Q&A: I Masturbate While I Sleep. Is This Normal?

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QUESTION: My partner and I just moved in together, and I found out that I masturbate while I sleep. It makes my partner very uncomfortable. I’m wondering if this is normal or if I have a sexual dysfunction that requires treatment.

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Man Asleep on a Couch

Photo: DieselDemon (flickr)

It seems fairly common for women and men to recall experiences of orgasm during sleep or even to wake up in the middle of the night and find that they are rubbing their genitals against the bed, possibly in the middle of a sexual dream.

Although uncommon, I have heard from quite a few men – and a few women, too – who have had experiences similar to yours. It’s unclear how many people act sexually during their sleep but when it does happen, people often don’t even know that they masturbate or attempt to be sexual with other people until they either approach someone for sex while sleeping or until they begin sharing a bed with a partner, at which point one’s partner notices the behavior.

In your case, your partner has noticed that you’ve been masturbating during your sleep. It seems fairly common for women and men to recall experiences of orgasm during sleep or even to wake up in the middle of the night and find that they are rubbing their genitals against the bed, possibly in the middle of a sexual dream.

What Happens When You Sleep

What is less common is active masturbation or sexual behavior while sleeping. As you are sleeping when this happens, you cannot know what you are doing. As such, you might ask your partner how it is that you are masturbating while sleeping. Are you using your hands? Rubbing against the bed? Do you tend to speak while masturbating? And are your eyes open or closed?

Talking to a Healthcare Provider

This type of information may help your healthcare provider to better figure out what may be happening during your sleep. You may even ask your healthcare provider about the possibility of being referred to a sleep clinic as sexual behavior during sleep – what has been called sexsomnia or sleepsex – is often associated with sleep disorders. You may be able to undergo testing to determine how it is that your sleep cycles may be functioning. In some cases, medication can help to improve your sleep.

Communicate With Your Partner

In the mean time, you may find it helpful to talk with your partner about this behavior. It is unlikely a sign of a psychological condition. Rather, your sleep masturbation is more likely to be a symptom of a sleep disorder or to be a normal variation of sleep behavior.

You and your partner might want to brainstorm about how to handle this while you decide whether you want to meet with a healthcare provider about it, which I would recommend doing.

Some couples enjoy sleepsex or these types of sexual behaviors that occur while one person is asleep and the other is awake. Others feel uncomfortable in response to them.

Problems With Sleepsex

It can be important to seek attention from a healthcare provider as, in some cases, people have attempted to have non-consensual sex with others while asleep. In some instances, sleeping adults have even tried to have sex with children, and not recalled any of it after the fact. You can imagine how traumatic such an experience would be for everyone involved.

To learn more about sexsomnia or sleepsex, please check in with your healthcare provider or a sleep clinic. Thank you for coming to us with your question.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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Comments

  • andrea

    I have a question more than a coment. And what is the treatment??or is there anything non-drug related that it can be done for this disorder??