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Sleep sex or sexsomnia is a form of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) parasomnia (similar to sleepwalking) that causes people to engage in sexual acts while they are asleep, such as masturbation, fondling, sexual intercourse and actions that would be sexual assault or rape were the sufferer conscious. The proposed medical diagnosis is NREM Arousal Parasomnia – Sexual Behaviour in Sleep, and is considered to be a distinct variant of sleepwalking (ICSD 2). There are often unpleasant consequences associated with sleep sex and it has been used as a criminal defense in rape cases.[1] Other negative effects include feelings of shame and embarrassment and also can cause relationship issue and stress.[2]

Those who suffer from sexsomnia have confusional arousals and rarely remember the event. People who have a history of doing other sleep activities such as sleepwalking or sleep talking are more likely to exhibit sexsomnia episodes. Factors that may increase episodes of sleep sex are alcohol, sleep deprivation or even sleep apnea and other sleep disruptions.[3] Sexsomnia episodes could be triggered by the contact with bed partner.[4] In some cases sexualised movements during sleep could be caused by sleep related epilepsy which results in sexual arousal, thrusting and orgasms. Simple sexualised movements could be also associated with REM sleep disorders.

Sexsomnia is a disorder that affects males and females. Isolated reports exist about men and women who have had sex with strangers during the sleep period; in cases where memory of the sexual act is not retained, the detection of used condoms and semen stains on the bed the morning after the sexual incident are signs of the affliction.

Sexsomnia can occur with other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, sleep apnea, night terrors and bedwetting and can be triggered by stress, previous sleep deprivation and excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs.

Diagnosis: Sleep sex often goes undiagnosed because of feelings of...
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