Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Sex

Font Size

'Sleep Sex' Unromantic, Even Dangerous

Sleep Sex

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Until recently, "sleep sex" -- the forceful initiation of relations while in the unconscious state of sleep -- was kept hush-hush by most couples who had experienced it.

Recommended Related to Sex & Relationships

30 Days Back to Love

By Keith Ablow, M.D. You married a great guy. But you're stuck in a romance rut. Here's your road map to getting the relationship you want with the husband you still cherish. A happily married woman told me recently that she has a secret way of recapturing the feeling of being in love that she had as a young bride. When she and her husband go out to dinner, she'll watch how other people — a waitress, a friend they're out with that night, an acquaintance who stops by their table — are responding...

Read the 30 Days Back to Love article > >

"Such behavior is not often mentioned to physicians because of feelings of shame of patients and bed partners," writes Christian Guilleminault, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., who published a number of case studies on the subject in the March/April 2002 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. "But just this morning, I have five emails asking how to get help for this."

On his website ( Michael Mangan, PhD, an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and author of the e-published book, Sleepsex: Uncovered, elicited dozens of descriptions of this behavior from respondents on the Internet.

"My husband has a difficult time falling asleep at night," wrote one woman. "Within that first hour after he finally falls asleep, he will initiate sex with me. He is a very different person while doing this, much more aggressive, groping and playfully biting me. I used to think he was awake and doing this consciously until I would confront him the following day and he wouldn't have any recollection of what he did."

This woman goes on to say that she came to like this aspect of their relationship, but this is not always the case. Another respondent's 16-year-old sister awoke to find her 26-year-old brother-in-law on top of her. "He swears he doesn't remember doing anything like that at all," Mandan's correspondent writes, "and I believe him." Other cases have been documented of sleeping males accosting young children, and legal action has resulted.

In some of the cases described by Guilleminault, sleep sex can be "rape or rape-like behavior." In one case, the bed partner was advised to sleep in a locked room until the patient could be properly diagnosed and treated.

Sleep sex is not limited to men. In several cases in the Stanford study, women had started moaning ("with sexual undertones," the researchers noted) within a few minutes of falling asleep. In another case, a woman had started fondling herself violently and compulsively while sound asleep.

Another study at Stanford, Guilleminault says, indicated that as many as 2% of the general population has become violent while asleep. "We think 1% of the population may have sleep sex," author Mangan says.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

couple not communicating
How to tell when you're in one.
couple face to face
Get your love life back on track.
couple having an argument
Turn spats into solutions
couple in argument
When to call it quits.
Life Cycle of a Penis
HIV Myth Facts
How Healthy is Your Sex Life
Couple in bed
6 Tips For Teens
Close-up of young man
screening tests for men
HPV Vaccine Future