Friday, March 24, 2006
Sexsomnia: Not as funny as it sounds
Sexsomnia is one of those words that's both titillating and disarming to hear.

It's the name for a condition in which someone has a sexual experience while asleep, sort of like how people walk or talk in their sleep. It spawns jokes from the people it affects and from the people who are lucky enough not to have to deal with this sleep disorder.

Many of the emails I received in the week since beginning research about sexsomnia for tonight's show have had a joking tenor. Like the one from "O.S." in Boston who says that to his horror, sometimes he'd rip his wife's clothes off during one of his episodes of sexsomnia, but still they "laugh about it later."

Or the one from "M.M." in San Francisco who says he wakes up after his "episodes" -- which involve loudly talking about sex and moaning -- only to find that his neighbors have heard and "snicker and make gestures."

Or the one from a woman in Europe who says she would masturbate in her sleep. It was 10 years before her husband even mentioned it. It's sometimes fodder for jokes between them, but she and her husband are at the same time trying to save their troubled marriage.

The jokes, well, they're understandable. It's an uncomfortable thing to talk about.

But after all of the conversations I've had the past week with "sexsomniacs" and all the time spent researching people it affects, including two who were tried in courts of law for initiating unwanted "sleep sex," I'm erring on the side of seriousness.

Sexsomnia is one of those fascinating conditions that give us an opportunity not only to examine questions about what is sleep or consciousness, but a chance to examine our views about sex.
Posted By Stephanie Smith, CNN Producer: 4:17 PM ET
  44 Comments
i wish my girlfriend had it...& thats all i have to say abou that
Posted By Anonymous Nick F. -- Saranac Lake, NY : 4:53 PM ET
How would you find out you had this condition if you did?
Posted By Anonymous Diane, Chantilly, VA : 4:54 PM ET
Just another syndrome. Surely some pharmaceutical company will invent a new remedy, and the television commercial will be tastefully tasteless, and we'll continue to believe that any behavior that is "abnormal" requires either medication or coverage on the news. If it's not hurting anybody let sleeping dogs lie (no pun intended).

Good night.
Posted By Anonymous Ben, Boston, MA : 4:54 PM ET
I am so glad that I am not the only one. For years I would go to sleep and find myself waking up in the middle of having sex with my live-in girlfriend. Of course it was funny in some respects but I am still unsure as to why it happens. I sometimes think it is a subconscious sexual outlet but I have no real explanation. The only worry I have been plagues with is what might happen if I have to sleep next to someone that is not a partner or is someone I definitely do not want to have sex with? I might end up like those poor guys who are prosecuted for initiating "sleep sex".
Posted By Anonymous R.E. Los Angeles, CA : 4:55 PM ET
I LOVE this article! Never heard of people 'ripping clothes off' while they are sleeping. Are you sure it's not an excuse for what they really want? I have all the dreams but then I wake up and rip their clothes off.
Posted By Anonymous Nicki Ferguson, Calgary, Alberta : 5:00 PM ET
Sleep is a time for our unconcious desires and fears to be interpreted into dreams and sometimes even subtle movements. If there are intense sexual desires locked deep inside of our superegos, which there usually is in most people, then I find it completely normal. In fact, I find it impressive that these men and women are able to unlock these esoteric interpretations.
Posted By Anonymous Stephen, 18, Santa Barbara CA : 5:00 PM ET
How and where can I meet some of these women?
Posted By Anonymous Jose Rodriguez, Boulder, CO : 5:06 PM ET
Weird sleep disorder, at least one that I have never heard about before in my life. What is more worrisome is that I'm a doctor! This may exemplify how little information can be available and how important is to be treated by a specialist in sleep disorders
Posted By Anonymous Alejandro Flores, Monterrey Mexico : 5:06 PM ET
How would you find out you had this condition if you did?

Posted By Diane, Chantilly, VA : 4:54 PM

I am affected by this "condition" - the way I found out was that several girlfriends mentioned it, usually just in passing the next morning. After I found out, I had talked about it with friends to see if it was just me, and for the longest time I thought it was - I was glad to find out it's not.
Posted By Anonymous Jake, Overland Park, KS : 5:14 PM ET
This is a very serious disorder. My Sister's husband suffers from this. My Sister considers it RAPE, when he forces himself upon her when she is also asleep. They are having marital problems because of this.
Posted By Anonymous Cindy, Tucson, AZ : 5:18 PM ET
At first I thought my husband was teasing me when he said he didn't remember the late-night liasons. Then I was a bit disappointed - it was nice to think that my movement next to him in bed was enough to arouse him from his sleep and that apparently wasn't the case. The incidents are few and far between, so it isn't like it's a problem for us, but it's kinda sad that now my assumption when he initiates late-night sex is that he isn't really conscious and won't remember anything in the morning.
Posted By Anonymous K.J. Rockville, MD : 5:19 PM ET
My wife and I joked about how I would initiate sex in my sleep, but after reading about the criminal trials of some people with this disease and realizing that I am doing something that I have no control over and in the wrong situation could lead to serious problems, I became terrified. What if I wake up one night to find that I have done something horrible, like not taken no for an answer, or sleptwalked to someone else's room while not at home?
One thing that I have heard from others and has been true in my case is that sleep deprivation often plays a large role. Many sexsomniacs have a sleep disorder such as apnea and the sleep deprivation triggers the behavior. If you suffer from this, try getting an abundance of sleep and it may help.
I have so far done nothing in my sleep I wouldn't do while awake, but I fear I might hurt my wife or someone else. I applaud the approach of not making light of this disease. For me, the real possibility that I could wake up one morning to find that my entire life has changed because of something I did in my sleep is not something that strikes me as funny.
Posted By Anonymous JD, Seattle, WA : 5:19 PM ET
Can I contract that?!?
Posted By Anonymous a concerned university student : 5:20 PM ET
Hmm. My wife has said that just the idea of having sex with me is enough to put her to sleep. So... which of us has this disorder?
Posted By Anonymous Cliff Vegas, Los Angeles, CA : 5:20 PM ET
It is not that uncommon. For some people the do things when they are asleep that they have no knowledge about. It is similar to the fact that when people are inebriated they do things they dont recall ever doing. A credible condition. But as one writer said, it needs to be looked at as some will get in trouble for unsolicited advances. Hard to explain that you are sleeping and dont know what is happening.
Posted By Anonymous Denise, Miami Bch, Florida : 5:22 PM ET
It can be pretty serious. It has affected my wife for as long as I have known her (18 years). While we do laugh about it between ourselves I can only imagine what it would have been like outside the confines of a relationship - say, sleeping over at a friend's house. I can't imagine that this would be a good thing.
Posted By Anonymous TCB, Greenwood Village, CO : 5:25 PM ET
At first it does seem funny - wink, wink, nudge, nudge - but like R.E. in Los Angeles says - what happens if he's next to someone who IS NOT interested in him and yet he persists in his sleep - would he then have rape charges pressed against him? Suddenly not so funny. It's always easy to joke or tease other folks about what may seem to be a harmless or seemingly harmless affliction - but for the one who suffers or the one who submits and doesn't tell their partner - this could be a serious issue. I had a friend many years ago who kept telling me how her husband would wake her up in the middle of the night and initiate sex - rough sex - without any go ahead from her. She also mentioned that he always acted like it never happened (and she was too timid to forcefully confront the issue, I guess) - I wonder now, if the man never even knew he was having sex with his wife during that time...
Posted By Anonymous T. Allen - Little Rock, AR : 5:26 PM ET
I don't know if this element has been studied, but when I mentioned to my mom that I do this with my wife (we call it "werewolfing" btw) she said my dad used to do it too. Is it hereditary?
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Portland, OR : 5:28 PM ET
Most men would love to have a wife or girlfriend with this condition. But it raises a question...Why is this considered a disorder and the opposite--having no interest in sex either asleep or awake (you all know who you are) isn't? Damn Puritans made a mess of that issue, for sure...
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Chelmsford, MA : 5:28 PM ET
Should the medical community develop a treatment that cures this condition, or a treatment that causes it? Lord help us if the designer drug folks figure out how to create a sexomnia pill and combine it with a sleeping pill.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Hagerstown MD : 5:30 PM ET
My hubby does the "waking up in the middle of the night" thing enough to make me wonder if it's this or just him wanting more sex. But then most of the time he doesn't remember what happened. I am not complaining by any means since I have a extremely high sex drive & will encourage him during the night too.
Posted By Anonymous BFG buffalo, NY : 5:31 PM ET
Sleep sex is the greatest! My hubby and I have it all the time. At least once a week, we'll wake up in the middle of having sex, having no idea who initiated it or how it started. But we enjoy it all the same. In the rare event that we're not on the same "sleep sex schedule", I'll know he's asleep and just push him away. We always joke about it the next morning, arguing over who initiated it. "You totally threw yourself on me!" "Did not! You were all pokey and seducingful!" Tis great fun.
Posted By Anonymous SK, Seattle WA : 5:32 PM ET
It's refreshing to know that I'm not the only one this happens to. I've had this since I was in my early 20's (35 now), and trust me, it's not pleasant. I can't tell you how many times I've woken up & am initiating sex or in the middle of sex with someone. The scary thing is, it's male or female. It doesn't matter. I won't sleep with anyone anymore unless they're a partner of mine. And I do give warnings.
Posted By Anonymous LR Beverly Hills, CA : 5:33 PM ET
It would be interesting to find out whether more unplanned pregnancies happen as a result of sexsomnia... Does the research compare the mean number of children of sexsomnia-afflicted persons versus the population's mean, among other statistics?

That might cool some jets around here, lol!
Posted By Anonymous Dennis Chang, Seal Beach, CA : 5:34 PM ET
Well this is the first of ever heard of this. All I can say is why didn't my husband have that problem? I may have enjoyed staying married to him.
NF
Posted By Anonymous Nancy from Pensacola, FL : 5:35 PM ET
I am in favor of having this condition and would be able to volunteer for a sleep study .
Posted By Anonymous mark K springfield MO. : 5:36 PM ET
I actually know someone that has that, and it really isn't as pleasant as most people would think it is. It usually sparks embarrassment, or disgust in one's self.
Posted By Anonymous Amy B. Lynchburg, VA : 5:37 PM ET
Living single might be best for anyone with these episodes. Chivalry is alive and well, how about some wine and crackers first.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Winfield Quincy, IL : 5:43 PM ET
Great! Now I can't even sleep in the doghouse!!
Posted By Anonymous Jeff, Hampton, VA : 5:45 PM ET
I appreciate the way you dealt with this subject, as funny as the possibilities can be.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Safdiah, New York NY : 5:46 PM ET
Pretty sad and scary if you ask me.
And the level of distasteful banter here is alarming.

Does eventhing have to be a joke?
Posted By Anonymous Don, Chicago, IL. : 5:50 PM ET
My wife likes it when my sexsomnia takes over, but it has been a while since that happened. I have other sleep problems as well though, sleep walking, bed hopping etc. I guess it may be related?
Posted By Anonymous Andy, Brampton, Ontario : 5:50 PM ET
There is a treatment for this and it has worked throught the ages. The treatment is called "having children". It will kill any sex drive for at least 18 years!
Posted By Anonymous Bob Bolsa, Boca Raton Florida : 5:52 PM ET
to cindy from tucson, knowing that this is a disorder, your sister should try a little harder to understand instead of thinking in the worst terms possible. If she is thinking along those lines, this isn't the root of her problems!
Posted By Anonymous Joe Thunder Bay, Ontario : 5:53 PM ET
My husband woke me up for some late night action once, and I was thrilled at how much I thought I turned him on by just sleeping. It is one of my most memorable sex moments ... not one of his of course. When I told him about it, he was so sad that he "missed" out on it!

I wonder what I can feed him or say to him before bed to make it happen again! ... hummmm?!
Posted By Anonymous Rebecca, Houston, TX : 5:54 PM ET
I have been experiencing this now for several years, or, not experiencing it as the case may be.

Adding to the point about how serious this is, the condition is even harder to explain when you may have been under the influence of alcohol.
Posted By Anonymous e.e. Orlando, FL : 5:54 PM ET
My fiance does this and at first I thought it was weird and I worried about him sleeping anywhere but next to me. He says he's never been told he does this in any other relationship. Regardless of why it happens, it's a fun surprise and you get to think about it all day.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle, Orlando, FL : 1:31 AM ET
MM. I find it amazing how many people are worried about "not sleeping with someone who's not my partner." Does the whole world but me sleep next to people they aren't married to? Whassup with that???
Posted By Anonymous A.M. from Poughkeepsie, NY : 1:58 AM ET
Or is this an excuse for a sexual predator? How convenient would it be to be accused of date rape and be able to claim that indeed you are the victim of this little-known condition...Please people, it may exist, but lets use some skeptism first...
Posted By Anonymous Rational thinker, Mpls, MN : 2:12 AM ET
I've been reading some of the responses from male viewers about wanting to find a woman with the disorder. I can't believe you would actually post their sexist remarks. Isn't this supposed to be serious? ... not some fantasy to be indulged by some guys raised on porn.
Posted By Anonymous Jack, Columbia, MD : 6:36 AM ET
Wow, some of the men on here really know how to represent their gender. NOT! A sex related topic will of course peak interest, however why not try absorbing rather than lame jokes. Can you not think of your own sexuality for once?
Posted By Anonymous Dani, Carrier Mills, Il : 7:15 AM ET
As much as people think it's something they want, or that it's funny, it can be really hard to deal with. I had a long term boyfriend with this condition, and I would wake up in the middle of the night to find him on top of me, groping me or otherwise making unwelcome (and often painful) advances. Since he was stronger than me and asleep, I couldn't hold him off. In the morning, I would be hurt and angry, and he would have no idea why I didn't want much to do with him.

I know it's a medical thing, which at the time I didn't. But the feelings that Cindy's sister feels are not that different from my own in that situation. Waking up to a hand roughly forcing it's way down your pants or a person pinning you down with their weight is a horrible thing, not a joking manner.
Posted By Anonymous Heather, Yorktown, NY : 7:40 AM ET
Are there any "Sleep Specialiest" out there who knows if there is a treatment for this condition? It sounds funny to those not effected but I'm sure its not to those who are. Have anyone of the effected above been to a "Sleep Specialiest"?
Posted By Anonymous AJ, Fayetteville, NC : 8:25 AM ET
My worst fear is that many many men will suddenly develop this "syndrome" and feel "entitled" to act however they want...because after all, how do you prove or disprove this?

We worry about a handful of men who "really have this issue" being in trouble for doing something they didnt know they were doing...I worry about the 1,000's potentially hunderds of 1000's of women who will be raped under the guise of "sexsomnia" and nothing will be done about it.

our history has proven that our society will err on the side of men for this one, and protect a hanful of men over a bazillion women.
Posted By Anonymous Jessica - Grand Rapids, MI : 2:53 PM ET
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