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Stanford sleep experts treat medical condition behind violent 'sleep sex'

STANFORD, Calif. - In a new study, Stanford researchers describe a treatable medical condition which causes people to commit violent sexual acts in their sleep. Referred to as "sleep sex," the nocturnal activities cited in the study range from disruptive moaning to rape-like behavior toward bed partners.

The researchers believe this condition stems from glitches in brain waves during sleep. By bringing attention to the disorder, they hope the health-care community will recognize the problem as medical in origin rather than psychological. "Now doctors might know to ask patients about how they're sleeping," said Christian Guilleminault, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Guilleminault's study, released in the March/April issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, outlined 11 patients with symptoms that included loud, disruptive moaning on one end of the scale and sexual assault on the other. Regardless of how unusual or violent the behavior, patients had no memory of the events the next morning.

Guilleminault divided the patients into three groups depending on the severity of their behavior. Those whose disturbances were simply annoying included two women who made sexual moaning sounds during the night. Though relatively harmless, one woman felt embarrassed and guilty that her moaning disturbed her spouse and children.

The second group consisted of a man and a woman whose disturbances placed them at physical risk. They experienced periods of violent masturbation that left bruising or soreness. The man also reported breaking two fingers trying to escape from restraints he had used to prevent the behavior.

The third group included six men and one woman who made unwanted - and sometimes violent - sexual advances on their bed partners while asleep. In one case, the patient tried to strangle his wife. A teenage child in the home heard the di
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Contact: Amy Adams
amyadams@stanford.edu
650-723-3900
Stanford University Medical Center
26-Mar-2002


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