What is Somnophilia?

Author Tracy Smith
Updated on May 7, 2023

Somnophilia is a condition in which one experiences sexual arousal by someone unconscious. It is a type of paraphilia; a sexual interest in uncommon objects, people, or situations. The name is derived from the Latin word “somnus,” meaning sleep, and the Greek word “philia,” meaning love. It is also known as the “sleeping beauty syndrome.”

woman sleeping on couch

A person with somnophilia may attempt to cause an unconscious state by drugging their victim, or by taking advantage of an individual who is intoxicated or in a deep sleep. A person with somnophilia is ultimately aroused by the fact that their sexual partner is unable to oppose their advances. Symptoms of somnophilia include frequent thoughts and excessive fantasizing while thinking about or when near those who are unconscious or unresponsive. Other symptoms of somnophilia include overt sexual desire and sexual behavior with the unconscious.

Understanding Somnophilia

Somnophilia is diagnosed when it is deemed that there is significant impairment, usually resulting when a sexual act is performed without the consent of the other partner.

Psychologist, John Money, linked somnophilia with necrophilia, or sexual arousal or intercourse involving corpses, in the late 1900s. Money believed that somnophilia and necrophilia were separate entities, but suggested that somnophilia had the potential of turning into necrophilia. Other theorists believe that somnophilia is a type of necrophilia in that both conditions involve sexual attraction with those who are unconscious and non-consenting. 

In 1972, psychologists Dr. Calef and Dr. Weinshel published an article in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis that donned somnophilia as “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome.” This article suggested that somnophilia was a “neurotic equivalent” of necrophilia. The biggest difference between somnophilia and necrophilia is that individuals who meet the diagnostic criteria for somnophilia are only interested in individuals who are still alive. 

Treatment Options for Somnophilia

Treatment is usually unnecessary unless the behavior is deemed criminal or injurious, or if legal trouble results. Treatment options can include hypnosis, behavioral therapy, and 12-step programs. Other treatment interventions can include talk therapy, online counseling, orgasmic reconditioning, or group therapy. Medications are not commonly prescribed for this condition and are never the primary source of treatment. However, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or other medications may be helpful as a secondary course of treatment. 

Looking Ahead

There is still a lot that is not known about somnophilia, especially due to a lack of research and formalized studies. To fully understand the causes, risk factors, and development of somnophilia, more research is necessary. Those who feel that they have somnophilia and that it’s leading them to engage in negative behaviors are encouraged to consult with a mental health professional.


Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.

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