Sexsomnia (also known as “sleep-sex,” and “SBS”), is a non-rapid eye movement sleep disorder and parasomnia which causes a person to engage in sexual activity such as masturbation, fondling, intercourse and sexual assault or rape while asleep. The main features of sexsomnia include frequently present sexual arousal with erection, vaginal lubrication, ejaculation and sweating. In contrast, sexsomnia without sexual arousal is also reported and this may hinder a correct diagnosis.
Psychiatrist Carlos Schenck and Neurologist Mark Mahowald of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center call sexsomnia or sleep-sex a “more advanced form of sleepwalking that covers the full gamut of sexual activity, from fondling to intercourse, with one crucial difference: the patients apparently have no conscious awareness of what they’re doing and, when wakened, have no recollection of it” (Underwood, 2007). There is, however, another form of sexsomnia which is caused by sleep-related epilepsy that results in sexual arousal, thrusting and orgasms where the patient actually remembers the event and is not confused upon awakening.
Since 1996, when the first report came out on the topic, some sexsomnia sufferers report only pleasurable outcomes of the disorder. In these cases, treatment for the disorder is unnecessary and can be potentially detrimental to their relationships. For many sufferers of sexsomnia, however, pleasurable outcomes are not the ending to their stories. Their outcomes are far from pleasurable and range anywhere from marked bruising of genitalia from heavy almost violent masturbation episodes (an occurrence found mainly in male sexsomnia sufferers) to a man who reportedly attempted killing his wife. The disorder can also manifest itself to such a degree where sufferers as a direct result ascribe feelings of shame, guilt, and depression from the sexsomnia and as such, fail to seek adequate medical intervention for which many doctors are still unaware of this growing phenomenon.
However, upon proper consultation with an expert and diagnosis given (typically through a sleep center), it is the general consensus that behavior modification be commonly used in the treatment of sexsomnia, as well as the use of Valium for more violent sexsomnia sufferers, techniques, changes in sleeping schedules and patters, and sometimes, for those sexsomnia sufferers who share their beds with partners, the separation of beds and even possibly bedrooms.
Colin M Shapiro, M. N. (2003, June). Sexsomnia – A New Parasomnia? Retrieved January 6, 2010, from Canadian Psychiatric Association:http://ww1.cpa-apc.org:8080/Pu blications/Archives/CJP/2003/j une/shapiro.asp
Sleep Sex. (n.d.). Retrieved January 6, 2010, from Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S leep_sex
Underwood, A. (2007). Sexsomnia. Retrieved January 6, 2010, from Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/id/342 41/page/1
This article can also be found at Helium.com here.