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Is sexsomnia real? 

And could I have it? I’m scared of what I might end up doing. Plus: My wife wants to open up our marriage but I’m not sure.

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Q I'm a 31-year-old gay male. I've been with my fiance for three years, and we are getting married in the fall. I've got a question about initiating sex in my sleep—I read somewhere that "sexsomnia" is the "medical" term, but maybe the internet invented that? According to my fiance, I have initiated or performed some kind of sex act in the middle of the night and then gone right back to sleep. The next day, I don't remember anything.

This freaks me out for a couple of reasons: My body doing things without my mind being in control is concerning enough, but it feels kinda rapey, since I doubt I'm capable of hearing "no" in this state. My fiance doesn't feel that way; he finds it sexy. The other thing—and maybe I shouldn't have read so much Freud and Jung in college—is that I'm worried my body is acting out desires that my conscious mind doesn't want to acknowledge. According to my fiance, the last time I did stuff in my sleep, I rimmed him and told him how much I wanted to fuck him. Rimming isn't a typical part of our sex life (although I'd like it to be), and my fiance has never bottomed for anyone (I've topped guys in prior relationships, but in our relationship I've only bottomed).

Is my body doing things that my mind won't admit it wants to do? Is there a way to prevent it from happening? —Sexsomniac Hoping Eventually Eager Trysts Stop

A Sexsomnia is a real and sometimes troubling phenomenon, SHEETS, and not something the internet made up like Pizzagate or Sean Spicer. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says sexsomnia is real—a real clinical condition—but they prefer the fancier, more "medical" sounding name: Sleep-related abnormal sexual behaviours. Michel Cramer Bornemann, a lead researcher at Sleep Forensics Associates (sleepforensicmedicine.org), describes sexsomnia as "sleepwalking-like behaviors that have sexualized attributes." And sleep-rimming your delighted fiance definitely counts.

"Sexsomnia may be expressed as loud, obscene vocalizations from sleep (that are typically uncharacteristic of the individual while awake); prolonged or violent masturbation; inappropriate touch upon the genitals, buttocks and breast of a bed partner; and initiation of sexual intercourse," says Bornemann. "The vast majority of sleep disorders are not reflective of a significant underlying psychiatric condition."

So your unconscious, late-night gropings/initiatings/rimmings don't mean you secretly desire to be an ass-eating top. And there's no need to drag poor Sigmund or Carl into this, SHEETS, since you're not doing anything in your sleep that you don't desire to do wide awake. You wanna rim your fiance, you've topped other guys and would probably like to top this one too—so neither of the examples you cite qualify as desires your "conscious mind doesn't want to acknowledge." (Unless you wrote me in your sleep.) Like all sleep disorders, sexsomnia is just something that happens to a very small number of people, SHEETS, there's no need to endow it with deeper meaning. Take it away, Bornemann:

"The brain is made of approximately 100 billion neurons, or electrical connections that allow effective communication between brain subunits. As with all electrical systems, errors in transmission may occur—these are called 'switching errors.' In sleep, switching errors may activate previously quiescent areas of the brain while other areas remain off-line. In sleep-related behaviours, it is thought that deep-seated subunits near the sleep-wake generating centre become triggered, which activate primal automatic behaviours. Simply stated, electrical switching errors in sleep may unleash the animal that actually lies within us all—sometimes to an extent that may have unintended criminal or forensics implications."

In most cases, sexsomniacs will hump a pillow or jerk themselves off. The sexsomniacs who tend to make the news—the ones we hear about—are the "unintended criminals" Bornemann alluded to—people who've sexually assaulted someone while asleep. Luckily for you, SHEETS, your fiance is OK with your "primal automatic behaviours."


Q I'm a straight married male. My wife has a very close male friend who is in a poly marriage. Recently, my wife said she would like us to be able to date others, have sex and romance, but still remain a married couple. She specifically wants to date her friend. I am not closed off to having a conversation about non-monogamy, but I struggle with the thought of her having a boyfriend. I want to be able to give this to her, but I feel like my mind and body are not letting me. —Help Understanding Spouse's Blunt And New Demand

A "Introducing non-monogamy into an existing monogamous relationship can be tough, especially when it wasn't your idea," said Cunning Minx, host of the Polyamory Weekly podcast (polyweekly.com). "It's even more stressful when there is a potential partner waiting in the wings! Yikes!"

While Minx is a poly activist and advocate, HUSBAND, she thinks both parties need to be on the same page before going poly. And before you take that step—if you take that step—Minx thinks you need to ask yourself some questions. "HUSBAND should do a fear inventory," said Minx. "What is he afraid of? What would it mean to him if his wife had a boyfriend? What if she wanted to love a woman—does the penis make a difference? If so, why? Then he should sit with his wife and take stock of the health of their current relationship."

You can say no to opening up your marriage, HUSBAND, but your wife may decide she wants out of the marriage if no is the answer—this is a circumstance where one of you is going to have to pay a pretty steep price of admission. Either you'll have to accept polyamory, or your wife will have to drop it. There isn't really a middle ground here—or is there?

"It's perfectly acceptable for HUSBAND to self-identify as monogamous while his wife practices polyamory," said Minx. "It's a difficult path, and will require a high level of internal security and self-awareness on his part, but ultimately your self-identity is your own decision."

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