Fast Asleep and Having Sex
They are as young as 15, close to a third are women and their behaviours range from self-pleasure to oral sex and intercourse. New Canadian research suggests that sexsomnia — the recently discovered phenomenon of people who have sex while fast asleep — is more widespread than expected, and includes a wide assortment of people.
Contact with a bed partner’s body was the most common trigger for sleep sex reported by the 219 subjects, while a relatively small percentage ended up in trouble with the law, some after involving children in their unconscious acts. Many had other psychological conditions, such as depression, although for some sexsomniacs it seems to be an acceptable, if slightly odd, part of their lives.
In a phenomenon that is likened to sleepwalking, they typically remember nothing of the incidents.
“It’s more common than we thought,” said Dr. Nikola Trajanovic of the University Health Network’s Sleep and Alertness Clinic in Toronto.
“Now we know what to ask and we find out there are more people. Before, if you didn’t ask, these people would not volunteer information … especially if they find it agreeable. Why would a couple that have no problem, and find the funny side of this, report to you that they have this or that type of behaviour in sleep?
The study was based on a survey of self-identified sleepsex practitioners, many of them Canadian, who registered at the Web site sleepsex.org. The site quotes some of those who have come forward, including the fiancee of a man who repeatedly started fondling and groping her while he was asleep.
“I was furious. I felt violated and like a piece of property. He is an intimate sleeper always but this has never happened before. He swears he has absolutely no recall,” the woman wrote. ” I am ready to end this relationship, which will be devastating for all of us.”
First reported by scientists about 20 years ago, sexsomnia has gradually been recognized over the last few years as a legitimate sleep disorder. A 33-year-old Ontario man was even acquitted of sexual assault in 2005 on the grounds that he was a sexsomniac and asleep at the time. Most of the research, though, has been based on individual case studies, often involving patients referred to sleep clinics by lawyers whose clients faced criminal charges.
To paint a broader picture of the phenomenon, Dr. Trajanovic and colleagues Dr. Colin Shapiro in Toronto and Dr. Michael Mangan in Serbia sent out surveys to users of the Web site, and received credible responses from 219. Dr. Trajanovic admits the research lacks the reliability of a study involving face-to-face interviews and a control group for comparison, but said it provides at least a rough guide to the condition.
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The cross-section of sexsomniacs was 31% female and ranged in age from 15 to 67 years old, with an average of 30 years, the vast majority being heterosexual, according to a paper on the study recently published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
About half had engaged in intercourse while sleeping and more than a third moaned or had other “sexualized vocalizations” during the episodes, the study found. Many reported having oral sex asleep.
Previous research suggested that the chief factors setting off sexsomnia incidents were fatigue and stress, similar to other “parasomnias”: sleep disorders like sleepwalking and night terrors. The most commonly cited trigger in the survey, though, was contact with a partner’s body in bed.
That was a surprise and points to a potential strategy for those who want to avoid the behaviour: they simply have to sleep on their own, said Dr. Trajanovic. (About Sexsomniacs)
Source: Blackwell, Tom. “Sexsomnia: Fast Asleep and Having Sex” National Post http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=548a828d-d97b-4fd3-888c-302e5d2328e3 Retrieved: 17 Oct 2012