A sleep orgasm can take a good dream and turn it into an incredible one.
If you’ve never experienced the toe-curling pleasure of a nocturnal orgasm, the concept of climaxing while you’re fast asleep ― when no one (or no, er, thing) is touching you down there ― may seem far-fetched. But don’t underestimate the importance of psychological factors when it comes to the Big O.
“Although we experience the physical effects of having an orgasm in our body, orgasm is actually a process that happens in the brain,” Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, an online orgasm course for women, told HuffPost. “We don’t need any physical stimulation for it to happen.”
We talked to sex experts to learn more about the elusive sleep orgasm, how it happens and if there’s anything you can do when you’re awake to trigger one during sleep. Here’s what they told us:
(Oh) Yes, it’s possible
People of any gender are capable of having orgasms in their sleep. As you may recall from middle school sex ed, it’s not unusual for adolescent boys to have “wet dreams” during the puberty years; a smaller number of men (or people possessing genitalia understood as male) may even have them into early adulthood.
While men wake up to semen on their pajamas or sheets after a wet dream, a woman (or a person with female genitalia) probably won’t find the same type of physical “evidence” of a sleep orgasm. But that doesn’t mean they’re not happening. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of men and 40% of women have had at least one sleep orgasm, according to The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex.
How orgasms happen when you’re asleep
First, it’s important to note that orgasms in general are difficult to study in a laboratory setting. So a lot of the data that’s out there is based on older studies and small sample sizes; the other information we have is anecdotal in nature.
What we do know about the science of orgasms is thanks in large part to the work of Barry Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple, two preeminent scientists in the field. Some of their research findings may help explain how nocturnal orgasms happen.
In a small study, Komisaruk and Whipple looked at women who said they were capable of “thinking themselves off” — in other words, they could have an orgasm from thoughts alone, no physical stimulation necessary. The researchers measured the changes in the women’s physiological responses — like heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation and pain tolerance — during a mental orgasm and during a physical orgasm from self-stimulation. They found that the magnitude of the increases in these responseswas about the same, whether it was a thought-induced or masturbation-induced climax.
In a later study, Komisaruk and his team looked at functional MRIs of women’s brains and found that when the subjects thought about touching their nipples or clitoris, the sensory cortex lit up, as if that part of the body had actually been touched. But researchers observed a marked difference between the imagined touch and the physical touch in another area of the brain.
“What we found, to my great surprise, is that when [the women] thought about stimulation of a body region, the corresponding region of the sensory cortex map was activated as if they were physically stimulating that body region,” Komisaruk told Fusion in 2015. “But there was a much greater activation in the prefrontal cortex when the women thought about stimulating a particular body region than when they actually physically stimulated that body region.”
Experts believe these findings may offer insight into how you’re able to have a full-blown orgasm while asleep, even in the absence of physical touch. But other bodily factors may be at work too, said Laurie Mintz, a psychology professor at the University of Florida and the author of “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters — And How to Get It.”Continue Reading