The story goes that in 1887, Robert Ledru, a renowned Parisian detective, was sent to investigate the murder of a 35-year-old man in the French town of Le Havre. André Monet, the victim, had been found on the beach with a gunshot wound to the chest. In the course of the investigation, Ledru came to the inevitable conclusion: the bullet that had shot Monet had come from his gun and the footprints matched his own. He turned himself in, arguing that he could not remember anything. Everything pointed to the detective having acted under the effects of a parasomnia, or what amounts to the same thing, a sleep disorder. Hard to believe? For skeptics, yes. However, the medical and judicial literature is replete with similar cases.
Can a person moan and masturbate in their sleep without remembering anything upon awakening? Moreover,can a man commit rape in the same context and be exonerated by justice for lack of consciousness at the time of the act? Let's find out. Today, we talk about sexsomnia.
What is sexsomnia?
Some people fall asleep after sex and others by having sex (we promise there have been cases). But can you have sex and not remember it later? According to experts, yes. Although we must clarify that neurologists still do not agree on the degree of subsequent amnesia, they have no doubt that sexsomnia exists. It is a sleep disorder, a kind of sexual sleepwalking. In this way, while the person sleeps and without being aware of it, presents behaviors such as caresses, moans, vocalizations and can even perform a complete sexual act.
Although some cases had already been studied during the 1990s, the term was coined in 2003 by psychiatrist and director of the Sleep Research Laboratory at the University of Toronto, Colin Shapiro. Today, although not much is known about the causes behind this parasomnia, the World Health Organization estimates that it affects 2% of the world's population and that it is more common in men.
Symptoms of sexsomnia
Shapiro's research highlighted that the most common symptom in women is masturbation, while men often attempt to engage in sexual intercourse, which can lead to abusive behavior. In fact, there are already judgments that have dismissed rape charges based on sexsomnia, such as the case of a 43-year-old British man accused of raping a teenage girl who was staying at his home.
According to this study conducted by experts from the Clinical Institute of Neurosciences of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, the symptoms of its four main cases described "consisted of masturbation without seeking the participation of the partner, sleeping in the same bed (2 cases), and attempted intercourse with inappropriate and unusual behavioral and verbal vigorousness (3 cases)."
Causes of sexsomnia
The conclusion of the study published by the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona holds that sexsomnia "can coexist with other parasomnias, such as sleepwalking and confusional awakenings. Other sleep disorders, such as apneas and periodic leg movements, could trigger the episodes of sexsomnia."
Diego García-Borreguero, neurologist and director of the Institute of Sleep Research in Madrid, stated in a report published by the newspaper El País in 2015 that it is "a much more common disorder in men than in women (of every 10 cases, 8 are male); likewise, it is known that these episodes usually begin to appear in the twenties, although in women they can appear earlier, around puberty; and that once it starts it usually courses chronically, often producing multiple episodes over time".
Triggering factors? Experts say that most sleep disorders have to do with other pathologies, however, it has also been found that, in people who suffer from sexsomnia, alcohol and drug intake and lack of sleep can act as triggers.
Is sex sleepwalking treatable?.
The most important thing to do with any sleep disorder is to see a doctor. Healthy habits, such as regular schedules, sleeping for enough hours and avoiding any psychoactive substances can greatly improve the frequency of episodes. Of course, there are also drugs that can help and that the doctor will assess on a case-by-case basis. What if it is your partner who suffers from sexsomnia? Depending on the intensity of the symptoms, there are couples who opt for separate beds or rooms. In any case, if the situation displeases you, remember that it is possible to wake up a sleepwalker.