Sexsomnia: Having Sex While Sleeping

Various disorders linking sex and sleep

Researchers at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis have made for the first time a review and formal classification of all documented sleep-related disorders linked with abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences, called "sleepsex" or "sexsomnia".

"It seems that more and more reports are surfacing of abnormal sexual behaviors emerging during sleep," said lead author Dr. Carlos H. Schenck, a senior staff psychiatrist at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis.

"While people may think this type of behavior is humorous, in reality it can be disturbing, annoying, embarrassing and a potentially serious problem for some individuals and couples. Despite their awareness of the condition, many sufferers often delay seeking help, either because they don't know that it's a medical disorder or for fear that others will instead judge it as willful behavior. This paper highlights the expanding set of sleep disorders and other nocturnal disorders known to be associated with abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences, or the misperception of sexual events. The legal consequences are also described and discussed."

The research team made computerized literature investigations of peer-reviewed journal articles, but they also investigated textbooks and other sources on sexual activity during sleep or sexual behaviors linked to sleep disorders.

The team got the next list of sleep-related disorders and abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences:

I. Parasomnias (sleepwalking, night terrors, bed-wetting, REM sleep behavior disorder, confusional arousals with or without obstructive sleep apnea) connected with abnormal sleep-related sexual behaviors (sexual vocalizations, masturbation, fondling another person, sexual intercourse with or without orgasm, aggressive sexual behaviors)

II. Sleep-related sexual seizures (sexual vocalizations, libidinal hyperarousal, genital arousal, ictal orgasm, sexual automatisms, aggressive sexual behaviors)

III. Sleep conditions connected with abnormal sexual behaviors occurring during wakefulness and wake-sleep transitions

A. Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS), a rare condition characterized by recurrent hypersomnia, connected with hypersexual and deviant sexual arousal and behaviors

B. Severe chronic insomnia linked to high libido, genital arousal, compulsive sexual behaviors

C. Restless legs syndrome combined with masturbation, rhythmic pelvic/coital-like movements

IV. Special Clinical Conditions

A. Narcolepsy (frequent and uncontrollable periods of deep sleep) displaying sexual hypnagogic (drowsiness)/hypnopompic (semiconscious state prior to complete wakefulness) hallucinations and REM- onset dream attacks, cataplectic (muscle weakness) orgasm

B. Sleep exacerbation of persistent sexual arousal syndrome without high sex drive or sexual behaviors

C. Sleep-related painful erections and increased sexual activity (masturbation and intercourse)

D. Sleep-related dissociative disorders: pelvic movements and other sexualized comportments, reenactments of past sexual/physical abuses

E. Night psychotic disorders like sexual delusions/hallucinations after awakenings

F. Various sleep and sex connections like masturbation, sexual intercourse, sexual hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations with sleep paralysis

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