What is sexsomnia?

Posted by Darian Dozier on May 23, 2022 2:39:00 PM

Add a heading-Apr-17-2022-10-37-13-51-PMSexsomnia, also known as sleep sex, is a type of parasomnia disorder. Parasomnia disorders are those that happen while you are asleep, and supposed to be "paralyzed" essentially. People with sexsomnia engage in sexual behaviors, like masturbation, sexual movements, sexual aggression or initiating sex while they are asleep. Their eyes may be open and they may be making noises, but they are unaware of their behavior once they wake up. 

Sexsomnia can cause a lot of shame and distress for individuals with it, and any bed partners. Here is some more information about what it is and how it can be addressed. 


Common symptoms of sexsomnia can vary, depending ont he person. However, the underlying features of this disorder is the exhibition of sexual behaviors that the individual is both unaware of and unable to control. Some common behaviors include: 

  • Masturbation 
  • Fondling
  • Sexual noises and movements 
  • Initiating sexual activities 
  • Sexual aggression 
  • Sexual assault 

Sexsomnia can also occur with other parasomnias like sleepwalking and sleep talking. It is more common in men, but activities like masturbation are more common in women. 

Signs that someone is acting under the influence of sexsomnia include: 

  • Unresponsive or minimal responsiveness to conversation or the environment 
  • Unusual sexual response or aggression 
  • Inability to be woken 
  • No memory of the behavior once that have awoken

It is important to note that nocturnal emissions, or "wet dreams" are not the same. They are simply a normal part of male adolescent development also experienced by "adult men". 

Causes and Triggers

Research into sexsomnia is limited because it is unclear how much of the population struggles with this disorder. However, current research has found that it is associated with a wide range of underlying conditions and risk factors. These include: 

  • Other parasomnias
  • Obstructive sleep apnea 
  • Sleep-related seizures 
  • Kleine-Levin syndrome 
  • Chronic insomnia 
  • Restless legs syndrome 
  • Narcolepsy
  • Persistent sexual arousal syndrome
  • Sleep-related dissociative disorders 
  • Nocturnal psychotic disorders 
  • Bruxism, or teeth grinding

Not all cases of sexsomnia can be linked to these underlying disorders, however. Commonly reported triggers include: 

  • Drinking alcohol 
  • Past or current drug (recreational) use 
  • Mental health disorders: anxiety, depression 
  • Poor sleep hygiene 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Shift work


Most people who experience sexsomnia do not report them because of the shame that they have. However, sexsomnia is treatable, and medical professionals are not judging you. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing this disorder, then speaking to a medical professional is the first step in diagnosis and treatment.

Your doctor may recommend a series of sleep studies to observe the behavior themselves. Depending on the results of your sleep studies, your physician will decide if you have sleepsomnia or not. 


Treatment of sexsomnia depends on the underlying cause. For people whose sexsomnia is related to another parasomnia, then being prescribed a benzodiazepine may be helpful. Sexsomnia associated with other sleep disorders is relieved by addressing the other problem with a CPAP, medication, or other ways to treat the problem. 

If you are struggling with sleep insomnia, or an underlying sleep disorder, then please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and talk with a sleep health professional. 

Take a Free Online Sleep Test

Topics: Sleep Disorders

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