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Sleep Sex: Everything You Need to Know

Fact Checked
Up to date
Update: July 6, 2023
4 min read

Written by

Payal Singh
Content Writer
Illustration Of Man &Amp; Women Doing Sex While Sleeping

Sleep disorders like sleep driving, sleep walking, or sleep talking, are all recurring topics of discussion. But, there is one rare sleep disorder that might raise your eyebrows upon hearing. Sleep sex, also known as sexsomnia, is a type of sleep disorder very similar to parasomnia, where a person is caught between sleep stages where they feel and act as if they are awake but in actuality, are sleeping. A person experiencing sleep sex or sexsomnia generally encounters sleep-related sexual behaviours. 

What Is Sleep Sex?

Call it an abnormal activity, behaviour, or experience occurring during sleep, sleep sex is primarily a type of parasomnia. The surprising fact is that the inception, causes, symptoms, and in-depth knowledge about sexsomnia or sex while sleeping is still not explained adequately. The first instance of sleep sex was noticed recently in 1986 when a man was found masturbating in sleep. 

Sleep sex is a type of parasomnia, and parasomnias are disorders that creep into the regular sleep process resulting in disruptive sleep events. There are numerous segregations of it, including arousal disorders, sleep-awake transition disorders, and parasomnias related to REM or Rapid-Eye Movement sleep. 

A Stanford study explains sleep sex by discussing different groups of people and the severity of sexual behaviours. Researchers believe that sleep sex is caused by glitches in the brain waves during sleep. During the study, one group let out loud and disruptive moaning and was quite annoying. Another group had a man and woman whose activities proceeded towards physical risk. Whereas the third group included six men and one woman, and the activities were not only unwanted but also violent. Therefore, this sleep disorder can be regarded as serious. 

Symptoms Of Sexsomnia

The symptoms of sexsomnia include both self-touching or sexually pleasing oneself, as well as getting intimate with the other person unknowingly. Sexsomnia might also simultaneously happen with other parasomnia activities like sleepwalking or sleep talking. Your room partner generally witnesses these symptoms of sexual aggression randomly at night. The patients showcase an abnormal rise in sexuality and reduced inhibitions.

Some of the common symptoms of sleep sex are:

  • Fondling or rubbing
  • Moaning
  • Heavy breathing or increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Pelvic thrusting
  • Masturbating
  • Spontaneous orgasm
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Beginning foreplay with some other person
  • Having no clue of any sexual events 
  • Blank stares during activities
  • Being unresponsive to the exterior environment during events
  • Counter Statements about the activities when in a conscious state
  • Sleepwalking or sleep-talking 

What Causes Sexsomnia?

Though the reasons behind sleep sex are majorly unknown, with however little information, it could be traced that people undergoing this issue had a history of sleep disorders. Disorders like bed-wetting, sleepwalking, sleep talking, apnea, and REM behaviours, are just some. Moreover, some also suffered seizure diseases and neurochemical glitches in the brain. 

Some of the factors that might cause sexsomnia have been listed below:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Alcoholism
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Poor sleeping condition 
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Shift work 
  • High-stressed jobs like military or hospital
  • Travel 
  • Sharing the bed with someone, regardless of a relationship 

What Triggers Sexsomnia? 

Since sexsomnia is a product of parasomnia, the symptoms are similar to sleepwalking. Sexsomnia has been studied to be caused by disorders while the brain is shifting between deep sleep cycles. These disruptions are often referred to as confusional arousals (CA). Some of the triggers that might increase the symptoms of sexsomnia are exhaustion, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, use of drugs, and so on. 

One interesting fact is that there have been ten published cases stating a correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and sexsomnia. The correlation makes sense because obstructive sleep apnea leads to sleep disruptions, which is one of the significant triggers behind sexsomnia. Moreover, medical conditions considered risk factors for sleep sex are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • History of other parasomnia activities like sleepwalking or sleeptalking
  • Colitis
  • Ulcers
  • Migraine
  • Head trauma

Your sleep sex might be linked to the usage of certain medications or consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs. The treatment in these cases involves immediately detaching from the aforementioned elements or restraining yourself from the drugs to a safe level of use. 

For people suffering from sleep sex due to medications, a change of dosage or completely stopping it might work.  

Treatment of Sexsomnia

Here is the part where you would get an idea of dealing with sexsomnia. The most simplistic treatment for sleep sex is maintaining a healthy and consistent sleep-wake cycle. In most cases, the signs of sexsomnia vanished or at least reduced when people followed a healthy sleep-wake schedule. 

Some off-label medicines which are approved for the treatment of other health conditions have alleviated sexsomnia. Some of them are:


Sexsomnia can be dangerous, and if you or your partner is undergoing it, immediately consult your doctor. One thing to note is that, no matter how many medications you take, changing your lifestyle to a healthy one will help reduce this problem. And do not take any medications without consulting your doctor. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist also helps reduce the problem.


Is having Sleep Sex normal?

Sleep sex is not a normal occurrence, there is a significantly less percentage of people undergoing it. And men are more likely to experience this problem than women.

What happens during sleep sex?

People experiencing sleep sex engage in sexual activities with either themselves or the person they are sharing their bed with, in a complete sense of unconsciousness.

What is it called when you sleep while having sex?

When you sleep while having sex, it is known as sexsomnia.


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Written by

Payal Singh
Content Writer
Bachelor's in English Literature and Health Sciences Previously wrote blog articles for various Doctors for their websites Familiarity with various content management systems and SEO best practices

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