Sleep: a time for dreaming, relaxation, restoration, and, for some, sex. According to a recent study, one in 10 British people engage in sleep sex, aka sexsomnia, which basically entails getting it on (or trying to) while you're dead asleep.
Sexsomnia is a parasomnia, which refers to a host of abnormal behaviors exhibited while sleeping, including sleepwalking, nightmares, and sleep eating. The causes vary from individual to individual, but research points to stress and brain disorders as common triggers.
While laying waste to your fridge or waking up in your closet are embarrassing, sexsomnia can have far more disturbing consequences, ranging from general awkwardness to sexual assault to rape. I know, because I dated a guy with sexsomnia, and it was no laughing matter. At first, I thought it was a cute middle-of-the-night ploy for some play, but, just like the woman in this Cosmopolitan article, when my partner would repeatedly not remember his actions, I started to get worried. This all led to Google searches, a lot of long talks, and a few decisions on my part as to how to handle the surprise onslaught of sleep sex. Here are six ways I coped with my partner's sexsomnia, and how you can do the same:
1. Do Your Research
Saying "sexsomnia" to your friends will probably invoke some giggles, because the representations in pop culture can be pretty absurd. However, don't let that deter you from getting the real scientific facts, because the more you know, the more you can prepare yourself for dealing with this frustrating disorder.
Your partner will probably feel a certain level of guilt for trying to touch you while you're trying to get some Zs. Open lines of communication are vital to negotiating both your feelings and theirs.
3. Figure Out Your Partner's Triggers
My significant other's trigger was usually a consistent lack of sleep mixed with stress and alcohol. This lethal cocktail would create aggressive levels of sexsomnia, and knowing this, I tried to steer our activities in more healthy directions when I could.
4. Set Your Boundaries
Sometimes I would laugh off midnight attempts at sleep sex, and other times I felt extremely violated. If unwarranted advances are triggering for you (as they are for many of us), your relationship might need to accommodate that, whether it means breaking up or changing how you sleep. Although it's not your partner's fault they have this disorder, it doesn't mean you should just "deal with it."
5. Update Your Sleeping Arrangements
Part of setting your boundaries might be sleeping in different beds, at least some of the time. That's totally OK, and can actually relieve a lot of stress on your relationship.
6. Get Professional Help
At a certain point, you can talk and negotiate and switch beds all you want, but it can't substitute for professional help. There are sleep centers in most major cities, and you can get your partner the help they need by encouraging them to see a doctor.
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