Some sleepers hope to put these bizarre behaviors to bed.
It’s widely known that people walk and talk in their sleep — some even have sex — these are just a few examples of parasomnias, which are unusual movements and behaviors that occur while falling asleep.
A new study from Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, found that women are twice as likely to handle electricity or kitchen tools or perform similarly complex activities compared to men while sleepwalking.
And younger adults and children are more likely to sleepwalk compared to older people. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience in November.
Between January and July 2022, researchers searched terms related to abnormal sleep behaviors on YouTube — such as “sleepwalking,” “somnambulism,” “sleep eating,” “sleep sex,” “sleep talking” and “aggression in sleep” in various languages, including English.
Their searches produced 758 video results, of which they chose 224 to study. The videos featured 68 children, 116 adults and 40 senior citizens.
The most common behaviors observed during sleep were sleepwalking, crying or laughing, moving hands and speaking in full sentences or gibberish.
Researchers found that elderly men are 40 times more likely to be physically aggressive in their sleep compared to adults and children and 70 times more likely to perform complex movements in bed.
The elderly were less likely to cry in their sleep than younger adults — and women cried in their sleep twice as often as men did.
Senior citizens are also less likely to put themselves at risk than younger adults by driving in their sleep or leaving their homes.
Adults, meanwhile, talk in full sentences more often than the elderly and children.
The causes of parasomnias vary. Some reasons include the incomplete transition from being awake to another sleep stage, lack of sleep or irregular sleep cycles, certain medications, genetics, health issues or psychiatric disorders, stress and alcohol or substance abuse, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Parasomnias affect roughly 10% of Americans and are more common in children than adults, according to Northwestern Medicine.
Sexsomnia, in particular, can pose problems for the sleeper and their bedmate over issues of consent.
Some may not mind that their partner initiates sex in their sleep, such as one woman who discussed her husband’s sexsomnia on a 2022 episode of the “Healthy-ish” podcast and joked that it improved their marriage.
For others, sexsomnia could lead to time behind bars.
Dr. Guy Leschziner, a neurologist and the author of “The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience and the Secret World of Sleep,” once detailed the case of his sexsomniac patient, Tom. He attempted to initiate sex with his partner Sarah, who called the encounter more “awkward and annoying” than anything.
But then she made a connection to his time spent in prison — 3 ½ years for raping his ex while she slept.
Tom and Sarah had access to a sleep doctor to help solve their problem, but not everyone is so lucky. In the most extreme cases, the ultra-rare condition has been used in legal defenses for accused rapists.