The Dangers of Sexsomnia

The Dangers of Sexsomnia

Mixing sleep and sex can have serious consequences. Sexsomnia -- engaging in sexual activity while asleep and having no memory of it at all -- is a recognized sleep disorder that can trigger everything from fondling to intercourse and occasionally aggressive and even potentially illegal behavior.

Most people who suffer from it have other sleep problems as well, such as night terrors, REM-sleep disorders or sleepwalking. It also may be associated with conditions such as sleep apnea. Sexsomnia is almost three times more common in men than women.

During REM sleep -- when you dream -- your brain neurons light up like you’re awake, but your muscles are paralyzed. But during sexsomnia, you’re in a dream state AND you can move around. No one is sure why this happens, but one study found 16% of folks with sexsomnia admitted using recreational drugs; that’s around twice the number of people with other sleep disorders (but not sexsomnia) who admit to taking them.

The good news: For 90% of people with sleepwalking/arousal or REM disorders, taking the tranquilizer clonazepam provides relief. So if you or your bedmate have sexsomnia -- or any other sleep disorder -- talk to a sleep specialist. There are solutions. Your good health depends on getting sound, restful sleep.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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