You heard of sleepwalking, but what about sleep sex? Yes, the condition Sexsomnia (think of the “omnia” part coming from words like insomnia) is a real thing that still eludes medical professionals and researchers to this day.
Let’s take a deeper dive into this usual disorder, what causes it, how people manage it, and other interesting tidbits.
WHAT IS SEXSOMNIA?
Sleep sex is a type of sleep disorder known as parasomnia – which is a “catchall” term for any usual behavior that people experience just before falling asleep, during sleep, or during the arousal period between sleep and when they’re awake.
People can even have their eyes open or even make sexual noises during this time, but still are completely unaware of what’s going on. They don’t even remember doing anything sexual when they have finally woken up.
As far as researchers and doctors know, it’s a fairly rare condition. However, because these actions happen when the person is passed out, the only way to know if they suffer from sexsomnia is if there is another person in the room to witness it.
Sexual actions can include…
- Sexual movements
- Initiating sexual activities
- Sexual aggression
- Sexual assault
WHAT CAUSES SEXSOMNIA?
Again, there’s not much data out there to really have a good handle on this condition. All they know for sure is that it can happen because of a number of larger/overlaying conditions.
- Other parasomnias, such as sleepwalking
- Kleine-Levin syndrome
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Sleep-related seizures
- Chronic insomnia
- Restless legs syndrome
- Persistent sexual arousal syndrome
- Sleep-related dissociative disorders
- Nocturnal psychotic disorders
- Bruxism or teeth grinding
- Drinking alcohol
- Past or current recreational drug use
- Stress or anxiety
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor sleep hygiene
It’s also worth mentioning that the first two on the list apparently are the most common reasons, but temporal and frontal seizures can contribute too.
NOTE: Some men might think they’ve had a wet dream, when in fact it was sexsomnia masturbation. But they don’t know unless someone else sees it. Men are also more likely to have this condition than women.
HOW IT’S TREATED
Sadly, there are no wonder drugs to fix this. The only ones are sedatives or antidepressants off-label for treating the condition. This means prescribing a drug or medical device for a purpose different from one of the indications that the FDA gives.
The other problem is if the person with sexsomnia has a partner, this person can end up in distressing situations (especially if the unconscious sexual acts become aggressive). Then, there’s the added stress and guilt when the person wakes up and sees that they have hurt their partner. This is why therapy or couples’ counseling is often a must for these cases.
Some people have had to go as far as sleeping in separate rooms and locking the door. A few have reported that setting off motion alarms in key areas of the house helps as well. This wakes them up and then they can go back to bed. However, learning to recognize the person’s “triggers” can help too. This can be things like stress or drinking, etc.
In several cases, the use of a positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or a mandibular advancement device was useful.
The biggest overall way to tackle this condition seems to be practicing good sleep hygiene, which is the case with anyone suffering from parasomnia.
Good sleep hygiene includes…
- Avoiding stimulants before bed (like coffee)
- Having a fixed wake-up and sleep time
- Don’t have too many naps during the day
- Avoid your phone late at night (blue light)
- Give yourself winding down time
- Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep for more than 20 minutes
- Try not to eat too late
There are way more, but you get the idea.
SEXSOMNIA FINAL THOUGHTS
Sex sleep can be a hard condition to live with. It can come with embarrassment or the knowledge you might have had sex with someone who couldn’t give their real consent. Even the court system has a hard time knowing what to do with these cases. However, as mentioned before, there are help systems out there and ways of coping.