Somnophilia (from Latin somnus "sleep" and Greek φιλία, -philia "friendship") is a paraphilia in which an individual becomes sexually aroused by someone who is unconscious.[1][2][3] The Dictionary of Psychology categorized somnophilia within the classification of predatory paraphilias.[4]


The term somnophilia was coined by John Money in 1986.[1][2] He characterized the condition as a type of sexual fetishism,[1] described as a type of syndrome: "of the marauding-predatory type in which erotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to and dependent on intruding upon" someone who is unable to respond.[1][5] He wrote that often the condition then subsequently involves the individual waking the unresponsive sexual partner after the act has been committed.[1][5]

According to Money, somnophilia may progress to necrophilia, the desire to have sexual relations with a dead body.[6] He characterized it as a form of "stealth and stealing paraphilias" including kleptophilia.[7] Money wrote that somnophilia has a high degree of correlation with acts of incest throughout history.[8] Abuse may follow from the condition including use of force or abduction.[6] Typically, the individual upon whom the sex act is committed by the somnophiliac is a stranger not previously known intimately to the individual.[9] The somnophiliac may create an unconscious state in the victim by drugging them, or may engage in sex with someone who is inebriated or asleep.[10] The perpetrator becomes attracted to the idea of a sexual participant who is unable to resist their advances.[10]

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified the term in 2000 under DSM-IV TR code 302.9 and in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems under ICD-10 code F65.9.[11] The Dictionary of Psychology categorized somnophilia within the classification of predatory paraphilias.[4]


A 2015 study with a sample of 1516 participants reported that 22,6% of men and 10,8% of women have fantasized about "sexually abusing a person who is drunk, asleep, or unconscious." Another 2021 study by Michael Seto found that 9% of its participants have had interest in "sex with someone who is unconscious or sleeping" and 7,7% engaged in such behavior. A third study reported that 82% of its sample have had interest in engaging in consensual sexual activities with a sleeping partner, and 47% reported some interest in non-consensual somnophilic activities. These studies suggest that somnophilic fantasies are more common than previously thought, though possible sample biases have been identified in some of them.[12]


Physicians have attempted to treat somnophilia with forms of psychotherapy, as well as with medications used for pedophilia.[1] James Cantor, psychologist and editor-in-chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, stated: "There are occasional claims for treatment, but no one has presented meaningful, compelling evidence that someone with a paraphilia can be turned into someone without a paraphilia. As far as we can tell, it's like sexual orientation."[1] Somnophilia rises to the level of diagnosis when it causes "significant impairment", specifically, when the individual performing the sex act does so with a partner who does not give their consent.[1]

In popular culture

Somnophilia has presented itself as a recurring phenomenon in popular culture, including in the French film influenced by Alfred Hitchcock movies, Who Killed Bambi? (French: Qui a tué Bambi ?).[13] The plot of the horror film involves a surgeon who drugs his female patients in order to rape them.[13] The assailant resorts to murder after one of the women wakes up from her unconscious state as he begins to remove her clothing.[13] The title character attempts to warn the board of directors at the hospital of the murderer's activity.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Carey 2014, p. D7.
  2. ^ a b Laws 2008, p. 401.
  3. ^ Flora 2001, p. 92.
  4. ^ a b Corsini 2001, p. 747.
  5. ^ a b Money 1986, p. 270.
  6. ^ a b Money 1986, p. 55.
  7. ^ Money 1986, p. 92.
  8. ^ Money 1986, p. 21.
  9. ^ Nusbaum 2005, p. 154.
  10. ^ a b Ferguson 2010, p. 139.
  11. ^ Levine 2010, p. 407.
  12. ^ Deehan, Elizabeth T.; Bartels, Ross M. (2023). "A Qualitative Exploration of Sleep-Related Sexual Interests: Somnophilia and Dormaphilia". Sexual Abuse. 35 (3): 288–312. doi:10.1177/10790632221098359. ISSN 1079-0632. PMC 10041567. PMID 35507729.
  13. ^ a b c d Ferguson 2010, p. 156.