Sexual Behavior during Sleep: Convenient Alibi or Parasomnia; 'Sexsomnia' Disrupts Sleep, Threatens Relationships, and Has Forensic Implications

By Zaharna, Mia; Budur, Kumar et al. | Current Psychiatry, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Sexual Behavior during Sleep: Convenient Alibi or Parasomnia; 'Sexsomnia' Disrupts Sleep, Threatens Relationships, and Has Forensic Implications


Zaharna, Mia, Budur, Kumar, Noffsinger, Stephen, Current Psychiatry


Jan Luedecke, a 30-year-old landscaper, got drunk during a party in 2003 at a Toronto house and fell asleep on a couch. Some time later, he approached a woman who was sleeping on an adjacent couch, put on a condom, and began sexual intercourse with her.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

At his trial in 2005, he was acquitted of sexual assault after University of Toronto psychiatry professor Dr. Colin Shapiro testified that Luedecke was experiencing "sex-somnia" and was in a dissociative state when the incident occurred.

In February 2008, a Canadian provincial appellate court upheld Luedecke's acquittal. The court did not rule on prosecutors' claim that if sexual behavior during sleep is a mental disorder, Luedecke should be declared mentally ill and required to appear before a mental health review board. (1), (2)

Sexual behavior during sleep (SBS)--or "sexsomnia" as the media called it during Luedecke's trial--is more than a sensational defense for a high-profile court case. Sleep physicians are finding that sexual behaviors during sleep are real and more common than previously thought. (3) Although SBS cases sound psychological in origin, it appears that the problem lies in the brain itself. (4)

SBS can cause great distress to its initiators and recipients but often goes unreported and untreated because of embarrassment about seeking help. Among patients who report their symptoms, many say they experienced SBS 10 to 15 years before seeking help. (5) SBS not only disrupts sleep but can damage relationships and lead to allegations of sexual assault and rape.

What is sleep sex?

Shapiro et al (6) first suggested that SBS might be a parasomnia--an unpleasant or undesirable behavioral or experiential phenomena that occurs predominantly or exclusively during sleep. (7) Parasomnias occur in approximately 2.5% of adults, and violent behaviors during sleep have been reported in 2% of adults. The prevalence of SBS is unknown. (8)

Parasomnias can be primary (disorders of the sleep states per se) or secondary (a manifestation of a medical or psychiatric disorder such as nocturnal epilepsy, posttraumatic stress disorder, or nocturnal panic disorder). They are further classified by sleep state of origin: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. SBS is thought to be a NREM parasomnia, similar to sleeptalking (somniloquy), sleepwalking, and sleep-related eating disorder.

The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 2nd edition, (ICSD-2), published in 2005 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, does not list SBS as a diagnosis. DSM-IV-TR recognizes 3 parasomnia types: nightmare disorder, sleep terror disorder, and sleepwalking disorder. Parasomnia not otherwise specified (NOS) includes "disturbances that are characterized by abnormal behavioral or physiological events during sleep or sleep-wake transitions, but that do not meet criteria for a more specific parasomnia." Disorders such as REM sleep behavior disorder, sleep paralysis, and presumably SBS are included in this diagnostic category. (9)

Characteristic features

Sleep and wakefulness are not mutually exclusive states. State-determining variables of wakefulness, NREM sleep, and REM sleep may occur simultaneously or oscillate rapidly. (10) The mechanism of SBS and other parasomnias is not entirely understood. Arousal disorders can be triggered by febrile illness, alcohol, sleep deprivation, emotional stress, certain medications, pregnancy, or menstruation. Primary sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder that are associated with arousals also can trigger NREM parasomnias.

NREM parasomnias--characterized by cortical arousal--result in dissociation, with the brain partially awake and partially in NREM sleep. In this mixed state, the brain is awake enough to perform complex and often protracted motor or verbal actions but asleep enough not to have conscious awareness of the actions. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sexual Behavior during Sleep: Convenient Alibi or Parasomnia; 'Sexsomnia' Disrupts Sleep, Threatens Relationships, and Has Forensic Implications
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.