Reported in the journal SLEEP, researchers from the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center have just completed the first review and formal classification of a wide range of sleep-related disorders associated with abnormal sexual behaviors.
Known as sleepsex or sexsomnia, the abnormal sexual behaviors which emerge during sleep can cause significant problems for sufferers and their partners. "It seems that more and more reports are surfacing of abnormal sexual behaviors emerging during sleep," said the review's lead author, Carlos H. Schenck. "While people may think this type of behavior is humorous, in reality it can be disturbing, annoying, embarrassing and a potentially serious problem for some individuals and couples."
Schenck and his colleagues developed the following list of sleepsex behaviors after conducting literature searches of peer-reviewed journal articles and other sources for information on sexual activity during sleep or sexual behaviors associated with sleep disorders.
Parsomnias with abnormal sleep-related sexual behaviors (sexual vocalizations, masturbation, fondling another person, sexual intercourse with or without orgasm, aggressive sexual behaviors) experienced with confusional arousals, sleepwalking and/or REM sleep behavior disorder.
Sleep-related sexual seizures (sexual vocalizations, libidinal hyperarousal, genital arousal, ictal orgasm, sexual automatisms, aggressive sexual behaviors).
Sleep disorders with abnormal sexual behaviors during wakefulness and wake-sleep transitions, including:
Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS), a rare sleep disorder characterized by recurrent and unusually long episodes of hypersomnia.
Broad range of hypersexual and deviant sexual arousal and behaviors.
Severe chronic insomnia.
Increased libido, genital arousal, compulsive sexual behaviors.
Narcolepsy - Compelling sexual hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations and REM onset dream attacks, cataplectic orgasm.
Sleep exacerbation of persistent sexual arousal syndrome - Genital-sensory sexual arousal without increased libidinal arousal; sexual behaviors.
Sleep-related painful erections and increased sexual activity - Increased sexual behaviors - masturbation and intercourse.
Sleep-related dissociative disorders - Pelvic movements and other sexualized behaviors, attempted reenactments of past sexual/physical abuse scenarios.
Nocturnal psychotic disorders - Sexual delusions/hallucinations after awakenings.
Miscellaneous sleep and sex associations - Masturbation, sexual intercourse, sexual hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations with sleep paralysis.
Schenk said that despite their awareness of the condition, many sufferers often delay seeking help, either because they don't know that it's a medical disorder or for fear that others will instead judge it as willful behavior. He said that those who think they might have a sleep disorder, with or without a related sexual disorder, should discuss their problem with their doctor, who will issue a referral to a sleep specialist.