What’s the deal with orgasms during sleep?

Can you actually have an orgasm while you’re sleeping? A sex expert sets the record straight...

Low Section Of Woman Sleeping In Bed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ever experienced an orgasm during sleep? Believe it or not, many people have. In fact, it's quite common. So how does it actually work? 

You'll definitely have heard of the term “wet dream”, most likely in middle school if not in J. Cole's 2014 track titled Wet Dreamz, where the rapper takes us through his first sexual experience with a high-school crush. Anyway, the term is often associated with adolescent boys who tend to experience sexual dreams during puberty. However, it's far from limited to just teenage boys and young men. 

In reality, most people—men, women, and non-binary—will likely have experienced a wet dream or sleep orgasm in their adult lives. In fact, according to sexual health expert Dr. Luke McCabe, in a recent research study, 16% of dreams in women of all ages were erotic, while younger groups of women aged between 16 and 20 had an even higher score of 22%. But how does an orgasm happen during sleep? 

There are lots of ways to experience orgasms, whether it's through sexual activity with a partner or masturbation with the use of the best app-controlled vibrators. Then there’s the psychological element, which leads to the topic at hand—sleep orgasms...

woman in bed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Orgasms during sleep: how do they happen?

While nocturnal orgasms are more common in men, as most men have “wet dreams” at some point in their lives, women also experience them, says Dr. Laura Vowels, principal researcher, and therapist at sex therapy app Blueheart (opens in new tab). “Around a third of women report having had an orgasm during their sleep. The brain is the most powerful sexual organ and just having a very sexy dream can sometimes be enough to have an orgasm (or a very sexy fantasy while awake, but this might be more difficult as the brain is more prone to distractions). It’s also possible that a woman is either rubbing herself or moving in a way that is stimulating the clitoris while they’re sleeping," she says. 

Meanwhile, Dr. McCabe explains that there is a lack of data and research into why sleep orgasms happen. “The two pre-eminent scientists involved with this type of study, Barry Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple, state that it's normally thought alone that creates sleep orgasms, rather than physical touch," he says. “This is more prominent if someone has been thinking, watching, or reading something sexy before bed.” *Patiently awaits Bridgerton season 2*

However, he says that sleeping on your stomach can pre-empt a sleep orgasm, as it can stimulate your genitals. Well, now you know what to if you want to wake up with a little more spring in your step...

Sagal Mohammed

Sagal is a journalist, specialising in lifestyle, pop culture, fashion and beauty.  She has written for a number of publications including Vogue, Glamour, Stylist, Evening Standard, Bustle, You Magazine, Dazed and Wonderland to name a few.