Sleep sex

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [5]


Sleep sex or sexsomnia is a form of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) parasomnia (similar to sleepwalking) that causes people to commit sexual acts while they are asleep. The first doctor to coin the term "Sleep sex" was Dr. David Saul Rosenfeld, a neurologist and sleep doctor from Los Angeles, California. The proposed medical diagnosis is NREM Arousal Parasomnia - Sexual Behaviour in Sleep, and is considered to be a distinct variant of sleepwalking/confusional arousals (ICSD 2). The condition was defined by three researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa in a paper called "Sexsomnia — A New Parasomnia?" published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in June 2003.

Sufferers are often aware of their behavior for a long time before they seek help, often because they are not aware that it is a medical disorder or for fear that others will judge it as willful behavior rather than a medical disorder. However, the reality of the condition has been confirmed by sleep disorder researchers who have made sound and video recordings of patients with the condition and observed unusual brain wave activity during the episodes similar to that experienced by other parasomniacs. It is a mind/body disconnect that occurs during sleep. In many cases it is a pre-cursor to neuromuscular disease[citation needed] and is treated with muscle relaxants and other medications.

The first research paper that suggested that sexual behavior during sleep may be a new type of parasomnia was published in 1996. Later, several papers were published describing the problem and suggested that problematic forms of sleep sex are medically treatable "conditions" (see external links).

Sexsomnia is not always problematic or extreme for those who experience it or for their partners. There is a great variety in both the frequency and levels to which people are affected by this disorder.

Cases reported in the press

On 30 November 2005, a Toronto court acquitted a man of sexual assault after he was diagnosed with sleep sex disorder, although prosecutors have filed an appeal of the acquittal as of February 2006.[1]

In Britain a man from York was cleared of three counts of rape on 19 December 2005.[2]

In Australia, a woman was reported as leaving her house at night and having sex with strangers while sleepwalking.[3]

On 8 August 2007, a British RAF mechanic was cleared of a rape charge after the jury found him not responsible of his actions when he had sex with a 15-year-old girl.[4]

Fictional cases

A case of this disorder is found in the episode "Role Model" of the television series House.


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