If you were fast asleep and your partner tried to have sex with you and later said he or she couldn’t remember the incident, would you believe them? You might if you’d heard of sexsomnia, a little-known condition that’s quite rare but actually exists.
Some months ago I had a telephone counselling session with a client in the country. He called me because his girlfriend had broken up with him after she accused him of trying to have sex with her in the middle of the night when she was asleep. He told her he had no recollection of it at all, but she did not believe him.
Sexsomnia, more commonly known as ‘sleep sex’, is a condition in which a person engages in sexual acts while still asleep. It can include fondling, masturbation, oral sex or intercourse.
Sexsomnia is most likely to occur in the first few hours of the night during the deep-sleep state. At this time, the cortex – the thinking, planning and awareness part of the brain – gets switched off. But the brain stem, the part responsible for the basic urges like the drive to eat or have sex, is still working.
By this stage, the sexsomniac is acting completely without inhibition. Because the lower level of the brain is amnesic, he or she will have no memory of what he or she has done.
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