Has it ever happened to you where your partner swears that you initiated sex the night before or that you mastur*ated beside them, and you have no idea what they are talking about? Or have you ever woken up in another bed, apparently having had sex with another person, with no memory of it whatsoever, add to the fact that your last memory is of lying down on your own bed? You might have sexsomnia.
We’ve heard of insomnia and sleepwalking, but this is a disorder where a person engages in sexual acts while still asleep.
What is sexsomnia?
Sexsomnia is considered a type of parasomnia, an abnormal activity, behavior, or experience that occurs during deep sleep. But many of the facts about sexsomnia, such as its exact cause, the variety of symptoms, and its prevalence, are not understood.
Sexsomnia is also very difficult to study long-term because it takes place randomly during the night.
What are arousal parasomnias?
Sexsomnia is a sleep disorder that results in the sufferer having sexual activity during sleep. Sexual activities can range from mastur*ation to sexual intercourse. It is one of a set of sleeping disorders called arousal parasomnias.
The sufferer is aroused from a deep sleep state by some trigger, but the brain doesn’t fully wake up, resulting in a half-asleep/half-awake state. During an episode of sexsomnia, the sufferer’s eyes are open, and they can stand up and walk.
Symptoms of sexsomnia
Sexsomnia often causes self-touching or sexual motions, but it can also make an individual to seek sexual intimacy with others unknowingly. Sexsomnia may also occur at the same time as other parasomnia activities, such as talking or sleepwalking.
Sometimes it is a parent, partner or roommate who first notices symptoms of the condition. Sexual partners might also notice that their partners have an abnormally heightened level of sexual aggression and decreased inhibitions randomly in the night.
Common symptoms of sexsomnia include:
- Fondling or rubbing
- Heavy breathing and elevated heart rate
- Pelvic thrusting
- Initiating foreplay with someone else
- Sexual intercourse
- Spontaneous oh-gasmm
Aside from the physical symptoms that occur during episodes, sexsomnia can have harmful emotional, psychological and even criminal consequences.
Sexsomnia’s triggers are similar to those of other sleep disorders. A person suffering from sexsomnia falls asleep like any other person. However, as they enter into a deep sleep, something wakes them up, but the brain wakes up only partially. Triggers can be a sudden noise, such as a loud bang or the phone ringing.
It can also be triggered by an event, such as an accidental pat or touch.
Underlying medical conditions may trigger sexsomnia, too. These conditions often interfere with sleep. They include:
- Simultaneous sleep disorders, including sleep, talking or sleepwalking
- Restless leg syndrome
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Sleep-related epilepsy
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Head injuries
Why does it happen?
Predisposing factors of sexsomnia include a prior history of a sleep disorder and a family history of sleepwalking.
Thus, there appears to be a genetic component to this disorder.
Also, one of the couples might try to engage in physical intimacy in sleep due to a high probability of missing out on sex in their marriage. Partners neglecting each other for physical intimacy is also a reason why this ‘sex sleep’ might take place. Sexsomnia can make a person uncomfortable and frighten a partner. It must be dealt with caution and compassion.
Sexsomnia refers to a sleep disorder that causes a person to act out sexually while asleep.
For some patients, taking steps to improve sleep hygiene can help. These steps might include:
• Keeping a sleep schedule – going to bed and waking up at
the same time every day.
• Having a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a bath or reading a novel.
• Keeping stress and anxiety under control so that worries do not interfere with sleep.
• Getting enough sleep.
Some cases of sexsomnia are triggered by obstructive sleep apnea when a person repeatedly stops breathing for short durations during sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be assessed in a sleep lab and treated with a special device that helps maintain steady breathing during the night.
Treatment for drug and alcohol problems may help if abuse is the suspected cause.
Sexsomnia is a very serious condition that can greatly affect both the sufferer and the people around them.
However, no matter how unmanageable it may seem, there is hope in support groups, medical professionals and loved ones who can help the sufferer.
BY SWATI ARORA, DKODING MEDIA