Sexual Health Q&A

What is sexsomnia?

Sexsomnia, sometimes called “sleep sex” is a sleep disorder. A person with sexsomnia acts out sexually while sleeping. He or she might masturbate, fondle a bed partner, give oral sex, engage in intercourse, or reach orgasm while asleep and have no recollection of this activity the next morning.

The condition is a type of parasomnia – a behavior that would not normally occur during sleep. One of the most common examples of a parasomnia is sleepwalking, but people have also been known to eat, drive, and be aggressive while sleeping.

Sexsomnia episodes usually happen within the first few hours of sleep. They may happen several times during the night.

Scientists are not sure what causes sexsomnia, but they have identified some risk factors. Obstructive sleep apnea and sleep deprivation are common in sexsomnia patients. Drug and alcohol abuse can also trigger episodes. For some, sexsomnia and other parasomnias are genetic. The behavior might also be a side effect of certain medications.

Sexsomnia is more common in men than in women.

In severe cases, a person with sexsomnia may commit sexual assault or rape. The diagnosis is sometimes considered in legal proceedings.