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Sexomnia, Or Sleep Sex, Is An Actual Medical Disorder And It Can Ruin Lives

In September of 2014, a Swedish man was acquitted of rape charges after an appeals court found that the man in question could have been asleep during the assault. His lawyers cited "sexomnia" as a reason for his innocence. Could the lawyers of the accused be telling the truth? More importantly, is there something called "Sexomnia"?

Sexomnia
youtube/investigative discovery

Is this a real thing?

Unfortunately, yes it is. Sleep sex or sexomnia is a real thing. It's a condition very similar to sleepwalking where the person goes to great lengths to initiate sexual behaviour in his or her sleep. They wake up next morning completely unaware of what they did the night before. Imagine unconsciously masturbating in your sleep and waking up to a complete mess.
Sexomnia
20m.es
Neurologist Michel Cramer Bornemann, MD, a professor at the University of Minnesota talking about a case to WebMd says,"after the couple would fall asleep, the man would masturbate." The incident happened a few time before the couple decided to seek help. The masturbation episodes took a toll on the wife, and she started fearing that she wasn't satisfying her husband emotionally or sexually. But the truth is that she wasn't the reason behind his weird sexual behaviour - it was a sleep disorder. 
Sexomnia
psicologiasdobrasil.com.br

A slice of history

In 1996, Dr Colin Shaprio and Dr Nik Trajanovic from the University of Toronto, and Dr Paul Fedoroff from the University of Ottawa in Canada wrote a research paper on the disorder. Before the paper got published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in June 2003, professionals around the world did know that a condition like this existed but weren't comfortable acknowledging it, fearing that masses would just dismiss it as more of a willful behaviour than a serious medical condition. But the research was iconic in a way as it started a discussion around the world. The medical and legal fields started citing the disorder as a part of defence cases against rape and sexual assault. 
Sexomnia
cdn.co

What causes it?

It's basically a parasomnia where our brain is caught confused between being awake and being asleep. The person might seem fully awake and aware of what he or she is doing but he/she is actually fast asleep and has no control over their action. The actions can be anything from just fondling to masturbation to sexual intercourse and in some extreme cases even sexual assault. Some might mistake it for a sexual dream but it's really something completely different. 
Sexomnia
slate.com
Although doctors around the world still haven't been able to comprehend what really causes such a reaction, they do know that people who are already suffering from other sleep disorders like sleepwalking or sleep talking are more at a risk of sexomnia than people who don't. Alcohol, recreational drugs, stress and sleep deprivation also act as triggers. However, it has been reported that proper sleep can help reduce the number of occurrences.
Sexomnia
chilango.com

Not common, but pretty dangerous

Sexomnia isn't a very common condition, but needless to say, life can get very difficult for those suffering. What's even more concerning is the sense of shame that the condition brings with it. People suffering from it either don't know or haven't been told about it or feel embarrassed seeking help from a professional. But this is something that can put one into a lot of trouble if ignored. 

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