Sleep Sex

Sun, Jul 19, 2009

ParasomniasSleep Sex

Sleep sex or sexsomnia is parasomnia sleep disorder that causes people to engage in sexual acts while they are asleep. Medical science has proposed that sexsomnia should be considered as a non-rapid-eye-movement sleep disorder and a part arousal parasomnia, and it has been classified as Sexual Behavior in Sleep. It is now considered to be a different varioation of sleepwalking or confusional arousals.


  • According to Wikipedia, the original research paper suggesting that sleep disorder that causes sexual behavior during normal sleep may be a new type of parasomnia, was published in 1996 by Dr. Colin Shapiro and Dr. Nik Trajanovic (from University of Toronto) and by Dr. Paul Fedoroff (from University of Ottawa), all in Canada.
  • Other researches confirmed that problematic forms of sleep sex could be medically treatable conditions. 
  • This condition of sexsomnia was  also defined in a paper called “Sexsomnia — A New Parasomnia?” published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in June 2003 .
  • The first doctor to coin the term sleep sex was Dr. David Saul Rosenfeld, a neurologist and sleep doctor from Los Angeles, California.


  • As studies suggest, people who experience sexsomnia are aware of their sexual behavior during their sleep a long time before they start seeking medical help.
  • It takes place due to the fact that they have insufficient information about their medical condition, which is a form of sleep disorder.
  • Another reason is a fear that other people will see it as unlawful act rather than a medical condition.
  • The facts of sexsomnia have been confirmed by sleep disorder researchers.
  • They have made polysomnograms and video recordings of patients with the sexsomnia condition while they are asleep and observed unusual brain wave activity during the episodes similar to other NREM arousal parasomnias.
  • They have concluded that it is a mind/body disconnect that occurs during sleep.

Treatment of Sleep Sexsomnia

 The treatment of sexsomnia is similar to the treatment of other NREM (non-rapid-eye-movement) parasomnias. See Sleep Disorders Treatment posts for more details.

Cases reported in the press (by Wikipedia)

  • Natalie Pona, the then Sun reporter, broke the story of the first case of sexsomnia in the fall of 2005.
  • On 30 November 2005, a Toronto court acquitted a man of sexual assault after he was diagnosed with sleep sex disorder, although prosecutors filed an appeal of the acquittal in February 2006. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the acquittal on 7 February 2008.
  • In Britain, a man from York was cleared of three counts of rape on 19 December 2005.
  • In Australia, a woman was reported as leaving her house at night and having sex with strangers while sleepwalking. On 8 August 2007, a British RAF mechanic was cleared of a rape charge after the jury found him not responsible for his actions when he had sex with a 15-year-old girl.
  • On 23 March 2009, a British woman gave an interview in which she spoke about problems in her life caused by sexsomnia.


My partner has tried numerous times to initate sex while sleeping. At first I didnt think he was still sleeping but he would not remember it in the morning and accuse me of making it up. He also talks or mumbles in his sleep on occaison. Last night he whispered in my ear he wanted to rape me and then gropped me and thrusted against me. It only lasted around 10 seconds and then he rolled over and continued to sleep. It happened a couple of hours after we had fallen asleep. Why is he doing this and does it now mean he wants to hurt me?

Answer: (by Aneesa M Das, MD, Assistant Professor, Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine) 

  • Abnormal behaviors that occur during sleep are called parasomnias.
  • Parasomnias are caused by partial arousals (brain activation without full consciousness) from sleep or during transitions between the sleep and waking state.
  • Non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) parasomnias are events that occur in non-dream sleep.
  • It is important to seek medical help for this condition as the sufferer and bed partner may experience frustration, guilt, shame or denial.
  • This can be very stressful for a relationship. In addition, personal injury can result and so it’s important to get this evaluated.

One such type of parasomnia is often referred to as sexsomnia, though some have described it as “sleep sex.”

  • Sexsomnia is described as a person engaging in sexual acts while asleep.
  • Types of sexual behavior reported during sleep have included violent masturbation, sexual assaults, and continuous and loud sexual vocalizations.
  • The severity of this disorder varies. Individuals tend to have no recall of the events upon awakening in the morning.
  • While a specific cause may not be found in some cases, potential causes of this type of behavior have ranged from obstructive sleep apnea to a specific type of seizure disorder (epilepsy) to deep sleep (slow wave sleep) parasomnias to REM behavior disorder.
  • Stress, alcohol and certain medications can also serve as triggers for this type of activity.

 Last update: Sep 9, 2009

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Lioubov Says:

    Very interesting facts, never heard before. Thanks

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