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Sexsomnia affects patients in a sleep disorder clinic, study finds

June 7, 2010 | 12:52 pm

Sleepwalking isn't the only activity people do in their sleep. Sexsomnia, or sexual behavior such as masturbation or intercourse with a bed partner during sleep, affected almost 8% of patients who were being treated at a sleep clinic, according to a new research paper.

Ien419kf The paper, presented today at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in San Antonio, focused on 832 people being treated at a sleep-disorders center. Of those, 7.6% reported that they instigated or took part in sexual activity with a bed partner while asleep. Men reported it more than women -- 11% versus 4%. Sexsomnia is considered similar to parasomnia, unusual and unwanted behaviors that happen while asleep, falling asleep or while waking up. However, only 6% of people who reported sexsomnia also had parasomnia symptoms.

Among the study participants who reported the sexsomnia and those who did not, there were similar symptom rates of depression, insomnia and fatigue and comparable rates of smoking and caffeine intake. However, those who reported sexsomnia were twice as likely as the others to use illegal drugs. Almost 16% of those in the sexsomnia group used drugs, while 7.7% of the others did.  Those who reported sexsomnia also used alcohol more than the others -- 41.3% versus 27.4%. Also, only four people in the study had confided in doctors about the sleep-time sex.

"It seems that patients generally don't discuss this with their doctors," said co-author Sharon A. Chung, in a news release. Chung is a Sleep Research Laboratory staff scientist in the department of psychiatry at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada. She added that the number of people reporting sexsomnia in this study may seem high, but it may be disproportionately large since the research was done among people who had been referred to a sleep clinic.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times