A Swedish man who was convicted of rape had his charges overturned after
an appeals court found the man could have been asleep during the attack
and cited “sexomnia” as a reason he should be released.
was asleep during the attack and had no memory of the incident,
according to a translated court ruling from the Sundsvall appeals court
assaulted her on April 2, 2014. They had been sleeping in the same bed,
but they each had their own blanket, according to the translated court
documents, which also noted that she called the police the next morning,
and they found Halvarsson still asleep in her bed when they arrived.
previously tried once to have sex with her when she was sleeping. When
she stopped him, he then acted confused and asked what had happened.
away with a crime, Dr. Kingman Strohl, a professor of medicine and
director of research at the Sleep Center at Case Medical Center in
Cleveland, confirmed it’s an actual medical diagnosis that includes
unintentional sexual behaviors during sleep.
is one kind of parasomnia or undesirable behavior or experience during
sleep. More common parasomnias can include sleepwalking or sleep
going on,” Strohl said of patients who report sexomnia. “We look for
signs,” of the behavior in the patient’s past, he said. That it has
“gone on before and occurs in context of sleep walking and sleep
instead they are undertaking an automatic action, such as walking
across a room, drawing a bath, or even driving around the block.
According to Strohl, these kinds of sleep behaviors are more common if a
person is very tired or has taken sleep aids.
diagnosis tools to figure out if a person suffers from the sleep
allegedly committed a crime, Strohl said doctors had to be particularly
careful that people aren’t trying to lie about their symptoms.
people look like and want to know how each partner reacts to it,” said
Strohl of diagnosing a sexomnia incident. “You don’t want to encourage
unwanted sexual advances.”
responsive to their surroundings, Strohl said. For example, a
sleepwalker will start walking into a chair and make no move to get
actions that are more refined and responsive, Strohl said. For example, a
person might try to bake a cake in their sleep, but they won’t finish
baking the cake and then ice it if they are asleep.
disorder clinic at the University of Iowa, said he’s seen people who
attempted to blame parasomnia for their actions.
a real and studied sleep disorder, it is also very rare.
also not involved with the case in Sweden. “You worry about people
utilizing this diagnosis.”