By Ty Wenger
Fifteen years ago, I found myself in a romantic pickle: Cheryl, a woman I
had been dating for about three months, was nearing her 25th birthday. The
birthday gift in any three-month-old relationship is a dicey one, and I
deliberated over it for weeks. Too big too soon and it could look like I was
trying too hard. Too little and I might appear indifferent. Too romantic and
I'd run the risk of setting the bar too high.
And so it was with great enthusiasm that I finally unveiled...
"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
On his website (www.sleepsex.org/) 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
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
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
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