Sexsomnia: A Specialized Non-REM Parasomnia?

Sleep. 2017 Feb 1;40(2). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsw043.


Introduction: To describe patients with sexsomnia and to contrast their clinical and sleep measures with those of healthy controls and sleepwalkers.

Aims and methods: Subjects referred for sexsomnia and for sleepwalking/night terror were interviewed, completed the Paris Arousal Disorder Severity Scale (PADSS), and were monitored 1-2 nights with video-polysomnography.

Results: Seventeen patients (70.6% male, aged 17-76 years) had sexsomnia, with amnestic fondling of the bed partner (n = 11), complete sexual intercourse (n = 8), masturbation (n = 8), and spontaneous orgasm (n = 1). The sexual behaviors were more direct during sleep than during wakefulness (n = 12), leading to 6 sexual assaults, including intra-conjugal rape (n = 3), assault of a family member (n = 2), rape of a friend (n = 1), and forensic consequences (n = 2). In 47% of sexsomnia patients, there was a history or current occurrences of sleepwalking/night terrors. Patients with sexsomnia had more N3 awakenings than healthy matched controls and the same amount as regular sleepwalkers. Half of them presented evidence of cortico-cortical dissociation, including concomitant slow (mostly frontal) and rapid (mostly temporal and occipital) electroencephalography (EEG) rhythms, with concomitant N3 penile erection in 1 case. Of 89 sleepwalkers, 10% had previous episodes of amnestic sexual behaviors, with a higher PADSS-A score and a trend of a higher total PADSS score than the 80 sleepwalkers without sexsomnia.

Conclusion: In this single-center series, we confirmed the male predominance of sexsomnias and its potential for severe clinical and forensic consequences. The results suggest a continuum of regular sleepwalking, sleepwalking with occasional sexsomnia, and quasi-exclusive sexsomnia.

Trial registration: NCT02648568.

Keywords: Non-REM parasomnia; forensic.; sexsomnia; sexual behavior; sleepwalking.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Night Terrors / diagnosis
  • Night Terrors / psychology
  • Parasomnias / diagnosis*
  • Parasomnias / psychology
  • Polysomnography
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sleep, REM
  • Somnambulism / diagnosis
  • Somnambulism / psychology
  • Young Adult

Associated data