shock to wake him after scratching and kicking him failed to rouse him during attacks that were often violent.
Sexsomnia has been used as a defense in numerous criminal cases since the literature on it was first published. In the UK, the official defense is referred to as automatism. The results have varied, partially because the evidence varied, partially because of the court’s reluctance to accept the testimony of expert witnesses, and partially because it is impossible to prove that someone who suffers from Sexsomnia was actually having an episode during the act for which they are facing criminal charges.
The good news is the cure! For those of you who want to find out how to prevent Sexsomnia, there is more than one way to do so. How to deal with Sexsomnia involves a combination of medications, therapy, and changes in lifestyle. There are even natural ways to treat this disorder.
Let’s find out more about Sexsomnia in detail.
Table of Contents
- 1 Sexsomnia Symptoms
- 2 Sexsomnia Treatments
- 3 Sexsomnia in Court
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
- 5 Conclusion
People with Sexsomnia engage in sexual behavior while they are asleep and do not recall the behavior while awake. Sexsomnia isn’t the same as erotic dreams. Because the person doesn’t recall their behavior, they usually learn about it from someone who observes a Sexsomnia episode. Sexsomnia can involve solo sexual acts and sexual acts that involve someone else including;
- Pelvic thrusting
- Spontaneous organisms
- Removing someone else’s clothing
- Fondling someone else
- Sexual intercourse, rape, or sodomy
Sexsomnia generally begins after puberty and has been reported in senior citizens. Onset can occur at any age after puberty.
What Causes Sexsomnia?
Researchers haven’t identified the underlying cause, but they have identified triggers that make it more likely to occur. The reported frequency varies significantly with some individuals experiencing frequent episodes and others only experiencing them months apart. There have been incidents of remission with relapse many years later.
Triggers that are noted in numerous research studies include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Preceded by incidents of increased psychosocial stress
- Consumption of drugs or alcohol
- Beginning a newly prescribed medicine
Sexsomnia is not triggered by a lack of sexual satisfaction. It is not unusual for it to be reported when normal sexual activities occurred before the person went to sleep.
When a second person is involved, most reported episodes involve someone who was sleeping in the same bed as the person with Sexsomnia although incidents have also been reported where sleepwalking and Sexsomnia both occurred. In some instances, the person with Sexsomnia went to another bedroom in the home. In one case, a person had begun sleeping on the couch to protect his wife walked from the couch to his marital bed while asleep.
Ambien (Zolpidem) is linked to episodes of parasomnia including Sexsomnia.
Most people with Sexsomnia have a history of parasomnia or a family history of parasomnia including night terrors or sleepwalking. Increased risks can be present as the result of:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is associated with increased risk of parasomnia.
- Head injuries are known to increase the incidence of parasomnia.
- Restless leg syndrome is often present in individuals who experience Sexsomnia.
- Sleep disturbance to obstructive sleep apnea (which leads to sleep deprivation).
Sexsomnia involving a second person occurs most often when that person is in the bed with the person who has Sexsomnia.
Research & Incidence
How common is Sexsomnia? There is no clear answer, but experts consider the condition to be rare. The condition made its first appearance back in 1996 in a publication by Nik Trajanovic and Colin Shapiro from the University of Toronto.
A recent Sexsomnia study from the Clinic of Canadian Sleep Disorder only 8% of the participants exhibited Sexsomnia symptoms. The condition is more frequently found in men as compared to women.
Interestingly, masturbation was more frequent among women with Sexsomnia.
We need to understand the fact that this study only involved the people in that clinic who were there as the result of having a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleepwalking. This condition might be much less common in the general population. In most cases, people hesitate to share their symptoms with their physician due to embarrassment or because they aren’t aware of it. Individuals who are aware should discuss their experience with their doctor. Documented evidence can help if they are ever charged with an assault that occurred while they were sleeping.
In the study, only 63 out of 832 participants reported their concerns about Sexsomnia with their sleep consultants. These numbers are very small especially if we consider that more than 4% of the world’s population sleepwalks. Therefore, Sexsomnia statistics will vary considerably and we can assume that a significant percentage of the population may experience Sexsomnia. However, there are plenty of areas to explore by different Sexsomnia studies emphasizing on a variety of questions associated with the topic.
The effects of Sexsomnia
People with Sexsomnia respond in complex ways when they learn they are engaging in sexual activity that they don’t recall. Sex is still a taboo subject to many people and societal norms have attached shame, guilt, and revulsion to certain acts. Sexsomnia studies report the following secondary effects:
In one case, a woman became suicidal after learning she was experiencing Sexsomnia.
It is important to understand that Sexsomnia is not within the individual’s conscious control and doesn’t reflect their fantasies or desires while awake. Mental health counseling should be sought to alleviate negative emotions associated with Sexsomnia. Therapy is one treatment method that is often effective.
To understand the possible mechanisms behind Sexsomnia, we have to get comfortable with the concept of NREM sleep. Nonrapid eye movement sleep has three different stages.
- Stage 1 is somnolence or drowsy sleep. This is where breathing rates get consistent during sleep. In this stage, the muscles activity declines along with the heart rate. This stage lasts for about 10 minutes and comprises 5% of the overall sleep.
- In Stage 2 muscle activity declines further and the individual’s sense of consciousness of his/her surrounding reduces as well. The brain waves in this stage are in the theta range. This stage comprises of 45-50% of the overall sleep.
- Stage 3 is also called Slow Wave Sleep stage. In Stage 3 which is the final stage of NREM, the heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure, and brain temperature are at their lowest. This stage comprises 15-20% of the overall sleep. It is during this stage that Sexsomnia tends to occur. The brain waves are in delta range during this stage. People who awake during this stage experience grogginess. To recover and regain the normal consciousness and function they will have to wait for at least half an hour.
Before going to the doctor, it is wise to ask your partner about your abnormal behavior during sleep. You should keep a journal related to your sleeping patterns to help the doctor diagnose the condition. Sleep studies are generally conducted at specialized medical facilities where sleep is observed for one or more nights.
As mentioned earlier, there is no way to prove that Sexsomnia was occurring during an episode after-the-fact. It is possible to definitively diagnose that Sexsomnia is occurring.
The factors that are considered when a diagnosis is made include:
- A family history of sleepwalking or night terrors
- Automatic behavior or observed confusion
- The event’s nature compared to a baseline of individual character
- The person makes no effort to conceal their behavior
- Triggers (mentioned above) were present
- Past episodes of somnambulism
- Amnesia of episode
- Disorientation when awoken
- Difficulty waking the individual
Sometimes, clinical testing is required to diagnose Sexsomnia. Electroencephalography and Polysomnography are two valuable clinical tests that can be used in the diagnosis of Sexsomnia.
Electroencephalograms are a clinical test that illustrates electrical waves and activity produced by the brain. The EEG is able to identify abnormalities related to Sexsomnia disorder because the brain activity can determine whether the person is asleep when the behavior occurs. Slow-wave-sleep (SWP) slows down the brain waves and make them larger in comparison to their waking state.
A sleep study is known by Polysomnography or PSG, which records the body functions during sleep. If you want a complete a study of sleep, then you have to contact a designated sleep center. During the study, the monitors and electrodes are linked to the individual and kept in place. In some severe cases, video cameras are also used to record physical behavior while asleep.
PSG measured body functions
The clinical PSG test is also used to diagnose other sleeping disorders such as restless leg syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The following are the body functions that are measured by a PSG:
- Respiratory rate
- Respiratory effort
- Position of body
- Expiratory & aspiratory air flow
- Electrical activity in muscles
- Oxygen saturation in blood
- Eye movements
- Breathing pattern
People who might experience the above-mentioned symptoms would be thinking, is there a cure for Sexsomnia? Well, the good news is, there is! Let’s find out what are the possible treatments, therapies and natural ways available to treat this disorder.
Disclaimer: The following treatments should not be considered medical advice or a prescription. You should consult your doctor before taking or starting any of the following treatments.
Medications for Sexsomnia
While your doctor should be consulted and provide treatment for Sexsomnia, there are some preventative strategies you can employ.
Things Your Physician Might Try:
There is a considerable chance that Sexsomnia is caused by some other underlying sleeping disorder. Restless leg syndrome or sleep apneas are strong contenders for causing Sexsomnia. These disorders might be causing unwanted sexual behaviors, probably because they contribute to sleep deprivation.
In such cases, the person can go for different medications to get rid of these sleep disorders.
The most significant example here is Ambien Sexsomnia. Ambien Zolpidem has been linked to a variety of parasomnia episodes including Sexsomnia. Ambien is often prescribed to treat insomnia.
Some medications that are prescribed for anxiety, depression, and stress are linked to Sexsomnia. If you’ve begun or stopped taking any drug when you become aware you are experiencing episodes of Sexsomnia, discuss it with your physician right away. Excessive melatonin may cause Sexsomnia.
Some over-the-counter sleep medications can cause parasomnia. Cease taking over-the-counter medications that cause you to experience parasomnia and talk to your doctor about his or her recommendations.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-seizure or antidepressant medication to stop Sexsomnia.
Things you should try:
If you experience Sexsomnia, there are several things you should do:
- Consult with your physician and, if your physician encourages it, participate in a sleep trial.
- Even if your physician doesn’t encourage it if you feel it would be beneficial and you’ve tried what you can do to prevent episodes, arrange a sleep study.
- If you believe a necessary drug is contributing to the problem, talk with your doctor about alternative treatments.
- Try the Lifestyle Changes below
CPAP therapy for Sexsomnia
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and it is a common treatment technique to cure sleep apnea. It is sometimes effective in treating cases where sleep apnea and Sexsomnia are both present.
- Avoid taking unnecessary drugs.
- Avoid consuming alcohol.
- Get adequate sleep. Make sleep a priority.
- Especially if you’ve had any reports of being violent, but also if there are people in the house where you sleep who are not your regular sexual partner, consider having yourself locked in your sleeping room. If you do this, make sure there is a safe way to escape (such as a window and a ladder) in case of fire.
- Set up a motion-activated camera to share with your doctor.
- Learn stress management strategies so psychosocial stress will have less effect on you.
Medical professionals advise positive lifestyle changes for people with Sexsomnia. Reduction in anxiety and stress will reduce the effects of Sexsomnia disorder. An open discussion between the couple and a better understanding that Sexsomnia is involuntary can reduce negative emotions and enable the couple to support one another. These are the best Sexsomnia natural treatments.
Overview of Results from the Treatments
In most cases, if you get treatment for the underlying conditions, you will be able to treat your Sexsomnia successfully. Occasionally, you might experience one or two Sexsomnia episodes again particularly if you change your sleep patterns. This might also be the case if you develop any other sleep disorder. However, most people with Sexsomnia find relief after the treatment.
How to stop episodes of Sexsomnia without medication
Overcoming Sexsomnia is easy with medication. But if you’re not interested in taking medical treatment then let’s have a look at some of the following lifestyles that can minimize the risk of Sexsomnia and helps to prevent future episodes.
Discuss the issue with your partner and your family
Sexsomnia generates more risks that affect your personal relationship. Therefore, it is wise to let your family or partners know of the diagnosis as well as how you are trying to treat it, plus what they can also help you.
Look to develop a protective and caring environment
It is necessary to create a protective and caring environment during treatments. Try to follow some tips for managing Sexsomnia condition such as:
- Put yourself in a separate bedroom for sleeping
- Lock the door before sleeping
- Configure alarms on the door to alert the people about your abnormal activity
Make sure to avoid any Sexsomnia triggers
The important question here to answer is what triggers Sexsomnia. There is a number of aspects that help to trigger Sexsomnia such as taking recreational drugs, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, lack of sleep, stress or anxiety, poor sleeping conditions, sharing a bed with an unknown person, high-stress jobs, and much more. Restricting these activities helps prevent future Sexsomnia episodes.
Ensure good sleep hygiene
You should get a regular amount of sleep daily to prevent Sexsomnia because changes in sleep pattern and sleep deprivation can generate episodes of the disorder. Hence, make sure to set your bedtime and try to follow it strictly. A comfortable mattress is part of good sleep hygiene.
Criminal behavior and Sexsomnia
Most people often wonder, is Sexsomnia real? As the individual who is suffering from this condition experiences unintentional sexual behavior, lawyers have brought this condition up on numerous occasions in courts to defend criminals in rape and sexual assault cases.
One defense lawyer stated that the condition is just like a car with the engine on but no one on the driving seat. For most people, this might be a joke but Sexsomnia is an issue that can threaten relationships and can land people in jail.
It can also save criminals from court trials. Recently, the use of Sexsomnia in rape cases has increased significantly. In the UK, Lawrence Barilla was cleared from a charge of raping his partner. The court ruled that he was suffering from Sexsomnia.
Although, it is very difficult to differentiate between Sexsomnia and molestation in the case of Lawrence Barilla? But, due to the lack of research on the condition, courts can’t do much when it comes to drawing a line between Sexsomnia and molestation. There are cases where it is used as a defense and fails. The more well-known Sexsomnia becomes, the more often it will be asserted as a defense by someone who doesn’t suffer from the illness.
For over 15 years, UK lawyers have been using this condition to defend their clients. In Australia, it has been in use since 2008 since Leonard Spencer. Spencer made history when the court ruled in his favor and cleared him of a rape case due to Sexsomnia.
Sexsomnia in Court
Controversies involving sex offenders
As mentioned above, the sex offender cases involving Sexsomnia is growing in numbers. Australasian Sleep Association is asking the qualified medical professionals to make contributions in the expert testimony for these cases by evaluating the claims and ensuring the validity of individual claims. It shouldn’t be just an attempt to clear the case. But there are differences in opinions as well as some courts rule in the favor of defendants while another rule in the favor of prosecutors.
- Smith v. State
In this case, the court ruled in favor of the defendants. As per the defense lawyer, an individual who commits an act during sleep or unconsciousness is not involved in a voluntary act. Due to this, they are not criminally responsible for that act. Voluntary commitment is necessary for acts to be criminal. The court affirmed the defense.
- The case of the Swedish Man
In Sweden, the court acquitted Mikael Halvarsson of rape because of the Sexsomnia defense. His girlfriend brought the charges on him for sexual assault. After the investigation, Mikael was found in his girlfriend’s bed even when the police arrived. Mikael also troubled his previous girlfriend with the same behavior. His mother also reported irregular sleep behaviors when Mikael was young. His history of Sexsomnia helped the court believe his case.
What the general public is saying about Sexsomnia
Imagine that you wake up in the morning and your partner is telling you that, last night’s surprise sex was that best thing that has happened lately. But you cannot recall any of it.
If the couple is unaware of Sexsomnia, such an incident can damage their relationship. To the partner who doesn’t have Sexsomnia, the sexual contact can physically and emotionally feel like a sexual assault. This is especially true if they attempt to stop the person and the person continues the sexual behavior. When they learn what they have done during their waking hours, they can be embarrassed that they did something unconsciously that they would not do when conscious.
It feels as if they are sexually assaulting the person that is in their bed. It is very close to touching someone when they don’t want to be touched. Some people understand the issue and cooperate with their partner, while others feel violated. Some views of Reddit people are as follow:
- One lady says, “My husband has Sexsomnia and he deathly scares me when knocking me up at night. It is something that doesn’t feel good. It is more robotic because he does all of it without making any sounds.”
- One man says, “My wife has Sexsomnia and she becomes aggressive and dominant during it. She wants to control everything and also becomes foul-mouthed. It seems pretty weird because she is totally opposite of what she becomes during a Sexsomnia episode. Though I like what goes down after that, I also understood that she needs to see the doctor.”
- Another person says “I had Sexsomnia problem in the past and thankfully I got rid of it with the help of medication. In my sleep, I would start touching her body very hard and would hurt her. My girlfriend would hit me to back me off but I wouldn’t wake up. For 2 long years, our relationship suffered a lot due to my condition.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a wet dream and Sexsomnia?
Sexsomnia and wet dreams are very close to each other. According to researchers, the wet dream and Sexsomnia are the mix condition of sexual activity contains nocturnal emissions as wet dreams in men and sleep orgasms or sexual dream in women.
Is Sexsomnia related to high sex drive?
Sometimes, we can say that Sexsomnia is related to high sex driver but on the other side, it is not. Some people have a severe sleeping disorder such as sleep talking, sleepwalking, and sleep driving that helps to trigger the sex drive at a higher level.
How many women have Sexsomnia?
A lower percentage of Sexsomnia is found in women as compared to men. The frequency of Sexsomnia for men in sleep trials is 11%, which is three times higher than that found for women.
Is there any relation between sleep paralysis and Sexsomnia?
Sleep paralysis and Sexsomnia both refer to abnormal activities while asleep. However, in the sleep paralysis, you are unable to move or speak for a minute or two and it is quite frightening.
Is there any sleep disorders Sexsomnia causes?
Sexsomnia is associated with the presence of other parasomnia disorders but researchers can’t say that Sexsomnia causes the other disorders.
Is there a link between some medical conditions e.g. brain tumors and Sexsomnia?
Yes! Some medical conditions are risk factors for Sexsomnia.
Can Sexsomnia occur in young children?
Sexsomnia disorder has been reported as young as age 17 but younger children can become victims of sexual assault due to an older person in the home experiencing Sexsomnia. Take steps to protect children from such assaults.
- Do not allow anyone other than the person’s sex partner to sleep in the bed with someone who experiences Sexsomnia.
- Lock the door on the room where the Sexsomniac sleeps, from the outside, if necessary.
- Take preventative steps as noted above
Most of the myths associated with Sexsomnia are due to the lack of knowledge that people have on this topic. Because there are not many people who find it comfortable to discuss the issue, answers are more difficult to find. Still, we need to explore different ways to sort out this issue.
The biggest concern in this area is that we are not able to differentiate Sexsomnia from molestation, rape, and sexual assault. Some say Sexsomnia is a myth and it doesn’t exist. It is just a term to cover up misdeeds. However, before judging we must also consider documented cases. The good thing is Sexsomnia is curable as a condition. Stress, depression, anxiety, drugs, alcohol, and sleep deprivation can lead to numerous health issues and Sexsomnia is one of them.
If you know that you have this issue, then discuss it with your partner or family and your physician. When they know about it, they will try to understand and cooperate. It will also ease up your stress.