People with sexsomnia have sex while they're asleep. Usually, they have no idea what they've done until confronted by evidence or by another person. Behaviors may range from masturbation to having sexual intercourse while sleeping. Sexsomniacs have been known to sleepwalk from their homes and have sex with strangers. There have even been cases in which a person with sexsomnia committed a sexual assault or rape while asleep [source: Cline].
Sexsomnia is a non-rapid-eye-moment (REM) parasomnia, a sleep disorder that occurs in the periods between deep sleep and wakefulness. Other disorders in this category include sleepwalking, sleep eating, sleep talking, night terrors and teeth grinding. People with sexsomnia typically have one or more of these other parasomnias as well.
While people can simply develop the disorder, factors that disrupt sleep, such as stress, sleep deprivation, apnea, or drug and alcohol use, can also trigger it. Sexsomniacs typically feel ashamed and embarrassed by their behavior, and it can damage their relationships. But the stakes can be even higher. Several men have been charged with rape after episodes of sexsomnia, often with an official diagnosis leading to acquittal. A case in Toronto in 2005 marked the first time that many people had heard of sexsomnia [source: BBC].
Treating sexsomnia can be as simple as treating the underlying cause. For example, use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to treat sleep apnea has also reduced or eliminated sexsomniac behaviors in people with both conditions. Other sexsomniacs have been successfully treated with Klonopin (clonazepam), an anti-anxiety drug that has also been used to treat other parasomnias.