This Is What Life With Sexsomnia Is Like (And Why It Can Be Dangerous)

The sleep disorder can have traumatic consequences.

26/02/2016 9:28 AM AEDT | Updated 27/02/2016 2:37 AM AEDT
Jason Hetherington via Getty Images
Sexsomnia is a condition that causes people to engage in sexual activities while they're asleep.

You've heard of sleepwalking, night terrors and possibly even people who have sleep-related eating disorders, but you may have never heard of sexsomnia, a condition that causes people to engage in sexual activities -- ranging from making sexual noises to pelvic thrusting to masturbation to sexual intercourse -- while they’re asleep.

The condition, which falls under the umbrella of parasomnia, or disorders that cause abnormal or unusual behavior of the nervous system during sleep, is still relatively unknown to the general public but is now being studied by medical researchers and doctors in an effort to understand more about why it occurs and how to treat it. Sexsomnia, in some cases for some people, can be experienced as an unusual or perhaps annoying event, but in rarer, more extreme cases, it can be the cause of sexual assault or molestation, which can make being diagnosed with the disorder -- or being in a relationship, whether romantic or familial -- troubling and even dangerous to everyone affected.

In the latest episode of the HuffPost Love + Sex Podcast, co-hosts Carina Kolodny and Noah Michelson speak with Stephen Klinck, a man who has compellingly written several pieces about his own personal experiences with sexsomnia, as well as Dr. Michel Cramer Bornemann, a sleep researcher and leading expert on Sexsomnia at Sleep Forensics Associates. They also spoke with, Ryan Younggren, Assistant Cass County State's Attorney, who has prosecuted cases where assailants have unsuccessfully tried to use sexsomnia as a defense against being found guilty of sexual assault or molestation.

Because researchers have only recently started to study sexsomnia, it's difficult to know exactly how many people are affected by the disorder. Everyday Health notes that a study at the Toronto Western Hospital in Canada found that out of 832 sleep center patients, 7.6 percent experienced sexsomnia, but among the general population, "researchers expected the percentage of those with [the disorder] to be lower." There's no cure for sexsomnia at this time but those who are afflicted with the disorder can seek treatment either through medication or, as Klinck notes in the podcast, by reducing stress, avoiding sleep deprivation and lowering his alcohol intake, which have all been beneficial for him.

The HuffPost Love+Sex podcast is produced by Katelyn Bogucki and edited by Nick Offenberg.

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