It is common for people to hear about walking while sleeping, but it is uncommon for them to hear people committing sexual acts while sleeping. Most people associate sleep disorder as having a hard time sleeping, excessive sleepiness, sleepwalking, uncontrollable sleepiness and even bed wetting.
However, there are only few who are aware of the word sexsomnia. There might be a lot of individuals who experience some of the sleeping disorders mentioned above. Sexsomnia or sleep sex is like sleepwalking. It is a type of parasomnia. Parasomnia is a condition where the brain is in between sleep stages.
It is an in-between phase that makes a person acts like they are awake even if they are still asleep. Since there are a lot of individuals who are not familiar with sexsomnia, here is an essential guide to sleep sex that everyone needs to know.
Definition of Sexsomnia
Also called as “sleep sex,” Sexsomnia is a sleep disorder that involves sexual acts while sleeping. People who have sexsomnia experience sexual behavior that related to sleep. The behavior can range from masturbation to intercourse. It is a type of parasomnia which catches the transition of the brain from waking and sleeping states.
The same with other types of parasomnias such as sleep talking, sleepwalking, and sleep driving, a person may seem like they are fully awake and aware that they are fondling, masturbating, initiating intercourse and even sexually assaulting their partner. However, the truth is they are asleep.
There are a lot of cases that sexsomnia was an excuse from any criminal records for molestation and rape in recent years.
Symptoms of Sexsomnia
Sex dreams and sexsomnia is different from each other. It is not strange for adults to have sex-themed dreams. These events are completely different from sexsomnia. People who have sleep sex will involve themselves in sexual behaviors while they are sleeping, mostly with other people.
It is difficult for people who have parasomnia like sleep sex to determine that they have this kind of disorder. Parents, roommates, partners, or friends maybe the first ones to notice their behaviors.
A person who has this disorder will not know about his condition not until someone brings it to their attention. Here are some common behaviors that people with sexsomnia have:
- Encouraging foreplay or fondling with their bed partner
- Behaviors that mimes sexual intercourse
- Pelvic thrusting
- Spontaneous orgasm
- Sexual intercourse
- Vacant and glassy look in their eyes during these behaviors
- Unaware of the behavior afterward
After the incident occurs when a person isn’t aware of the behavior, it can be a sign that they have parasomnia.
For people who have sexsomnia, they usually open their eyes and act awake. But, they are under an amnesic episode and won’t remember anything after. Similarly, there are faint changes in the sexual behavior which can be a sign of sleep disorder.
It is possible that individuals who have sexsomnia are more aggressive during their episode than they would normally act in bed. Restriction can be low down because they are sleeping, so their behavior will be different towards their partners.
Causes of Sexsomnia
Many people poorly understand parasomnias, and this includes understanding towards sexsomnia. Due to this, experts are having doubts about the real cause of the disorder.
But there are risk factors that let sexsomnia occur more in some people than in others. Some types of these behaviors occur during episodes of other sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea or sleep deprivation.
There are specific medications that can trigger theses types of behaviors. There can also be a genetic connection of NREM or non-rapid eye movement sleep in parasomnia that usually runs through families. Alcohol and drug abuse can be another risk factors for triggering sexsomnia. Sometimes physical contact with a bed partner can induce sexsomnia episodes.
Since most sexsomniacs do not remember any acts that they’ve done while they are asleep, it can be an excuse to any criminal defense cases of rape. According to data from Toronto Western Hospital, the male population usually experience sleep sex than the female population, though both sexes are open to possibilities of being affected.
There are no clear causes of the development of sexsomnia, but medical experts state that these are the contributing factors to the inducement of the disorder:
- Sleep deprivation
- Specific medications
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Increased stress
- Using prescription or recreational drugs without prescription
Risk Factors of Sexsomnia
Experts don’t exactly have an accurate answer on the causes of sexsomnia.
However, some factors trigger the disorder. Factors can include medical conditions and are situations that usually involves sleeping.
Here are some risk factors:
- Other Parasomnias. Mostly, individuals who are experiencing sexsomnia also have other types of parasomnias.
- They may binge eat while they are sleeping or sleepwalking.
- Family History of Parasomnias. The type of sleep disorders that run in the family.
- Sleep Deprivation. Episodes of sexsomnia may often happen when an individual needs more sleep.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It is a condition where people repeatedly stop breathing for short periods while sleeping. It can be another factor in developing the disorder.
- Side effects of other medications
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Sleep-related Epilepsy
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Head injuries and Migraines
Diagnosis of Sexsomnia
Before an individual see a doctor, it is smart if they ask the people who witnessed their sexual behaviors to write the things that they saw.
There must be a journal for the sleep patterns. Keeping a record of the sleep sex episodes can be enough for the doctor to diagnose their condition. If the record doesn’t work, an individual can request to undergo a sleep study.
Usually, sleep studies happen at specialized medical facilities. The test called polysomnography would record various things during sleep such as heart rate, breathing pattern, eye and leg movement and brain waves. Staying at least one night in the sleep center is enough.
A doctor can request an extension of staying so they can have a full grasp in understanding an individual’s sleep pattern. If sexual behaviors occur during the stay in the sleep center, it will help in confirming the doctor’s diagnosis.
For some cases that sexsomnia episodes don’t occur while staying in the study center, the doctor can request additional studies later.
They might try to perform other results, to rule out possible causes.
Treatment for Sexsomnia
Sexsomnia is a disorder that is very real and problematic because it doesn’t disappear on their own. There are a lot of things that can cure sexsomnia.
Therapy for sex sleep can involve a diagnosis of a latent sleep disorder and lifestyle changes, commencing therapy, or medication. Below are the treatments that can cure sexsomnia:
- Handling Any Underlying Sleep Disorders. If the current condition of sexsomnia is a possible result of another sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea, tending the underlying disorder can also stop any unintended sexual behaviors. For example, sleep apnea uses continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP machine to cure it.
- Change in Medication. If an individual started a new prescription soon before sleep sex behaviors happen, changing the medicines can help in stopping the disorder. Over-the-counter and prescribed sleep medications can be a possible cause of parasomnia episodes.
- The Underlying Causes. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, and stress can be a contributing factor to sleep disorder and sexsomnia. Talk therapy and medication can be treatment options that will stop the sexual behaviors.
- New Treatments. Though some medications can be a trigger to develop sexsomnia, others can be a help to stop it. Some doctors may prescribe anti-seizure and antidepressant medicines.
Precaution for Sexsomnia Cases
Some couples don’t see sexsomnia as a big deal. Some partners don’t mind having their sleep disturbed because of an unexpected sexual activity, even if their partner won’t remember it.
But, having sexsomnia can give a negative impact on partners and other household members, especially if they become sleep deprived because there is a disturbance in their sleep patterns.
Anxiety over sexsomnia, wondering when the next episode will make others have difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep.
If sexsomnia leads to assault, the consequence becomes serious. Some individuals who have sexsomnia feel tremendous guilt, anxiety, and embarrassment, especially that they don’t intend to do such sexual act.
Here are some precautions that will help an individual with sexsomnia and how their partners and the people in their household deal with it:
- There is a time that an improve sleep hygiene can help in taking care of the situation. It is smart for individuals to stick to a sleeping routine. The sleeping schedule involves waking up and going to bed at the same time is a good first move. It can then help in contributing a relaxing bedtime ritual that will put an individual in the right mind before going to sleep.
- Managing both stress and anxiety then getting enough sleep is vital as well. There are some occasions that doctors prescribe antidepressants to people who have sexsomnia.
- When the cause of sexsomnia is obstructive sleep apnea, an individual can use a unique device that will help regulate their breathing while they are asleep. It can contribute to promoting a restorative sleep.
- If there is an involvement of alcohol and drug abuse, it is wise to have it treated right away.
- Most importantly, it is necessary that the household members and the patient will consider the safety of everyone living in the house. If any sexual assault concern rises, it is essential to use a particular alarm system and lock the bedroom doors to at least handle every in control.
Tips to Manage Sexsomnia
It is not easy to have sexsomnia. There is no particular time that patients will know when will they harm the people around them. There are ways that they can manage their conditions. There are certain things that they need to change to handle the situation well.
It is wise for people who have this disorder to change their lifestyle to reduce any risk of sexsomnia. It can prevent future event as well. Here are some tips to manage this condition:
Never get afraid of talking it out with your partner and family. It is true that sexsomnia can put other people’s lives in danger. It may affect any personal relationships.
However, it is vital for individuals who have sexsomnia to let their loved ones know of their current situation. It is better if they include treatments that they are undergoing and the things that the family can do to help. Even the golden rule applies to this situation; honesty is still the best policy.
Create an environment that is protective.
It is important that while an individual goes under medication, there is a protective environment that will make a safe ambiance for everyone. Choices, such as sleeping in a separate bedroom or a room with a locked door, can help.
It is also wise to set up an alarm especially if any unusual movement happen.
Avoid any risk factors.
Taking recreational drugs and excessive drinking of alcohol can be a significant contribution that will lead to sleep sex.
Knowing and identifying triggers can be helpful to prevent any sexsomnia episode from occurring.
Practice a good sleep hygiene. It is critical for an individual who has sexsomnia to have a regular good night’s sleep if he or she wants to avoid any episodes. Changes in sleep pattern and lack of sleep can lead to the possible occurrence of episodes.
Always stick to a bedtime schedule.
Some have a misconception that upon mentioning sleep disorder, they would immediately think of sleep apnea and sleepwalking.
However, there are only few who knows about an unconscious sexual activity that happens while a person is asleep. Learning and knowing about sexsomnia is vital for an individual.
Patients who have sexsomnia gets embarrassed and feels guilty about their situation. Some are even afraid that they might harm their loved ones and gets a judgemental stare from people who knows but doesn’t understand their situation.
This guide will help partners, family members and friends of a person that is experiencing the disorder.
Researcher and health enthusiast, Janis Walker is currently living in Sunnyvale, California. She has an interest in sleep and psychological disorders. Janis loves to travel for the research that she conducts. She is also a writer for BedsOnline. Mostly, Leslie writes about the benefit of health tips and sleeping disorders. Carpe diem is his motto in life.