THE BOTTOM LINE
- Sleep-related sexual behavior is engaging in sexual behavior during deep sleep
- Engaging in sleep-related sexual behavior can be frightening for your bedmate
- Ensuring you have a consistent sleep-wake schedule can reduce symptoms
Sexual behavior can occur during the deepest parts of your sleep without you even realizing it. In fact, most people who suffer from this parasomnia do not even realize it until someone else (usually a bedmate) brings it to their attention!
What exactly is sleep-related sexual behaviour?
Sleep-related sexual behavior is one of the many non-REM-related parasomnias. This means it occurs during the first three stages of your sleep cycle (but most often in deep slow-wave sleep). Some have coined this parasomnia as “sexsomnia” because it is characterized by unusual sexual behavior during sleep including:
Initiating sexual intercourse/activity while asleep
You can imagine that this could be quite frightening for bedmates, housemates, and even for yourself (not to mention embarrassing!)
How common is sexsomnia?
Research has found that approximately 7.1% of the population may experience symptoms of sleep-related sexual behaviors during their lifetime.
What causes it?
A clear cause is currently not known, but research has found that a number of different factors have been associated with sexsomnia:
Stress and anxiety
Irregular sleep-wake schedule
Underlying sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea
Can it be treated?
The best way to treat your symptoms of sexsomnia would be to talk to your doctor about treating a possible underlying sleep disorder or medical condition that may be the cause of your symptoms. Also focusing on having a healthy sleep-wake schedule, a great sleep environment, and a consistent bedtime routine will also help reduce the likelihood of sleep-related sexual behaviors.
When sexsomnia becomes serious.
This parasomnia can be harmless for most, but in severe cases, it can be extremely serious as it has been used in some cases as a defence against sexual abuse and rape. In these more severe cases, talking to your doctor about sleep-aid medications (antidepressants or anti-seizure medication) might be the best course of action.