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Sleep sex or sexsomnia is a form of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) parasomnia (similar to sleepwalking) that causes people to commit sexual acts while they are asleep. The proposed medical diagnosis is NREM Arousal Parasomnia - Sexual Behaviour in Sleep, and is considered to be a distinct variant of sleepwalking/confusional arousals (ICSD 2).
Symptoms[edit | edit source]
The first research paper that suggested that sexual behavior during sleep may be a new type of parasomnia was published in 1996 by three researchers from the University of Toronto (Dr. Colin Shapiro and Dr. Nik Trajanovic) and the University of Ottawa (Dr. Paul Fedoroff) . Later, several papers were published describing the problem and suggested that problematic forms of sleep sex are medically treatable "conditions" (see external links). The condition was defined in a paper called "Sexsomnia — A New Parasomnia?" published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in June 2003. The first doctor to coin the term "Sleep sex" was Dr. David Saul Rosenfeld, a neurologist and sleep doctor from Los Angeles, California.
In some cases, sufferers are aware of their behavior for a long time before they seek help, often because they lack information that it is a medical disorder or for fear that others will judge it as willful behavior rather than a medical condition. However, the reality of sexsomnia has been confirmed by sleep disorder researchers who have made polygraphic and video recordings of patients with the condition while they are asleep and observed unusual brain wave activity during the episodes similar to that experienced in other NREM arousal parasomnias. It is a mind/body disconnect that occurs during sleep. The treatment has commonalities with other NREM parasomnias, and also involves specific interventions. By avoiding precipitating factors and ensuring a safe environment, the condition could be brought to a high level of control with minimal effort.
Sexsomnia is not always problematic or extreme for those who experience it or for their partners. There is a great variety in both the frequency and levels to which people are affected by this disorder.
Cases reported in the press[edit | edit source]
Natalie Pona, the then Sun reporter, broke the story of the first case of sexsomnia in the fall of 2005.
On 30 November 2005, a Toronto court acquitted a man of sexual assault after he was diagnosed with sleep sex disorder, although prosecutors have filed an appeal of the acquittal as of February 2006. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the acquittal on 7 February 2008 
In Australia, a woman was reported as leaving her house at night and having sex with strangers while sleepwalking.
References[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- First description of Sexual Behaviour in Sleep (1996)
- Sleepsex.org – provides information about sexsomnia and a forum for the discussion of this relatively unknown disorder
- Stanford Sleep Experts Treat Medical Condition Behind Violent "Sleep Sex"
- Sleepwalkers who have "sex sleep" – BBC
- Understanding Sleep Sex
- A phenomenology of problematic sexual behavior occurring in sleep – science article from Department of Psychology, University of New Hampshire; involves Internet sources
- New Scientist - review of recent research and findings
- From the Journal Sleep A 2007 review of the literature on sleep sex disorders including sexsomnia titled "Sleep and Sex: What Can Go Wrong? A Review of the Literature on Sleep Related Disorders and Abnormal Sexual Behaviors and Experiences
- Understanding Sexsomnia
- Sexsomnia Info Further highlights into the relatively unknown Sexsomnia.
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