On an average, a healthy person spends almost 33 percent of his/her lifetime sleeping. Sleep is one of the most important activities of a human body and is vital in healing and restoring the body. But, in a world full of stress, disturbances and work tensions, it is almost impossible for most people to get proper sleep, which leads to the development of sleeping disorders. One such disorder is sexsomnia or sleep sex and is one of the sleep disorders collectively called parasomnias (abnormal or unusual behaviors, emotions, perceptions and dreams that occur while falling asleep, during sleep or while waking up).
A sexsomniac engages in sexual behavior during sleep without his or her knowledge and remembers nothing when awake.
The disorder is considered an NREM arousal parasomnia and the sufferer would not remember it when awake. The disorder is relatively unknown to most people and is a very rare condition. The sufferers usually realize, to their embarrassment, only when their partner or the person they are in bed with tell them about it. The disorder can also mean dangerous consequences if the other person mistakes it for unwarranted sexual advance or even rape, resulting in criminal prosecutions. However, there have also been instances in which people without the disorder claimed it to be the reason for their crime.
Sexsomnia is often seen in people already suffering from other sleeping disorders.
Sexsomnia might not always occur on its own, but can co-occur along with other sleeping disorders such as sleepwalking, sleep apnea, night terrors and bedwetting. These behaviors are usually triggered by stress, sleep apnea and excessive consumption of alcohol and other drugs all of which cause disruption in normal and healthy sleep.
The sexual behavior during sleep varies between men and women. Women vocalize or masturbate while men fondle and engage in intercourse.
Women with sexsomnia are known to typically exhibit sexual vocalizations and masturbation, while men are known to engage in fondling and intercourse with females. There have been cases such as one in which a woman in her 20’s would tear her clothes off and masturbate during the first half of the night but would refuse offers of intercourse and deny the behavior. Another case in which a man would perform cunnilingus on his wife while they were both sleeping. Such instances including people of same sex were also reported.
Confusional arousal is another common cause of sexsomnia.
These sexual behaviors, as mentioned earlier, are more often found in people who already have other sleep behavior problems such as driving and eating while asleep. Most often these behaviors occur as a result of confusional arousal – a state of confusion with slow speech, blunt responses, confused thinking and poor memory – when the person is suddenly aroused from a deep sleep. During this time the person doesn’t completely come into consciousness and is usually amnesic about what happened.
There is another medical cause known to cause sexsomnia or related symptoms – sleep related epilepsy.
Sleep related epilepsy also results in sexual arousal, pelvic thrusting and even orgasms. However, unlike sexsomnia with confused arousals, the person suffering from sleep related epilepsy often remembers what happened.
That being said, sexsomnia, once diagnosed, can successfully be treated by treating the underlying cause (sleep apnea, seizures, confusional arousals, etc.) that results in sleep disruption.