IT may sound unusual, but for some people it’s a real problem: having sex while sleeping and not knowing that they’re doing it. There’s actually a medical term for it – it’s known as sexsomnia.
To help you understand this better, Move! speaks to My Sexual Health clinical sexologists Dr Elna Rudolph and Dr Jireh Serfontein who share insight into this unusual condition.
WHAT IS SEXSOMNIA?
Dr Elna says sexsomina is engaging in sexual activity while you are asleep and not being aware of what you ‘redoing regardless of what kind of sexual activity you engaged in. “The sexual activity can take any form, from masturbation to penetration sex while you are asleep,” she says.
Dr Jireh adds that it is related to parasomnia, a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviours, emotions, perceptions and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or during arousal from sleep. “The person who suffers from the condition may not know that they have a problem. Their partners are the ones who would better explain what they do while asleep.” Here are some indicators that you suffer from sexsomnia.
Ask your partner to tell if you do any of the following: Fondling and rubbing. Moaning. Masturbating. Initiating foreplay with someone else. No recollection or memory of any sexual activity. Denial or difficulty remembering what could have happened when you were asleep.
Sex sleeping can cause some strain between partners. “Some partners would even have oral sex and penetration without the other partner being fully aware of it,” Dr Jireh says.
This could be risky because it borders on criminality and there's the danger of contracting sexually transmitted diseases as a result of not making conscious decisions.
“There is a real danger of engaging in sexual activity with another person without obtaining consent,” Dr Elna says. “This can have serious legal implications. ”Dr Elna acknowledges that when sexomnia occurs in a stable relationship, often the sexomniac does not mind the unsolicited sexual advances in the middle of the night but other times it freaks them out completely.
“The real danger comes in when a person is hospitalised or shares a house with people who are not their sexual partner. If they make sexual advances to somebody who is not their partner, it can cause enormous issues,” Dr Elna says.
CAUSES AND TREATMENT
It is unclear what the cause of this condition could be but doctors believe it is a branch of sleeping disorders. Diagnosis can only be achieved through medical and psychological evaluation.
Dr Elna says sexsomnia is often association with periods of high stress. “It can also be due to certain medication and is linked to other conditions. “Medication is available to deal with the sleeping disorder, Dr Jireh says.
Apart from the medication available to remedy this, experts recommend psychological evaluation too. Dr Jireh cautions that having sex while half-asleep doesn’t fall under sexsomnia, which is a recognized medical condition. “People might actually enjoy sex more when they are half-asleep because they are relaxed, but they will have a memory of the activity.”