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Sleepsex – A Serious Condition or an Excuse for Sexual Misconduct?

michelle's picture


Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is defined as “active brain in an inactive body,” and takes place during the fifth stage of sleep. On the other hand, non rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) takes place in the first through fourth stages of sleep and is defined as an “inactive mind in an active body”. (5) Wait a second- our body can be active while sleeping? Indeed it can. In fact, there are a number of sleep disorders that take place during NREM sleep called parasomnia or arousal disorder. They activate the autonomic nervous system and motor systems during sleep and include sleepwalking, sleepeating, sleep-talking, teeth grinding, restless leg syndrome, somniloquy (sleep talking), and sleepsex (3).

Sleepsex or sexsomnia (SBS) is a recently discovered sleep disorder in which the patient exhibits sexual behavior while still asleep. Contradictory to popular belief, SBS is a NREM disorder and therefore not associated with dreaming or the acting out of dreams (4). Sleepsex is believed to be caused by short interruptions or unusual brain-wave patterns during the third and fourth phases of sleep (8). It has been successfully treated with Clonazepam, psychotherapy, and drugs typically used to combat other parasomnia disorders such as Valium (1, 8). A majority of patients with SBS have a history of other parasomnia disorders, predominantly sleepwalking.

Relatively few cases of SBS have been published in academic journals. The prevalence of sleepsex is unknown, but it is believed to be a lot more common than originally thought because a lot of SBS cases go unreported. Those afflicted are likely to be afraid to seek help due to embarrassment or fear that others will accuse them of performing the acts willfully (1, 4). However, the condition is a lot more prevalent among men (8).

Because only a small percent of the population have experienced SBS, it is important to explore the individual cases thoroughly in order to better our understanding of the disorder. An article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior describes two case studies (4). One case involves a man who has a history of sleepeating and sleepwalking who wakes in the middle of the night to engage in sexual activity with his partner on a daily basis and does not recollect the events the following morning. However, his girlfriend reports that he sometimes snores loudly during the sleepsex episodes. She claimed he is slightly more aggressive during sleepsex than when awake, but she expressed that she frequently enjoyed the episodes. The second case study involves a 45-year old man who was arrested for sexual battery after fondling a 14-year old girlfriend of his daughter while asleep. He too had a history of sleepwalking, but no history of sexsleep or sexual misconduct. Neither of the patients had psychiatric problems (4).

Other reported cases that are worth mentioning include a court case reported by BBC News reported where a man feigned sleepwalking in order to sexually assault a female friend (7). The following month, BBC News reported a committed woman diagnosed with sleepsex who would leave her house while sleepwalking and have sex with strangers while asleep (6). An Internet-based study discovered several women who were violently forced to take part in sexual activity with their sleeping husbands/boyfriends. They also claimed that their partners were almost impossible to wake and had no recollection of the event when awoken (1). The study also mentioned a number of sleep masturbation cases where the partners were deeply troubled by the behavior due to load moaning. It is also important to point out that a number of these cases were reported by partners of the SBS patients because they claimed their partner would not admit to their behavior (1). Some patients reported seeking help from doctors who sent them to psychoanalysts or psychiatrist because they felt the condition was feigned (1, 2).

Initially when reading case studies of sexsleep patients, I thought that the condition was one of the many outrageous things that sleepwalkers are capable of doing in their sleep. I’ve heard of stories where sleepwalkers get into their cars and drive to the grocery store, thought sex could be another one of their unconscious activities. I never really saw it as a condition within itself. However, recent studies are showing that the condition is becoming more and more accepted as a sleep disorder of its own (8). After reading through a number of case studies, I can’t help but question the integrity of the patients in some reported cases studies. Why is the condition not found in children when a large number of parasomnias tend to more highly prevalent among children? The BBC incident of the feigned sleepwalker is somewhat troubling as sexual offenders could potentially use sleepsex as a defense. In such cases, I am strongly in support of the prosecution because I feel chronic sleepsex is a potentially dangerous condition and should not go untreated. It is easily treatable and therefore, I feel should not be used as an excuse for sexual misconduct. It is comforting to know that jurors have generally been in favor of the prosecution in legal cases where sleepsex has been used as a defense (4).

Moreover, qualitative analysis of SBS cases showed that number of negative emotions such as shame, guilt, and frustration were experienced a majority of those who suffered from the condition or were affected by it (1, 4, 8). Therefore, if left untreated, SBS can threaten relationships, foster psychological problems, and instigate legal problems as a result of sexual misconduct (8). The website provides an open forum where people who have experienced sleepsex can share their stories and learn more about how to control their condition.

It is scary to think of what the human brain can do without the consent of one’s I-function. In regards to sleepsex, the autonomous behavior of the human brain can be seriously dangerous and destructive. It’s as if the brain has a mind of its own. Throughout this course we’ve examined central pattern generators and corollary discharge signals along with a number of other harmless ways in which the brain autonomously controls behavior with no influence from the I-function. However, sleepsex demonstrates how there are potentially serious consequences for lacking I-function control and further establishes the importance of the I-function.


(1) Mangan, Michael A. “A phenomenology of Problematic Sexual Behavior Occurring in Sleep.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 33(3) (2004): 287. Web Version:

(2) Mangan, Michael Ph.D.

(3) Mangan, Michael Ph.D. Sleepsex: Uncovered. United States: Xlibris Coorporation, 2001. Web Version:

(4) Rosenfeld, D.S., Elhajjar, A. J. “Sleepsex: A Variant of Sleepwalking.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 27(3) (1998): 269-279. Web Version:

(5) Sleep May 2007

(6) Sleepwalker Feigned ‘Sleepwalk’. September 3, 2004.

(7) Sleepwalkers Who Have ‘Sex Sleep’. October 15, 2004

(8) “Stanford Sleep Experts Treat Medical Condition Behind Violent ‘Sleep Sex’”. Science Daily. March 27, 2002.


Deseri L Burrell's picture

Sleep Sex/Dream Rape(molestation)

I gladly like to tell mine story regarding this matter we'd live into an new day and age as what's been said welcome to the new world. the problem i''d been encountering the is this OBE astra travelers or projecters are appearing to me during mine hour of relaxation have been done have and still at moments pursue engaging into soul to soul sex while I sleep I find it all disguising an volilation extremely corrupted adding unwanted molestation i am an individual who has been dianosed with sleep anpea along with insomnia and i have waken from sleep yelling fusing about seeing strange also fimaliar people inside mine dreams entertaining them selves harrassing and bullying mine soul though the indwelling holy spirit that they'd connect with through mine astra being body into the cosmos or onto that astra plane the visitation they'd make to me peeping watching me like an tv so they utter including there chanting words spoken inside there about there hi intuition there pyshic abiltites to visit me and do more and so they are and rape is one of the things they have repeatly commited sexsomnia note mine case mine life is being underattack by OBE OBE OBE travelers I donnot appreciate what has been done talk of exiling out mine life that nobody will ever want to date me again that Iam an free piece of ass an easy piece of fun to them harrassing me being personal about whether or not Iam infected living with the HSV gossiping about mine being dirty some stated deties spirits or angels told them that I am carrying the virus they'd trouble me that sleep sex is better to have with me than original sex this way they won't experince me given them bumps sores or an disease they so i am alone one person who's gonna believe me if I'd tell onto them all this they whisper is there being of an spiritual matter with me than thet may show themselves inside dream theme of church when thats over than the kissing showing of mating into relationship some geting married into dreams which is bullshit ass garabage this is stuff they'd have onto there hearts introducing and bringing there sexual grattification into mine sleep life you'd want answers looking for an cure try treating OBE abuse OBE secret activities your causes is find within here make sure we are clear Iam telling you any problem I am experiencing disorder wise is the result of mine dealing with the discomfort lack of refreshing behind disturbing scenes of atra travelers inside mine dream real people souls from society not imagenary people real adversaries bothering me tremendously so you want to help me than you'd listen to me when I say Out Of Bodies soul travelers are the ones introducing mine soul to the sleepsex activies.thank You Sincerely,Deseri Burrell

Steven Perez's picture

Hey Deseri, I can relate to

Hey Deseri, I can relate to your problem. I believe in the Gospel. I believe that God did live on Earth with us as Jesus Christ. I believe you and I are suffering from something that goes beyond the natural. The best thing that I can do for you is pray. Lord God I pray that you will lead Deseri Burrell to you. You are the only answer to all of our afflictions. You are The Way The Truth and The Life. There is no better Life than the Life that comes from you. Though the devil may whisper to us that his way is the most pleasurable the truth is that it is a lie, a façade, a counterfeit to the true love and joy that is found in You and only You. Please Lord God lead us to the Spirit. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I have had this problem (

I have had this problem ( sleep masturbating ) for a very long time. The first time that it was brought to my attention I was 14 and my mom woke me up with my hand on my penis ( it was hard ). She said that I was stroking it. Well it did not stop there. About 2 weeks later same thing only this time was my aunt, and a couple days later my sister. It got so bad that I had to lock my door. What can I do.

rajesh's picture

sleep masturbation

this problem is happening to me during my sleep from past 3 years and i have gone to many pscatrist and nothing has been solved from my point of view its an pysically disorder. BY TAKING DOXY-1 CAPSULE THIS PROBLEM IS NOT HAPPENING AND THE MEDICINE IS STOPPED AGAIN THIS PROBLEM OCCURS I HOPE THIS INFORMATION WILL GIVE U SOME HELP IN SOLVING THIS PROBLEM DO REPLY IF U GET SOME SUCCESS IN THIS.....

raheel's picture

masterbation in sleeping

In brief....
I have been facing this problem since for the last 13 years. I am from pakistan. i have been in the computer field for the last 10 years. Later i chose to sleep by tiding my hands so as to not to approach to my penis. This solution worked for me and still is the only solution. but some times when i dont use tide my hands..i face the same problem. i am quite mature and sure about this disease. today i just thought to search internet for this problem and happy to see this disease sexsomnia. i am looking for any update in this regard. my health is greatly suffered in this disease. the cause of this disease is the excessive masterbating prior to this disease.

rajeev's picture

shall we discuss the matter

shall we discuss the matter about sleep masturbation bcz i m suffering from this iit can help both of us to share symptoms of the same problem.