Sexsomnia: an uncommon variety of parasomnia

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2010 Jan;112(1):72-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2009.08.026. Epub 2009 Sep 17.


Sexsomnia is considered a particular form of parasomnia characterized by atypical sexual behaviour during sleep. Only a few cases have been reported in the literature. We describe here two cases of sexsomnia that took place in adult women whose personal history was remarkable for traumatic sexual psychological stress during childhood. In addition, the first patient had a medical history of alcoholism during adolescence and current sleepwalking. In the second patient, drug consumption was reported during adolescence, and psychiatric assessment found a major depressive disorder. Neurological examination was normal for both patients. The sexual behaviour was reported by the bed partner because of total amnesia of the event by the patients. Events included moaning, vocalizations with dirty talk, masturbation, sexual assault, and sexual intercourse. The behaviour was harmful for the bed partner in the second case. For both patients, electroencephalogram and brain magnetic resonance imaging were normal whereas nocturnal polysomnography recordings revealed several abrupt and spontaneous arousals from slow-wave sleep. Patients were successfully treated by serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Our observations underline the fact that efforts need to be made to increase awareness of the issue of sexsomnia, in order to identify patients suffering from this atypical parasomnia, which can be associated with adverse psychological consequences and serious medico-legal issues.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Coitus
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Masturbation
  • Parasomnias / drug therapy
  • Parasomnias / psychology*
  • Polysomnography
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Somnambulism / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors