sleep disorders

The Sleep Files: What is Sexsomnia?

The Sleep Files logoHey, you, get your mind out of the gutter. That is absolutely not what I’m-

Nope, actually, keep your mind right where it is.

Sexsomnia is exactly what you are thinking.

It’s a medical condition that causes a sufferer to perform sex acts while they are sleeping. Whilst that might sound like a fun way to get off, it actually isn’t.

In its mildest form, it involves a little bit of unconscious self-pleasuring that can cause undue embarrassment for the sufferer and their bed partner. On the more serious end of the scale, it can lead to rape and charges of sexual assault with the perpetrator having no recollection of performing the act.

When I first heard about this relatively new sleep disorder, I assumed it was related to REM Sleep Disordered Behaviour (RSDB). For those of you that don’t know a lot about sleep medicine, let me explain my thinking:

  1. RSDB involves acting out one’s dreams and
  2. During REM sleep, both the male and female genitalia can become engorged.

I think its only natural to assume that the act of sexsomnia would occur when these two physiological actions are combined.

But, and I’m not too proud to admit it:


Sexsomnia does not usually occur in REM sleep as an extension of RSDB. It is, in fact, classified as an arousal disorder that falls under the parasomnia branch of sleep disorders.

Okay, yes, you can laugh at me now. The name is a bit of a giveaway – sexsomnia, parasomnia, clearly it was labeled as a “somnia”.Have you had your fun?

Good, because now it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of the disorder.

Sexsomnia occurs when one section of your brain wakes up before the other areas of your brain do. It primarily occurs towards the end of your slow wave sleep period (your deepest sleep), often in the first or second sleep cycle of the night. It occurs in the same way sleep walking, sleep eating and sleep talking occurs.

However, just because someone sleep walks, it does not mean they will sleep sex. Conversely, though, sexsomnia primarily occurs in patients with a history of parasomnias or other sleep disorders. As I mentioned before, it is a relatively newly discovered disorder and a lot more research is still needed to determine the causes (and possible cures) for this behaviour.

If you think you may suffer from this sleeping disorder you should talk to your G.P. and get a referral to Sleep Physician.

You can find further information on sexsomnia here.

XX Amanda


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Amanda Canham is a sleep scientist by trade, a mother by heart, and blogs for fun. She has published a series of sensual sleep medicine romance novels that you can check out here.