Sexsomnia, anyone?
November 1, 2013 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Hi everyone, last night I found out my boyfriend of ~5 months occasionally sleep... sexes? What happened was, last night, several times, he seemed to awake after falling asleep before me, when I moved or got out of bed to go to the bathroom, and say '(my name), I want to lick your pussy' then go right back to sleep. Eventually, he starting touching me in places, and I got turned on, and we ended up having sex. After, he said, 'that was great, but how did it happen?' So, no recollection - he basically woke up inside of me, according to him.

He said it happened with his former girlfriend, too. Never violent, just sleeping talking or mild groping. But it upset her and was part of why they broke up, in small part at least. If it's relevant, he's a very gentle and respectful person, though he does like rough sex.

My question is, I'm currently not too worried about it. In fact, it really turned me on, both at the time and when I found out he'd been asleep. If this is the extent of it, a little sleep talking/touching, great. But... should I be? Some very uninvolved internet research suggests to me that sexsomnia violence is very rare. But is it? Anyone have anything to share with me? Mods, please feel free to give my username to anyone who wants to message me.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

If it's not a problem, then it's not a problem. Don't go looking for trouble.
posted by chiababe at 11:41 AM on November 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you are concerned, and it sounds like you have the potential to be, next time it happens, instead of going along with it, see if you're able to wake him up. If he wakes up immediately, awesome, you know you can stop him if you want. If he doesn't wake up easily, or gets violent or something when you try to wake him up (people are weird when they're half asleep), then that's something to discuss.

But right now, I'm with chiababe. If it's not a problem, it's not a problem.
posted by phunniemee at 11:43 AM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

What happens if he starts having sex with you when you are both asleep? What happens if you wake up and he's inside you and you're not enjoying it, but when you yell and push him off he "wakes up" and says he was asleep and didn't know what he was doing? Would that bother you?

Or conversely, what if he wakes up one morning to find that you had sex with him the night before while he was asleep and couldn't consent? Would that bother him?

This isn't necessarily a problem, but it could lead to some weird situations. You could make them less weird by talking about them in advance.
posted by alms at 11:44 AM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thinking through the worst-case scenario here, I don't think this is a good idea.

I know this might sound odd, but even though he is initiating, I don't think this is that different ethically than having sex with anyone who is asleep. That is, he is not actually conscious and therefore is not in control of his own decisions--he cannot consent, and you cannot negotiate with him. Therefore, I do not think that you should have sex with him while he is asleep, for the same reasons that he should not have sex with you while you are asleep.

You say he sometimes likes rough sex? Anecdotally, a good friend of mine does things in her sleep, and she does anything she can do while awake: make tea, get dressed and go out, drive, anything. If there is a chance that he could initiate "rough sex" while asleep, then I think you REALLY shouldn't do it, because if he does something that is not okay, you won't be able to talk about it with him in the moment. Then what happens--you wake him up and tell him he did something wrong? He'll feel guilty, you'll still feel violated because even though he didn't mean it, it still happened...very upsetting.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:45 AM on November 1, 2013

If he is okay with his sexsomnia and you're okay with his sexsomnia, there's nothing to worry about. If something changes and one of you become not okay with it, then is the time to have a conversation.

I have some experience with this, memail me.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:46 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

not unusual
posted by thelonius at 11:58 AM on November 1, 2013

Also memail me.
posted by Coatlicue at 12:01 PM on November 1, 2013

that's called a snoregasm.

sleep and wakefulness are not a binary dichotomy. there are all kinds of levels in between. i am an insufficiently competent sleeper to have sex while doing it, but i doff my hat to those who can. it isn't a problem unless you make it a problem.
posted by bruce at 12:02 PM on November 1, 2013

I'm currently not too worried about it. In fact, it really turned me on, both at the time and when I found out he'd been asleep

Sounds like you have your answer right there.
posted by ook at 12:11 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is totally not unusual at all and you're lucky that it turns you on rather than, say, annoying you for being awakened in the middle of the night. Like some people I have heard about who are definitely not me.
posted by something something at 12:12 PM on November 1, 2013

It's cool if you're both cool with it, but I think it's unsettling that he didn't see fit to mention this is something he does earlier in your acquaintance... Could've been a really unpleasant experience for you, as it was for at least one of his ex-girlfriends.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:14 PM on November 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

From a commenter who prefers to remain anonymous:
I have this sexsomnia "condition", if you want to call it that. It's totally involuntary, and totally unwelcome both from my perspective and my wife's perspective. I hate it. Luckily there's an easy fix - we have separate comforters and sleep in a large bed, so there's plenty of space.

It seems that you are okay with it and your boyfriend is okay with it, but if it becomes a chronic or habitual "happening" he is going to have to deal with it, because it can be unwelcome for the recipient (as was the case with his previous girlfriend).

And he likely has little to no control over his actions, so I suppose he could do anything. That is the worst part about it for me. However, with a very slight change in sleeping arrangements it's not a problem for me, but it is something I would consider seeking professional help about.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:19 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding Iris Gambol. You get to decide what your dealbreakers are, but he ought to have come clean about something like this, an uncontrollable/unpredictable/repetitive behavior that's been a dealbreaker before and that he knew would happen again. What else is he not telling you about it?
posted by headnsouth at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband did this for a very short period of time many years ago, during a period where he was under extreme stress. Is there any correlation between this starting up and anything else going on in his life?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:32 PM on November 1, 2013

If my girlfriend tried to have sex with me in her sleep, I'd probably be into it on some nights, and irritated on others. When I was into it, I'd encourage, and when I wasn't, I'd wake her up and say, "stop trying to fuck me - I need to get up at 6 tomorrow." I image we'd both laugh and go back to sleep, or at worst, her feelings might be slightly hurt and I might be slightly annoyed.

I guess it would be a problem if she was doing it every night, but if it was occasional, I would think it was an endearing and sometimes enjoyable quirk.
posted by latkes at 12:41 PM on November 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

This broke up a previous relationship of his and he didn't think it might be worth mentioning before it happened? And now that it has happened I'm wondering what else about the ending of that relationship he didn't disclose.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that this is a sensitive topic, but what if you had also been asleep when he got his sleep sexing on?

He knew he had a history of this, and he's apparently done nothing about it. In my opinion, getting sexed up in my sleep is violence. This may not be how you feel about the situation, and you were awake. But keep in mind, you also were not an informed party to the activity in question.

If I were a sleep sexer, and someone engaged in that with me without discussing it ahead of time (for me, actually, at all) I'd be really pissed off.

I guess what I'm saying is that for me, this would be a no questions asked dumping offense, for non-disclosure.
posted by bilabial at 12:43 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

What if he falls asleep in a room with someone and ends up having sex with them because he doesn't entirely know what he's doing?
posted by Blitz at 2:12 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did this on Ambien. It was disturbing. BF taking anything?
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:23 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a fairly active sleep walker/talker etc (especially in hot weather), this has happened with me (as your boyfriend) a coupla times (though usually I'm more the run-away-from-the-albino-python-that-is-curled-around-us-bellowing-and-crying-until-I-wake-up-in-the-lounge type of sleeper). My partner doesn't mind, I don't mind. I am generally wake upable and not forceful or anything.

It didn't/doesn't happen very often - sleeping closer together is definitely a factor. And neither of us ever felt there was anything rapey or skeevy about it. If you're not concerned, and he's not concerned, I wouldn't stress it; it doesn't matter what other people think and feel about it, they're not in your relationship.
posted by smoke at 3:10 PM on November 1, 2013

My husband and I have sleep sex a lot. I'm usually the initiator, but not always. Usually we're both mostly asleep at first. We're both comfortable with this as being a part of our sex lives. The worst that's every happened is some weird half-dreams about body parts (once, "I dreamed your penis was a lever in a voting booth!") or it not really going anywhere because we're one or both too tired.

If you're comfortable and okay with this, I really wouldn't worry. It's okay to not be comfortable and okay with this, but I wouldn't be surprised if my husband and I weren't the only old boring vanilla couple who did this and don't see it as particularly alarming. If you're not alarmed, I don't think there's any particular reason to need to be.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:13 PM on November 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think this is worth addressing earlier rather than later, at least formally. Not that there is necessarily anything you need to do about it. I used to work in a sleep disorders unit as a trainee doctor, and I remember my boss periodically would have to deal with cases on a medicolegal level. The issue is not that what is happening now is a problem necessarily (thought it could become a problem), the issue is more that if he truly has sexsomnia then he could end up doing this with anyone he was to share a room with in the future. That could include, for example, your future children if you were to have any.

I'm not trying to scare you - I just think you both need to think more widely about the implications. Trying to persuade a court some time down the line that you have sexsomnia when you're hauled up for molestation is pretty difficult - sex offenders often try to use it as an excuse. It's easier if you have sought a medical assessment when you first became aware of the problem.
posted by inbetweener at 3:14 PM on November 1, 2013

Oh, and for what it's worth, I've shared beds with family members and friends and never had this occur otherwise. It seems to be the peculiar combination of my husband and I all snuggled in next to one another that does it. YMMV.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:18 PM on November 1, 2013

If it's not a problem for either of you, and you like it, then don't fix what isn't broken.

However, the disclosure thing is a thing. You maybe need to have a frank chat - in both directions - where you disclose anything else that may be, to some people (YMMV) a little bit odd or potentially problematic.
posted by Wordshore at 3:19 PM on November 1, 2013

After, he said, 'that was great, but how did it happen?' So, no recollection

He said it happened with his former girlfriend, too.

The above really bothers me, actually. He needs to be a lot more forthcoming. Is it frequent? Are there triggers? Does it happen with people he isn't involved with? That sort of thing... You also probably should talk about some "what-if" scenarios, should they happen, and how you will deal with them as a couple.

I don't think this is something that has to be problem in your sex life but this is something I think requires some discussion.
posted by sm1tten at 3:50 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find it unsettling that he did not mention this to you before. It's the sort of thing that could be a very big deal. You may not consider it assault, but many people would and many people also have histories that could make the whole thing even more unsettling and traumatic for them. He put you at risk. It's great that you're okay with it, but what troubles me is that he took that risk and doesn't seem to have sought treatment. It raises some red flags for me.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:24 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whose to say that he should have disclosed this to you? Maybe it happened 3 times with his ex and she made a huge deal of it, felt violated, etc (all of which are valid, don't get me wrong). Sorry, but I don't disclose every little thing that happened between my exes and I, nor should I. Hell, one of my exes was TOTALLY in to sleep sex... we talked about it after it happened a couple of times, she said that she was ok with it and that she would tell me if her feelings changed. No harm done.

As others have mentioned, if it's not a problem for you, then it's not a problem. It doesn't sound like it is, so let sleeping dogs lie (hump).

Now, you didn't mentioned whether or not the sex was/is unprotected... this would definitely be a concern for me!
posted by mrrisotto at 4:44 PM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've had this happen to me here and there with partners, but in all cases my partner woke up and initiated things, and thought I was awake, but I wasn't quite fully there yet until a good way through. Since it happened to me with awake partners initiating, and partners with whom I had a strong existing sexual relationship, it wasn't a concern -- and on the whole they were amused when I suddenly woke up midway through looking surprised, heh -- but if you're at all concerned that it might happen when you're not interested/initiating, wait until the next time it starts to happen, and (even if you are interested) try to stop him as if you're not interested. Best to find out if you have the ability to derail it before it becomes a problem.
posted by davejay at 6:00 PM on November 1, 2013

Oh, and for what it's worth: in my case, it's like the conversation you have when you're almost asleep but not quite, where you feel like you're dreaming that you're talking, and the things you're saying make perfect sense, only suddenly you wake up and realize nothing you've been saying made any sense at all, and in fact you can't really remember what the hell you were talking about. Meaning, there's a level of awareness, but one that's very much in the now rather than making it into memory; from that perspective, interrupting it should be fairly straightforward.
posted by davejay at 6:03 PM on November 1, 2013

How much you need to be concerned highly depends on your reaction to this kind of thing.

Like, I tried to start things in my sleep a few times. My partner pushed me off (or went along with it) and we laughed about it in the morning. To me, it was a vivid dream - so I was more saying "Hey, did I try and start things at 3am or was it a dream?", but not a lot of details... about the same as I remember of any dream. I was absolutely aware it was my partner in that state, so never anything that would happen with other people.

It was always just the kinds of things that don't require mental processing, coordination or being awake... touching, talking. If you're ok with this then you probably don't need to worry - anything more active would wake them up!

That said, our boundaries while awake were pretty much 'all that stuff is ok unless someone says otherwise (and they never did)'. For people who aren't comfortable with that, I can see where there may be a problem - but it doesn't sound like thats you.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:23 PM on November 1, 2013

Getting angry or suspicious that he never told you about this before (if you have no reason to think it was manipulative) is not going to accomplish anything now. The best you could do would be to mention that if you'd had past sexual trauma it might have been difficult, which wisdom he can store away in case you ever break up or die or whatnot.

It's good to have a talk about it, but it's very common. My boyfriend used to do it when things were really hot and heavy with us. Now not so much, because we're both low-libido slugs thanks to Real Life. It never upset me, it never upset him, we talked about it, I teased him about it a lot. I think if you trust someone a lot it's going to be less of an issue than if you have suspicious or unhappy feelings about them. (Barring serious issues with trauma, &c.)

Now, you didn't mentioned whether or not the sex was/is unprotected... this would definitely be a concern for me!

posted by stoneandstar at 6:57 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

TLDR: people have different boundaries. Decide where yours are, talk with your bf about what happened, and figure out how wakeable your bf is in that situation.

Necessary statement: this is about my relationship, and does not indicate what is or is not appropriate for anyone but me or my husband. I think this is something that is very personal and your boundaries are where you need them to be. My boundaries are not your boundaries!

This has happened in my marriage, usually when either my husband or I are beyond exhausted and have been for a few weeks (usually due to overwork). Either of us can be the initiator. After the first time it happened, we talked about it and agreed that whoever wakes up first needs to wake the other person up. Like PhoBWanKenobi, it's a part of our life and we are ok with it. And like Ashlyth, our boundaries are generally "all that stuff is ok unless someone explicitly says otherwise". This fits within those boundaries for us.

That said:

- It's never happened with anyone else I shared a bed with (previous exes, specifically)
- I've on purpose never shared a bed with anyone else since this first started happening, just in case.

And it's the same for my husband. We also make sure that we don't share rooms with other people for the same reason.

I also tend to be a very vivid dreamer, a sleep talker, sleep walker, and generally a poor bed partner (like smoke mentions above, I often end up sleeping in another room if I'm likely to have vivid dreaming. I have pretty specific triggers (again, usually complete exhaustion)). We've just agreed to sleep separate when I'm likely to have a vivid dreaming night, after one too many nights of me trying to sleep-explain to my husband that there is a giant 8' spider on the ceiling, or that there are rats turning our walls into spongy paper, or that one time I was convinced that giant zepplins made of ruby red hobnail glass were coming in through the windows ......(yeah. I'm a weirdo). If we ever split up and I start sleeping with someone else, I'm going to let them know all of this before we share a bed, because I think that's only fair.

So, talk about it. Figure out together what to do if he tries to sleep initiate sex and you're not in the mood. And if you're ok with it, and he's ok with it, you should be fine.
posted by RogueTech at 7:08 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

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