Sleepsex or Sexomnia may sound like a fake word, but it is actually a sleep disorder that can adversely affect one’s self esteem and relationships. So what is it, exactly? And is there a known cure?
In 1960, researchers Dr. Robert Shaprio and Dr. Nik Trajanovic of Toronto University and Dr. Paul Fedorof of the University of Ottawa of coined the term “examine” to define the behavior. Sexomnia is classified as a non-rapid eye movement (NREM) parasomnia, which typically takes place during Stage 3 sleep, where high-delta wave activity in the brain exists and GABA is highly active; and is most often the stage at which sleep disorders occur.
Sleep sex causes people to engage in sexual acts while unconscious. These behaviors include masturbation, fondling of one’s partner, and even full sexual intercourse. While different than sleepwalking, most medical professionals consider it in the same class, as the vast majority of those who have engaged in sleep sex have also been known to sleepwalk and sleep talk. What is particularly frightening about this illness is that suffers have complete amnesia of the event, which often bolsters the fear it will reoccur, and the inability to promise one’s partner that it will not happen again—as well as extreme embarrassment and toxic self-shaming and –blaming. This embarrassment, unfortunately, is one of many reasons sleep sex often remains completely undiagnosed, with the majority of known occurrences coming to light during criminal proceedings for rape and sexual assault.
Additionally, one can go weeks or months without engaging in the behavior, or may act it out several times per week, illustrating yet another reason suffers need to bring this to the fore and discuss it with their psychiatrist. Since it is often challenging for the patient to address, it would be exceedingly helpful for doctors to remember to ask about parasomnias in general, and specifically about sleep sex, even though the specifics of terms of sleep disorders are not yet completely understood with regard to the nature of their neurophysiology. Rather, it is a critical work in progress in the field of psychiatry.
Presently, there is no known cure for sleep sex. However, there is reason for hope. In clinical and real-world trials, the use of Klonopin [Clonazepam], a benzodiazepine, has been proven effective as a first line treatment for sleep sex. Doctor should also recommend the patient engage in a sleep study at a local heralded hospital.
And remember: don’t be ashamed, and be open to discussion with your partner. It is not your fault!