Sexual Health Q&A

How is sexsomnia treated?

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.

Medications, such as antidepressants, might be prescribed for a person with sexsomnia. However, this approach should be monitored carefully by a physician, as the medications are not usually approved for this purpose.

Severe cases of sexsomnia can lead to sexual assault. Patients, bed partners, family members, and roommates who are concerned about aggression or assault might consider sleeping in separate, locked bedrooms until the situation is under control. Special alarms designed to wake the patient during sexsomnia episodes may also be helpful.