Defining Sexsomnia

Wikipedia defines Sexsomnia as 

Sleep sex, or sexsomnia, is a condition in which a person will engage in sexual acts while still asleep. This condition falls within the broad classes of sleep disorders known as parasomnia. Sexsomnia includes fondling, heterosexual and homosexual intercourse, masturbation, and oral sex. In extreme cases sexsomnia has even been alleged as the cause of rare instances of sexual assault and rape.The proposed medical diagnosis is NREM Arousal Parasomnia – Sexual Behavior in Sleep. Sexsomnia is considered a type of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) parasomnia. Sexsomniacs do not remember the acts they perform while they’re asleep. Sexsomnia can co-occur alongside other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, sleep apnea, night terrors and bedwetting and can be triggered by stress, previous sleep deprivation and excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs. Sleep related epilepsy may be associated with sexual arousal, pelvic thrusting and orgasms, though in these sorts of cases the acts are often remembered. Sexsomnia episodes could be triggered by physical contact with a bed partner. Sexsomnia which is a fairly new medically recognized behavior has been used in many criminal defense cases of rape. There have also been several cases of sexsomnia which have appeared in the news and also in pop culture as reality shows, movies etc.

Sexsomnia Parasomnia

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The first research paper that suggested that sexual behavior during sleep may be a new type of parasomnia was published in 1996 by three researchers from the University of Toronto (Colin Shapiro and Nik Trajanovic) and the University of Ottawa (Paul Fedoroff). The term “sleepsex” was used in a 1998 case report by David Saul Rosenfeld, a neurologist and sleep specialist from Los Angeles. The term ‘sexsomnia’ was coined by Colin Shapiro in a case report published in June 2003.

Psychology of Sleep Sex

Sleep sex may accompany relationship difficulties and feelings of embarrassment. Often the actions of the person who has sexsomnia are reported by his or her partner as the sexsomniacs are unaware of the event, which may confirm the diagnosis.

Clonazepam has been used as a first line of treatment for this condition when other measures are not enough to solve a case of sexsomnia.

Cases Reported in the Press

Natalie Pona, the then Sun reporter, broke the first press story 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.

On 12 February 2010, an Australian man was found not guilty of rape due to sexsomnia. This similarly happened to a Welsh man on 4 July 2011.

On 07 March 2012, a British woman gave an interview in which she described how her sexsomnia had made sustaining a relationship difficult.

Pop Culture

Sexsomnia a topic much of which the population is unaware of is evidently present in much of our daily pop culture. The medical drama television series House included an episode dealing with sexsomnia in its first season, “Role Model”, in which a woman who claimed she was not sexually active mysteriously became pregnant and found hickeys and other marks on her body. The titular character, Doctor House, eventually diagnosed the woman as a sexsomniac, explaining her strange situation. The condition has also been featured in episodes of many other television shows such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit season 9, episode #2 “Avatar”, and Desperate Housewives Season seven, episode #2, ” You Must Meet My Wife”. It has also been a theme in novels and plays. In Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, a farmer claims to have had sex with his daughter while asleep. In the play Yakish and Popcha by Hanoch Levin, Yakish only manages to have intercourse with his wife Popcha while both are asleep, by the end of the play.

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14 Responses to Defining Sexsomnia

  1. confused says:

    Hi just wanting a little more information, my partner has told me that i often touch myself in my sleep! I have no memory of these occurances, but have woken up wuth my hand down there on a few occasions. Is this the same thing?

  2. Lars says:

    Thank you so much for your website, my husband has this condition and its really starting to freak him out. In general he is a control freak so this is totally out of his realm. His trigger seems to be mental stress – work problems, worry (over everything – not providing etc). He can’t seem to shut down and control his thoughts so he doesn’t sleep well at these times. He has never been forceful before and I usually just give him a nudge away and he’ll roll over still snoring. Last night he was a bit more forceful (nothing bad) but I told him and now he wants to sleep in the spare room because he’s scared he’ll get violent. My question is: Will having more sex help alleviate this?

  3. Tania says:

    Thank you for having this page. My husbands has the condition and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was thanking him for the prior night. He had the lost look on his face. Told him to smell me on him. He was shocked and didn’t know. Then each time during the night I would say something the next day and nada, knew nothing. I don’t mind at all as it is not violent. We have been together 17 years and would say we found out about 7yrs ago. Unsure how many times before were unknown ‘events’.

    • Sexsomnia says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us! Let me know if you are interested in writing a story about your experiences. I would love to learn more about you and your husband’s experiences with sexsomnia.

      I hope to hear from you soon!!

      Take care and be well.


  4. D M says:

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  7. the official says:

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  9. devastated says:

    Thank you for creating this blog and raising awareness to this condition.

    • Sexsomnia says:

      You are very welcome. Thank you for your kind words. It is my intent to increase Sexsomnia Awareness.

      Sexsomniacs Journey was created for Sexsomniacs, those who love us, and the curious to convene in a safe, respectful, understanding, accepting, friendly and compassionate environment.

      I have severe sexsomnia and if you have any questions or if there is any way I can be of any assistance, please know that I am here to assist.

      Take care and be well.

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  11. hcg says:

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