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Dear Is This Normal?,
I think I’ve been having orgasms in my sleep. I had a one-night stand a few weeks ago, and I keep having sex dreams about the person. It feels like I have an orgasm during every single dream. No complaints, but is that even possible?
— Hot in Houston, Texas
First of all, who cares if this is normal? It sounds fabulous! Okay, just kidding! But seriously, sleep orgasms might not happen to every woman (one study estimates that about 40% of us have had them) but they’re not at all bad for you — and, uh, they’re kind of a delicious nighttime surprise, amirite?
Let’s back up a little and talk about the science of sleep orgasms.
In men, they’re known as “wet dreams” (because men ejaculate with orgasm and that leaves a wet spot… but you already knew that). In women, though, there’s often no obvious physical evidence of orgasm, so many of us think we just dreamt up the pleasurable feeling but didn’t actually experience it.
Surprise! You did.
A 1983 study found that during a sleep orgasm, a woman’s heart rate jumps to 100 beats per minute from 50, blood flow to the vagina increases significantly, and her breathing increases from 12 to 22 breaths per minute. And yes, having a sex dream does increase the likelihood of orgasm during REM sleep.
Since this is happening to you on the regular, you’re probably well aware that you’re not touching yourself to bring on these orgasms. The cool thing? It’s actually your brain that’s giving you all this nighttime pleasure.
When you’re in REM sleep, blood flow increases to your genitals (meaning you’re aroused) — so combine that with a sex dream, and your brain is perfectly primed to provide you with a sleep orgasm.
Here’s how this works technically: When you touch your clitoris, it activates a certain part of your brain — but the same brain activation can happen just by thinking about touching your clitoris. So when blood flow to your vagina increases during REM sleep, and then you dream about sex, the “clitoris activation” part of your brain lights up and brings on that wave of pleasure.
There’s even more good news. Dr. Jennifer Wider, a women’s health expert, says there are actually health benefits to all this nighttime joy.
Sounds like everything’s going to be just fine in your bedroom.
If you’re feeling any embarrassment or discomfort about your sleep orgasms, though, psychotherapist and life coach Cathy Pagano has some advice: don’t.
“If a woman is embarrassed by this, she needs to look at her beliefs about sexuality, which are often unconsciously shaped by her religious background,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with having dream orgasms — in fact, she’s lucky that her body is so responsive. Since people have different primary ways of being in the world — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual — we experience our sexuality in different ways. ”
Phew. Is anyone else dying for a nap right now?