A growing number of people claim to suffer from “Sexsomnia”, a type of sleeping disorder where sufferers have sex while they sleep, a new study has claimed.
Canadian researchers found almost one in 12 people had admitted engaging or initiating some sort of sexual activity while they slept.
Men accounted for three-quarters of the self-reported “sexsomniacs”, they found.
Experts say such sexual behaviour that occurred while sleeping can range from masturbation through to physical intercourse.
In their study, presented at a recent sleep conference, researchers from the Sleep Research Laboratory at the University Health Network in Toronto, found the disorder was more common than previously thought.
In the study, which has not been published, researchers interviewed 832 patients who they suspected of suffering from some sort of sleep disorder.
The 428 men and 404 women, who had also been referred to the clinic, also completed questionnaires about their symptoms, fatigue, mood and behaviour during sleep.
The study, presented last week at the annualAssociated Professional Sleep Societies conference, in San Antonio, Texas, found that more than one in 10 male and four per cent of female interviewees admitted they had engaged in “sleep sex”.
Dr Sharon Chung, a scientist from the UHN, said people who suffered from it generally had no recollection of engaging in such activity.
“We were surprised at how common it was. We thought we’d get just a handful of people, yet it was almost one in 12 (people),” said Dr Chung, who led the study.
“There have been no previous studies of how frequently sexsomnia occurs.”
“While our finding of eight per cent of people reporting sexsomnia seems really a high number, it should be stressed that we only studied patients referred to a sleep clinic.”
She added: “Is it a problem? As long as you don’t get into legal problems and as long as your partner doesn’t mind, it’s not a problem.
“Although it can leave you tired the next day.”
She said the phenomenon was a form of parasomnia, or unwanted behaviour during sleep.
It can also occur during sleepwalking, according to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.
Dr Chung said insomnia, fatigue and depressed moods were common symptoms of people reporting sexsomnia.
“An act of parasomnia can be as small as opening your eyes while fast asleep or grinding your teeth, to getting up and vacuuming, speaking, eating or having sex,” Dr Chung said.
It is thought that people are who suffer from it are generally found to be in a state of semi-arousal and are generally not conscious of it.
Dr Chung found that many patients failed to consult their doctor about the condition partly due to embarrassment, their physician rarely asking about it or even that some weren’t even bothered by it.
In Britain, the disorder has been used in some court cases as a defence of a defendant’s actions.