Sexsomnia: strange name, even stranger condition

By EmilyM

Imagine you are sleeping, dreaming peacefully, and the next thing you know your girlfriend is attacking you… well, let me clarify, it’s the good sort of attacking, the type you were most likely dreaming about just minutes prior. I’m guessing most men don’t mind being woken up for a midnight romp, but wouldn’t it be a little odd if say, she was asleep the entire time or if she left your bed to be with a total stranger in the middle of the night? Suddenly, not so cool. This is the condition known as sexsomnia or “sleep sex,” and it’s thought to affect as many as 1 in 12 people.

This odd sleep phenomenon first came into the public light in a 1996 research study. Since this is considered a relatively new condition,  experts continue to do more and more research to discover why some people are affected while others are not. I’ll admit, at first it sounded almost comical to me and at first glance it seems harmless, but the reality is that engaging in sexual activity while you are asleep can be a very scary thing that can land you in a heap of trouble. Perhaps unsurprisingly, men make up nearly three quarters of all patients diagnosed with this sexually charged disorder.

There are countless parasomnias (sleep disorders) currently identified in the  medical world like sleep driving, eating, talking and walking, which all seem to pose their own potential dangers, but perhaps the most unsettling thing about sexsomina, is that it affects more than just the person with the condition. If you are in bed with your significant other, usually no big deal. But what if you are a guest in someone’s home or around people you don’t or never would normally have sexual relations with? Now that could be… well, sort of awkward. One story regarding this disorder proves that this can be more than awkward, but downright dangerous. This Australian woman actually would frequently sleep walk straight out of her house and into the beds of the closest available strangers! Needless to say, when her partner woke to find her having sex with someone other than him, he was more than a little ticked off.

With stories like this, it seems that anyone could use sleep sex as a likely excuse for infidelity, but after extensive sleep studies and research, it was proven that this woman did indeed suffer from an uncontrollable urge to have sex with people or indulge in sexual acts while completely unconscious.

So what may have sounded like more of a strange novelty at first doesn’t seem to be as great as it sounds. It can turn you into the equivalent of that perpetual drunk guy/girl at a party who wakes up foggy and confused, only to hear the ridiculous things they did the night before – not cool.

Even more frightening is that some people with sexsomnia get themselves into legal trouble, which as you can see, could easily happen. In fact, “sleep sex” has even been used as a defense in several sexual assault cases.

So what do experts think makes some people engage in “sleep sex” and leaves others sleeping soundly on their own side of the bed? Experts aren’t totally sure. It’s believed to be a type of sleepwalking that comes from abnormal brain arousal, sleeping patterns or, in some cases, emotional disturbances. Most of the time, it can be treated with medication to divert the normal restless sleeping pattern that leads to these types of disorders.

So, with all this said, do you think that one’s actions can ever be defended by sleepwalking, sleep talking or even sleep sexing, or do you think that this condition sounds like an easy way to excuse bad behavior?

I am still on the fence about this myself.