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I grope in my sleep. Can you help?
September 14, 2009 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Is there such thing as "sleep groping", or am I just a perv? If yes, how can I stop it and how!

I have a tendency to grope my girlfriend quite a bit in the early hours, right before I wake up. Since she's trying to sleep so obviously this is not on.

Unfortunately, I can only vaguely remember doing it after I wake up. This happens regardless of how much we've been having sex or how much sleep I've has the previous night. It's been happenning since we started sleeping together. I want to change it.

Is this a weakness of character? Am I making lame excuses? Or is this an actual "thing" - a thing I can do something about. Have you had similar issues and dealt with them successfully? Help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This happened to a, uh, friend of mine and a guy she was dating. Having sex right before bed seemed to make it stop. It wasn't so much the frequency as the timing.
posted by caveat at 7:14 AM on September 14, 2009


My boyfriend did this to me every now and then. I would just tell him no and put a pillow between us. I don't think it's worth chastising yourself over, and it's not something indicating a flaw in your character.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:16 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weakness of character? Lame excuses? No.

Doing those things while you're awake (and aware that your girlfriend doesn't like them) would be really off, but you're asleep. You don't have conscious control over your body at that point. It sucks for your girlfriend, but if you aren't aware that you're doing it, she can't really blame you.

With regards to stopping it, could you try sleeping with a large pillow/cushion between you? Or maybe in different beds? Maybe you could top and tail, and see if that makes a difference?

It could just be that this is a thing that you do. I have a relative who apparently starts a motorbike in his sleep at least once a night. According to his wife, he's tried over the years to stop doing it, but since he's asleep, he doesn't really have any conscious control over it. She's just learned to deal with it.
posted by Solomon at 7:16 AM on September 14, 2009


I do this sometimes when having erotic dreams.

The solution is to let your SO swat at you and tell you to cut it out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:17 AM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Talk to your doctor about it. It's not your fault, but depending on the severity of your parasomnia you could unwittingly victimize someone.
posted by hayvac at 7:21 AM on September 14, 2009


I do it to my wife every now and then. She just slugs me and we go back to sleep. Sometimes I vaguely remember it in the morning and we'll joke about it. I also sometimes talk and scream bloody murder. I can't help any of this behavior. It's no different than walking in your sleep, which thankfully I do not do.

You both just have to accept that it's something you do in your sleep, and you have to agree that she's allowed to push you away or slug you to make you stop. No hard feelings in the morning.
posted by bondcliff at 7:21 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


You might have a parasomnia, a kind of sleep disorder. If it persists and it really troubles you, see a sleep specialist.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:23 AM on September 14, 2009


Yep, if she just keeps swatting you and stopping the behavior - blocking you with a pillow, turning you away, etc. - eventually your reptile brain will learn either to not do it or (more likely) will learn to respond to a grunt of dissent from a sleeping GF by stopping.
Reptile brain isn't necessarily sexual - it's what I call the part of you that controls you when you're sleeping. My husband and I have managed to teach each other's reptile brains to stop doing annoying sleeping things through sheer repetition.
posted by Billegible at 7:31 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


What are the mechanics of this? In what position do you sleep? If you fall asleep cuddling her then your hands have the opportunity to grope while you sleep. You could simply try sleeping the other way about, with her behind and holding you, and your hands away from her body. If you don't sleep cuddling but move or turn around during sleep in order to touch her, then a blocking pillow might be better to thwart you.
posted by Sova at 7:36 AM on September 14, 2009


"Sleep sex" can be prevented by reducing stress and having a regular sleep schedule. Some people actually need more than 8 hours of sleep a night. When I had an unpredictable schedule and a stressful job, I would often wake up in the middle of having initiated or attempting to initiate sex.
posted by idiopath at 7:41 AM on September 14, 2009


When I was younger (and before there was a girl in my bed every single night) I used to (ok it sometimes still happens but less often now) totally wake up my girlfriend and apparently do a really good job of getting her...uhm...in the mood. And then we'd go at it like spider monkeys and it would last a while...and then sometime in the middle I'd sort of wake up and have no memory of...starting.

It's happened with a few females, and none of them had an issue with it...at least two of them really, really looked forward to it, apparently I'm a better snogger while asleep.

But yea, tell her to smack ya and say stop it. Sort of like when my girlfriend wheezes now I say to her "BREATHE THROUGH YOUR MOUTH" and she does, but she never wakes up.
posted by TomMelee at 7:42 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is why God invented elbows. Your hands start roaming, and she has every right to plant her elbow in your ribs so hard that you have a bruise for days. A few times of that and your hands will be a lot less friendly with her parts.

Alternatively, know that not everyone minds the midnight groping, or its relative, the midnight sexing. For some people, your behavior would be a feature, not a bug.
posted by Forktine at 7:42 AM on September 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Seconding an elbow in the ribs. I've learned that I can't really be shy or scared of physically pushing away my spouse - not because he gropes me but because he's such a deep sleeper he'll often roll over on top of me without waking up. Unless I defend my space he's gonna keep doing it.

Also, we stopped falling asleep in the spoon position (with him being "big spoon" and me being "little spoon") and that helps with the unconscious groping.
posted by muddgirl at 8:06 AM on September 14, 2009


I once had a partner who went into detailed sleep lectures and occasionally pinched me. He told me that when he did that, I needed to just tell him, loudly, to go back to sleep without waking him up. Same with snoring; I was supposed to just nudge him heavily and roll him over. When he had nightmares, under no circumstances was I supposed to hold him, awake or sleeping.

Of course, when I was being pinched, I really did need to wake him up to get him to stop for sure, but I tried to do it rather gently, because waking him suddenly would probably mess with his issues even more.

I definitely recommend seeing a sleep specialist and being very honest about it with your partner (which it sounds like you're trying to do). You can joke about it, gently, but be very careful, particularly if it comes up among friends. And if one of you does need to go into the other room to sleep sometimes, don't take it as a failing. Plenty of relationships have been saved by better sleep in separate beds.
posted by Madamina at 8:12 AM on September 14, 2009


I find the answers in this thread amusing and perplexing. Get thee to a sleep specialist? Come on. The OP doesn't even say that the GF is complaining, just that he feels like a perv.

OP, I consider this 100% normal. I've been on the giving and receiving end of this. You are in a relationship with someone you presumably feel affection for and who feels affection for you. The two of you are sleeping together in the same bed. Things happen, and this is no different than just waking up with an erection in the morning.

Don't sweat it. You're not a perv.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:13 AM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Don't have this problem, but I've found that reciting things to myself (either aloud or silently) just before going to bed, control sleep actions. This has worked for remembering not to rub my eyes when wearing extended wear contracts, prompting lucid dreams, figuring out puzzles and getting up early.

Example:
To remember my dreams better I recite "I will remember my dreams" several times, slowly, visualizing each word as I say it. That first night I'll usually remember things a bit better, but if I do it over several nights it'll really kick in.

No, sleep groping doesn't make you perv and is no indication of default in character.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on September 14, 2009


You're not a perv. If you can't get in to see a sleep specialist, it might be best to just sleep in separate beds.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:56 AM on September 14, 2009


Sounds like textbook parasomnia. Talk to a doctor. It's not your fault.
posted by Citrus at 9:17 AM on September 14, 2009


I grope my wife when I'm sleeping all the time. I think she's more flattered that I'm still attracted to her than anything, so she considers it something of a compliment.

Unless it really becomes a problem for your GF or you, I think you can resist running to a therapist, sleep specialist, mad scientist, or anyone else in a white lab coat.
posted by elder18 at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, why do you want to change this? Why does it bother you? Does it bother your girlfriend? Have you talked about it? Maybe its just one of those things you wouldn't do if your gf said it bothered her. Maybe you do it because you're comfortable with each other and it's an ok thing to do between you two.

Point is, I don't necessarily see this as a problem, unless it is a problem for one of you, for whatever reason. It just doesn't sound to me like you know for sure. And I wouldn't assume that all women, or even your woman, doesn't enjoy this. Unless of course, you have reason to believe that she doesn't.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:41 AM on September 14, 2009


Your hands start roaming, and she has every right to plant her elbow in your ribs so hard that you have a bruise for days.

I really, really hope you're joking. Nobody has that right.

If you're not seeing where I'm coming from on this, please try reversing the genders -- suppose instead that I've just advised someone to hit their girlfriend hard enough to bruise them for days in an effort to train them out of some behavior -- and see if that idea bothers you.

To answer the original question -- yeah, I've done this on occasion, myself. The simplest way the person I'm in bed with can make it stop, if that's what they want, is to wake me up and ask me to turn over.
posted by webmutant at 10:55 AM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think the real question is: can this skill be acquired? That sounds to me like a rather pleasant way to wake up (well, depending how insistent the groping is, I suppose). Any chance your girlfriend is finding this cute rather than annoying?
posted by brambory at 11:15 AM on September 14, 2009


One time, when I was a teenager, I awoke to find my hand walking itself across the floor towards the man sleeping next to me. I totally freaked out, seeing as the man next to me was between me and that man's girlfriend. There were 5 of us 'camped' for one night in cramped indoor space. I was just some dude they picked up hitch-hiking. We were having loads of fun though :-)

But from that point, I just programmed myself to not pull stuff like that. My partner and I get all sleepy while we cuddle, then we roll over our separate ways. I need that, anyway, as I can be a rather active sleeper. On the other hand, if someone I'm intimate with is asleep, but it's time for them to wake up, I think nothing of waking them up by groping, if I feel so inclined. But it generally is appreciative in nature, rather than aggressive.
posted by Goofyy at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2009


It is perfectly normal. If your girl is annoyed she'll elbow you. If she likes it you'll both enjoy yourselves. I have been on the receiving end of this with both end results happening. My Boy often kisses me while I am asleep (so he tells me and often to stop my snoring). When I am aware of it is is quite nice. When I wake up it is even nicer.
posted by Wendy BD at 12:25 PM on September 14, 2009


and then sometime in the middle I'd sort of wake up and have no memory of...starting.

Yeah, me too. In my experience my wife is always happy about this state of affairs, but then whenever she isn't, she probably just does whatever stops me and I don't wake up to remember it.

I should probably ask
posted by davejay at 1:07 PM on September 14, 2009


Sounds like textbook parasomnia

Textbook parasomnia, really? Would you classify it as pavor nocturnus, somnambulism, enuresis, bruxism, paroxysmal dystonia, or what?

OP: Sounds pretty normal to me. If you don't stop on your own after she starts waking you up every time you do it you could try sleeping with a pillow between you.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on September 14, 2009


brambory: "I think the real question is: can this skill be acquired? That sounds to me like a rather pleasant way to wake up (well, depending how insistent the groping is, I suppose). Any chance your girlfriend is finding this cute rather than annoying?"

It's not cute. It's realllly annoying.

My boyfriend is a bit of a bed hog and does various annoying things during the night, including elbowing me in the face or groping me. I enlisted a couple of trusty stuffed animals to act as a "baricade" which keeps the "attacks" at bay.
posted by radioamy at 1:32 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


When we go to sleep, the part of our brain that keeps us from being total fucking jerks also says, Hullo, I'll just nip off to the bar and no one will notice I'm gone!

So, like a delinquent left in a running automobile, our inner idiot grabs the controls. Where your top brain has all sorts of proper ideas about consent and mutual agreement, your bottom brain can barely articulate "Gonna get me some!"

Three minutes later, you're humping away against her thigh and she's dreaming about the Fisherman's Wife.

While sleeping I have punched, been punched, been bitten, initiated sex, been woken by someone else's hand squeezing my balls until my eyes popped, fingered some girl while camping, yelled "Kill the reptiles!" and filled someone else's ear with drool. I have had my beard yanked, my butthole thumbed, been groped, been pulled into groping—even pulled into groping a third party.

People are evil little shits when they're asleep, and the only upside is that they're slow and blind and it's oh so cute to see them bleary and smacking their mouths like beached fish.

The things that exacerbate my unconscious bad behavior are a lack of regular sleep schedules and new sleeping arrangements, and when my girlfriend steals all the covers because she's a great big sleep jerk too. Things have mellowed out since we've been together long enough, but hotels can still reinvigorate (I almost said awaken) the hidden Hyde.

Tell your girlfriend to elbow you, apologize for any general wrongdoing you remember when you wake up, and forget about it.
posted by klangklangston at 5:41 PM on September 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


please try reversing the genders -- suppose instead that I've just advised someone to hit their girlfriend hard enough to bruise them for days in an effort to train them out of some behavior -- and see if that idea bothers you

To keep the comparisons more exact, lets say my wife has a habit of grabbing my junk while I'm asleep, and I hate it. I keep telling her how intrusive and uncomfortable it is, I can't sleep for hours afterwards, it's just awful, but she won't stop. Here's where there's a fork in the road. Me, I'd be totally comfortable with first pushing her hand away, then slapping it, and withing a week or so eventually escalating to an elbow in the ribs, first a poke and eventually a pretty vigorous jab.

And there's another school of thought, that says physical violence of any sort is bad, and that the physicality stops at pushing her hand away. If it persists, better to go sleep on the couch, or build a wall of separation with pillows and dirty clothes.

It's cool to take the second path, but the first is not automatically the same as partner abuse, either. No one, least of all me, is suggesting the OP's partner move from being upset directly to a nasty elbow jab, or that she should hit him whenever he doesn't lift the toilet seat before peeing. But I'll be the first to vigorously defend her right to defend herself from being groped when she doesn't want to be. It's her body, and she has the right to assert its boundaries and limits. He needs to modify his behavior (or find a new partner who loves the nighttime loving) -- it's not her who needs to be restrained and delicate.
posted by Forktine at 8:21 PM on September 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Actually, if you're hitting someone hard enough to cause bruises to try to learn 'em something, then yeah, I would call that partner abuse. I'm not saying she needs to just meekly move his hand away every time -- I had a partner who would fairly regularly grab my shoulder and shake it vigorously and tell me, "Hey. Hey. You're snoring again, turn over." Which was fine. But if she'd started hitting me to get me to stop, she would've come home the next night to find all her stuff on the lawn.

(Well -- if she was hitting me on purpose, that is. If that was just her automatic reaction because she was asleep, I'd have a hard time taking issue with that.)

No one thinks it's acceptable to hit a dog to try to train it, fer Chrissakes. I can't imagine why anyone would think it was okay to do that to a person, let alone someone you're in love with.
posted by webmutant at 10:22 AM on September 15, 2009


webmutant - I'm not trying to "learn" anyone anything. I am trying to stop someone from physically violating me. The fact that the person doing the violating is a sexual partner may cause some women to take another course of action, but I absolutely do not thing it's out of line to use physical means to stop a physical violation, especially if other methods have failed.

As I mentioned above, my spouse is a very heavy sleeper. A vigorous shake is usually not enough to wake him up. If it's "normal" for an unconscious man to molest the people around him while half-asleep, then I can be excused for resorting to physical means of restraint while I'm half-asleep.
posted by muddgirl at 10:32 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


My wife does this pretty uncontrollably, and is hesitant to sleep with her mom or friends now, as a result. I'm a mean person so I just think it's funny.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:28 PM on September 15, 2009


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