Your Partner Might Have Sexsomnia—Here’s What You Need to Know About It

You know what sleepwalking is, but fewer people are aware that some people can also masturbate, fondle, and even have sex while asleep. It’s a condition called sexsomnia, and as exciting as it may sound, it can be a serious cause of stress and discomfort both for the sufferer and their partner. Here’s all you need to know about it.

It’s an involuntary activity. Sexsomnia is a form of parasomnia, an abnormal or unusual behavior that occurs during some stages of sleep. Unlike other forms, sexsomnia is sexually aggressive in nature. It usually occurs during deep sleep, so your partner may not be able to remember the incident once awake and may flat out deny it ever happened. Try to be understanding—they weren’t intentionally trying to hurt you or creep you out.

The symptoms are easy to spot. Your partner may not realize they have sexsomnia, so it’s up to you to notice the signs and alert them about it. If your partner keeps initiating foreplay, grinding on you with their pelvis, masturbating, moaning, having sex with you or experiencing spontaneous orgasms while asleep, this might indicate they’re suffering from the disorder, especially if they can’t remember it after.

It happens to both men and women. It doesn’t matter what gender your partner is, they could still be a sexsomniac. While research says that men are three times more likely to engage in sleep sex than women. Women mostly masturbate and say sexually expressive things while the men try to perform sex acts on the person sleeping next to them. Weird, right?

It’s OK if you don’t welcome being groped in your sleep. Sometimes being seduced during sleep can be very sexy and romantic, but there are times when it can feel invasive or downright creepy. I always warn my partners upfront not to try initiating sex when I’m unconscious as it might bring back memories of sexual assault. It’s OK if you welcome their actions or if it freaks you out. Your response is valid.

It doesn’t mean your partner is a bad person. Always try to remember that your partner isn’t doing this intentionally, even though it might seem like it. Sometimes they might say or do things that don’t correspond with their typical personality or preferences. For example, a gentle person might become very aggressive and threaten you during episodes of sexsomnia. Likewise, a timid and shy person in bed might become surprisingly bold and try to perform sex acts they wouldn’t dare think about while awake. This doesn’t mean they’re perverse deep down, it’s just a disorder they have no control over.

Figuring out what triggers it can help you fix it. No one really knows what causes sexsomnia, but research shows that some medical conditions, lifestyle habits, or medications can interfere with sleeping patterns and lead to it. If your partner has poor sleeping habits, high stress levels, abuses drugs and alcohol, or suffers from anxiety, changing these things might make the sleep sex go away.

It might make sense to seek professional help. Seeing a psychiatrist or therapist can help you and your partner come to terms with what’s happening and reduce feelings of shame, embarrassment, confusion, or anger that may arise. It’s new territory for the both of you, and though it may be scary and hurtful, it doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. Make appointments with a sleep specialist, a doctor, or a therapist so they guide you through this confusing time and help treat your partner’s condition.

Unwanted complications can arise from sexsomnia. Sexsomnia can complicate relationships in a lot of ways. It can lead to insecurity and feelings of distrust or fear. It’s pretty embarrassing when you get drunk and forget the events of the night before, so imagine how much worse it is when sexual acts are involved and you have no memory of them. Depending on how severe the disorder is, it might make it difficult for your partner to share a bed with you or anyone else.  It can also make consent a little tricky because your partner is deeply asleep and saying yes or no wouldn’t stop them from trying to have sex with you.

Understanding and communication can go a long way. As far as dealing with difficult situations is concerned, honesty is the best policy. Talk to your partner and let them open up to you. Discuss the ways their condition affects you or makes you uncomfortable and what can be done to help. Try to create a safe space for the both of you like sleeping in different bedrooms, using pillows as walls, setting alarms around the bedroom. Try to understand that your partner isn’t perfect, and then make allowances for them however you can.

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