Some men do it while they sleep
Sexomania affects both sexes and can be treated
FOR some women there is nothing more annoying than a partner who has sex while he sleeps.
This is not an uncommon problem and experts call the condition sexomania.
It can involve masturbation or initiating sexual contact with a partner while asleep.
The condition is more common in men though women do suffer from sexomania too.
It can vary in severity from just troublesome moaning to sexual, and sometimes violent, acts during sleep.
Research shows that having sex while sleeping is more prevalent than previously thought.
It is believed that it might affect about one percent of the population, but it's hard to get an accurate idea because many sufferers are too embarrassed to report it, or just have no memory of their sleep sex habits.
Sexomania has also been widely discussed and reported in the media as a devastating disorder that can lead to a break-up of relationships to being a humorous measure of one's sex drive.
David Simba, a physician practising in Johannesburg, says while people might think this type of behaviour is funny, it can be disturbing, annoying, embarrassing and a potentially serious problem for some individuals and couples.
"Most people afflicted with sexomania often go for years without notifying their doctors of the symptoms for fear of being ridiculed by friends and family," Simba says.
"Some don't know that it's a medical disorder, while others think it is a spiritual problem," Simba says.
He says though the disorder is relatively harmless, some people attempt sex acts with a bed partner without their consent.
For most people the worst effect of sleep sex is embarrassment between the sufferer and their partner.
Simba says this needn't be the case, as long as the sufferer talks it through with the partner and they are honest with each other.
"There's nothing weird about it, it's just like sleep-talking. It is important to know that it's treatable. A doctor can do a family history and a partner's sleep history," he says.
Most patients who suffer from this condition have a history of parasomnias such as sleepwalking and sleep talking.
How can you stop sexomania?
- Simba says the first level of treatment will usually be therapy. In this treatment, the intention is to ascertain whether there is an underlying psychological reason for the behaviour and, if so, to help the sufferer address and correct these issues.
Therapy will also help reduce any stress and anxiety that might be contributory factors to the disorder.
If the sufferer is in a relationship, the therapy sessions may include the partner, as much to make sure they are aware of the issues of the disorder as for any other reason.
- The second aspect of treatment will be to ascertain whether there is a need for lifestyle changes to help alleviate the disorder. For example, there could be a alcohol-related issue that is adding to the problem and the removal of this might help.
Similarly, reducing stress and anxiety levels in the person's lifestyle can be beneficial.
- Thirdly, there is the option of medication and this will be considered in extreme cases of sexomania to reduce the problem, while other remedies are given time to have an impact on the disorder.
In trials medication such as clonazepam has been found to help some sufferers of the disorder.