Sleep Sex: Not as Fun as It Sounds

woman sleeping in bed half-dressed
Flickr phot by calleecakes
At first, when I learned from Science Blog of a condition called sexsomnia or "sleep sex," I thought, Oh, come on. Guys are making that up. He's groping you while you're sound asleep because he wants some, and he's only pretending he's asleep and oblivious so you won't be pissed at him.

But I did some digging into sleep sex, and it's a real medical condition. And serious. Some couples are even on the brink of divorce because of it.

Some real sleep sex cases reported on

  • A man's fiancee falls asleep for a few hours and wakes up moaning, masturbating and simulating sexual acts in her sleep.
  • A man wakes up every night and forces his wife into unwanted sex that, to his horror, is growing increasingly aggressive and threatening their relationship.
  • The step daughter of one man claims he touched her inappropriately while he was sleeping (why they were even sleeping together is not clear).
  • A woman complains that her husband wakes her constantly throughout the night, stroking her and trying to have sex, but that he never remembers it in the morning.

Sexsomnia is a condition often experienced along with other sleep disorders. According to a new study, about 8 percent of all patients visiting sleep clinics complain they unknowingly initiate sex during sleep.

It's three times more common in men than women (keeping snide comment to myself), which explains why I never had it during a bout of insomnia I experienced years ago, to my husband's great dismay, no doubt. I believe I was suffering from whatever the opposite of sexsomnia is called, something like get-the-hell-away-from-me-can't-you-see-I'm-exhausted-and-cranky-because-I-can't-frigging-sleep-somnia.

According to the research, sexsomniacs were twice as likely as other patients with sleep disorders to use illegal drugs. Sexsomniacs rarely mention the problem to their doctors, perhaps because, like me, it doesn't sound legit or it's embarrassing and they don't think anyone will believe them. The fact that it doesn't have an official diagnostic code for insurance, and is not even listed in the psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, doesn't help.

I'm sure there's the rare couple that absolutely loves the idea of anytime, anywhere sex, including while one or both parties are snoozing, but sleep specialists say sleep sex is no fun and games and requires treatment, usually with anti-anxiety drugs.

Have you ever initiated sex while you were sound asleep and didn't remember? Has your partner?

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