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Sex casts its spell on sleeping people too

June 7, 2010

Sexsomnia, which involves initiating sex with a bed partner while asleep, afflicts nearly eight percent of sleep disorder patients, says a new research.

The disorder was found to be more common in men than women. Results indicate that 7.6 percent of patients (63 of 832) at a sleep disorder centre reported that they had initiated or engaged in sexual activity with a bed partner while asleep.

The prevalence of reported sexsomnia was nearly three times higher in men (11 percent) than in women (four percent).

The study notes that sexsomnia appears to occur predominantly during confusional arousals and may occur during an episode of sleepwalking.

“There have been no previous studies of how frequently sexsomnia occurs,” said co-investigator Sharon A. Chung, sleep research lab staff scientist in the department of psychiatry at the University Health Network in Toronto.

“While our finding of eight percent of people reporting sexsomnia seems really a high number, it should be stressed that we only studied patients referred to a sleep clinic. So, we would expect the numbers to be much lower in the general population.”

The study involved a retrospective chart review of 832 consecutive patients who were evaluated for a suspected sleep disorder; the sample consisted of 428 men and 404 women.

Patients completed a questionnaire about sleep disorders symptoms, behaviours during sleep, sleepiness, fatigue and mood.

Symptoms of insomnia, fatigue and depressed mood were similar between people reporting sexsomnia and other patients at the sleep disorders centre.

Both groups also had similar rates of smoking and caffeine consumption. However, people who reported sexsomnia were twice as likely as other sleep centre patients to admit using illicit drugs (15.9 percent vs 7.7 percent).

Although sexsomnia was common, patients rarely mentioned the problem to their doctor. Chung noted that only four of 832 patients expressed a complaint about sexsomnia during a consultation with a sleep specialist, said a University Health Network release.

“It seems that patients generally don’t discuss this with their doctors,” she said.

These findings were presented Monday in San Antonio, Texas, at SLEEP 2010 – 24th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Categories: Health
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