December 1, 2012

Q&A: My Boyfriend Masturbates In His Sleep

Some people appear to be awake, but they are asleep and they may try to have sex with their partner, or even actually have sex with their partner.

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man in bed

man in bed

Question: I’ve been living with my boyfriend for over two years. We absolutely love one another, but he wakes me up a few times a week masturbating in his sleep. Of course the first time I was confused, and the first time I brought it up he got defensive and we had an argument. That was a year ago, and now we talk it out. But I still can’t help it, I leave the bed many nights and end up sleeping on the couch. He gets upset because I’m not in bed for our morning cuddle time. I love him, but still get emotional about this. What can I do?

You’re describing a potentially serious issue.

Sleep Disorders

Some people—mostly men, but some women too—experience sleep disorders that are associated with them acting out sexually while they sleep.

Typically they have no memory of their middle of the night masturbation or attempts at partnered sex. That’s right: I said partnered sex.

Some people wake in the middle of the night, and appear to be awake, but they are asleep and they may try to have sex with their partner, or even actually have sex with their partner. They may talk, kiss, whisper, and engage in all sorts of sexual behaviors.

But in the morning, they are unlikely to remember it.

While they are engaged in their so-called “sleep sex,” they may act similar to how they would under other circumstances of sex. Or they may act very different.

One women I heard from years ago said that her normally shy and reserved boyfriend was more aggressive and rough when he engaged in sex with her in the middle of the night.

It was a difficult situation for her—on one hand, she recognized that he likely had some sort of sleep disorder and could benefit from help. On the other hand, she liked the more aggressive side of him that she only got to see during his sleep sex experiences.

 Relationship Issues

This is a serious issue for two other reasons.

One of these reasons has to do with the distress it’s causing in your relationship. You might spend some time thinking about why you feel upset.

Is it just because it wakes you up? Is it because you’ve asked him to see a doctor about it and he refuses? Or are you interpreting his masturbation to mean something about how he feels about you?


Chances are that he cannot control his middle of the night masturbation, at least not if it’s part of a sleep disorder. But he can see a sleep specialist to see whether he does indeed experience disordered sleep and, if so, he may be able to be successfully treated for what’s sometimes called sleepsomnia.

Another reason this is serious is because some people with sleepsomnia engage in sleepsex that puts other people at risk.

There have been documented cases of people who—while sleeping—have forced themselves on family members, roommates, or people in their apartment building.

The chances of this may be low, but if your boyfriend can seek help from a sleep specialist, it may be better for everyone. You can learn more about sleepsomnia and other unusual sex facts in Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered-For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex.

Next Question: Condoms And Bleeding During Sex

My girlfriend and I have had sex a couple times without a condom and everything was fine. When we tried with a condom, she bled. Could the condom be causing the bleeding?

Read Dr. Debby Herbenick’s response.

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