Everyone has heard of the sleepwalker, the sleep eater and the sleep talker. However, there is another sleep disorder that people are less likely to discuss: sexsomnia.
What is Sexsomnia?
Sexsomnia, also called sex sleep, was first identified in 1996 and is a classified sleep disorder characterized as a non-rapid-eye-movement (N-REM) parasomnia. (A parasomnia is a disorder characterized by partial arousals during sleep or during transitions between wake and sleep.)
People who experience sexsomnia engage in sex while sleeping, though they have no memory of their actions once they wake up. The intensity of this sleep sex varies, with some sexsomnia victims merely moaning and groping, and others engaging in sexual activity either with themselves or with another person in the bed. On the extreme end of the scale are those who become violent and dangerous while performing sexual acts.
Specific causes of the disorder are unknown, but some scientists believe that there is a genetic component involved with sexsomnia. Research also suggests that sleep sex is caused by a genuine sleep disorder combined with other emotional problems.
Who Suffers from Sexsomnia?
Researchers believe that sexsomnia affects between one-tenth to one percent of the population, although this estimate might not be accurate, since so many people are too ashamed to seek help. At the present time, it is believed that mostly adult men suffer from the disorder. (Two-thirds of reported cases are males.)
Effects of Sexsomnia
It is important to seek medical help for this condition, as a sufferer may experience many negative emotions, including:
These negative emotions often lead to tremendous stress.
Clearly, relationships are put to the test when couples have to deal with this awkward and sometimes dangerous problem. Also, many sexsomnia sufferers are concerned about legal issues, as sexual advances occurring during sleep can be unwanted and violent.
Treatment for sexsomnia may combine medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. Triggers, such as stress and alcohol, should be avoided. Lifestyle changes, to help reduce stress and anxiety, may also be incorporated into a personal program to best fit an individual’s specific needs. Additionally, doctors may prescribe the drug clonazepam, which has been effective for some individuals suffering from this parasomnia.
Sexsomnia is a chronic condition, and, therefore, treatment is essential. Seeking help can increase awareness and understanding and can help both individuals and couples deal with this disorder in a constructive and understanding way.