‘Sleepsex’ a good thing for morning blues?

“Do you know what I dreamed about last night?” is a remark often heard over breakfast. The dream may be a remembrance of a past trip, or a vision of a long-departed friend. But have you ever dreamed about sex?

If you have, you may be smiling while enjoying your morning coffee, but it’s highly unlikely that your dream will be discussed around the table. So how often does “The Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” occur? And is it possible to experience the Real McCoy while sleeping and not be aware it’s happened?

Dr. Carlos Schenck, a psychiatrist at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, is an expert on behavioral disorders associated with sleep. He reports that there are at least 11 different sex-related sleep disorders collectively referred to as “sleepsex”.

Schenck adds that “any basic instinct can come out in the context of sleep” and that “all sorts of things can happen”.

Several sleep experts told me that although sleepsex occurs in both sexes, it’s primarily men who experience this condition. I imagine it didn’t take much research to reach that conclusion. Who was it that coined the expression “semper penis erectus”?

People who encounter the “sleeping beauty” tend to suffer from other sleep problems such as sleepwalking or they experience tremors while asleep. As Schenck says, “Sleepsex doesn’t come out of nowhere, but for whatever reason, sexual disorders become part of the repertoire”.

So is dreaming about a person you’ve always wanted to seduce abnormal? Schenck says that people who dream about sex are normally ashamed to talk about it. But luckily, Schenck, in his book, Sleep; The Mysteries, The Problems and The Solutions, reports that “bizarre and inappropriate behaviour during sleep does not necessarily reflect a daytime psychological problem.”

It appears, however, that Schenck isn’t totally sure about this point because he adds, “for those who have this problem, and the longer they fail to seek treatment, the greater the risk of developing a secondary psychological problem, such as depression”.

Dr. Christian Guilleminault, professor of psychiatry at the Stanford School of Medicine, also believes this condition requires treatment. I’d agree when sleepsex becomes violent and a partner is threatened by rape or other acts of violence. For instance, in one reported case a man tried to strangle his wife while having an amorous dream.

But I doubt that many cases of sleepsex have to be treated by valium or other medication. I admit I’m not a world renowned psychoanalyst, so I’m treading on unsafe ground here. But what’s psychologically wrong with dreaming of an affair with Sophia Loren, or the latest sex queen, and smiling over the morning coffee? Moreover, wouldn’t it be pleasant to have your partner say, “My, you seem to be in a particularly good mood today.”

Maybe Freud knows something I don’t know about sex. But I’d bet that people would be less depressed in the morning following a sexual dream than reading about the state of the economy in the morning newspaper, or about the gory details of the latest person shot in Chicago.

One could also add that the legal profession needs a refresher course in common sense when dealing with cases of sleepsex. For instance, in 2003, Jan Luedecke, a landscaper, assaulted a woman during a house party in Toronto. The woman had fallen asleep on a couch, was suddenly awakened and no doubt quite surprised to find Luedeck attempting sex with her. She pushed him away and called the police.

The trial judge found Leudecke not guilty of sexual assault on the grounds that Luedecke was asleep and not aware of his actions. I’d wager the verdict would have been different if the victim had been the judge’s wife or daughter.

I can easily understand how people can fall asleep and have a sexual dream. But I find it hard to grasp how a person can sleepwalk into someone’s bed, without waking up. After all, touching someone in a dream is one thing, but if I ever crept into Sophie Loren’s bed it would certainly wake me up.

I hope you’re smiling while enjoying your morning coffee.