Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night all hot and bothered and wondered, “Did I just orgasm in my sleep?” If so, the answer is probably yes. “Women can have sexy dreams that end in orgasm, just like men,” says Michael Krychman, M.D., ob-gyn and executive director of the Southern California Sexual Health Center. An orgasm is the (insanely good-feeling) rhythmic contraction of your pelvic floor muscles, but it also triggers the release of neurotransmitters that create euphoria in the brain, says Krychman. As you’ll see, the marriage between your brain and body can create sensations that will tempt you to reach for the snooze button time and time again.
You might think your waking brain presents the ideal landscape for an earth-shattering orgasm. While those orgasms are certainly nothing to sneeze at, your brain is actually in a choice position to have an O while you catch some Zs. “During the day, you don’t have time to let your brain wander and think,” says Krychman. “When you’re sleeping, you’re in a state of peace and relaxation that allows your subconscious to explore aspects of your life, including sex.” And exploration is always fun.
If you’re assuming you’re physically masturbating in your sleep, think again. It’s actually your rapid eye movement (REM) that is causing you to come.
Just like a washing machine has cycles, sleep has cycles,” says Jose Colon, M.D., author of The Sleep Diet: a Novel Approach to Insomnia and founder of Paradise Sleep. “The REM cycle is like the active rinse and spin cycle of a washing machine.” Since your brain during REM is about as active as it is when you’re awake, vivid dreams are to be expected. Another fascinating feature of REM sleep is that you’re basically paralyzed, so you can’t just unwittingly slip a hand to your nether regions when things start heating up.
Although you’re not physically bringing them about, those good sensations you feel are very real to your brain. During REM, your body experiences autonomic fluctuations, or the routine blood flow to different parts including your sexual organs. “That increased blood flow causes men to wake up with erections, but it can also cause clitoral engagement in women,” says Colon.
Combine that surge of blood with a sexy dream, and you can eventually dream you’re having an orgasm—or actually have one. “Nerves extend from your brain throughout your body,” says Colon. “There’s a mind-body connection when it comes to sleep orgasms.” Essentially, your body can react as though the dream is happening in real life. Unlike dudes who have physical evidence of their wet dreams, you may not know whether you actually came or just dreamed you did. Luckily, either option can feel pretty darn good. “Even if it’s just a dream, dreams are so intense that it may feel like the real thing,” says Colon.
If you’ve never experienced this midnight magic, there are a few things you can try. First, have a lot of orgasms. It may seem counterintuitive—if you’re having them while you’re awake, will your body really feel the urge to have them as you sleep? But orgasming more often can prime your body to want more pleasure. “It’s positive reinforcement," says Krychman. "The more you have good, pleasurable orgasms, the more you’ll want them."
If you’re really committed to getting it on as you sleep, step into the realm of lucid dreaming. “Lucid dreaming is an awareness that you’re asleep, which sounds like a paradox,” says Colon. “But people can train themselves to be aware of when they’re in their dreams, and then they can manipulate their dreams however they want.” As in, you can realize you’re flying in a dream, direct yourself to an island full of sexy people, and then take your pick.
The first step to lucid dreaming is setting the intention to do it. “When you go to sleep, think about the specific dream scenario you’d like to have,” says Colon. Don’t work yourself up too much, though, and remember: Part of the beauty of sleep is that it should be a landscape of relaxation. Then, every morning, write down your dreams, lucid or otherwise. “If you don’t write it down as soon as you wake up, you’ll probably forget it. This step is important because eventually you’ll see patterns,” says Colon. The more you pick up on patterns in your dreams, the more likely you’ll recognize them when you’re actually dreaming. That aha moment can help push you to take control of how things are proceeding.
Another way to realize you’re not awake is to try to pick out things that don’t fit. For Colon, that realization came when he found himself checking two alarm clocks. “I knew that didn’t fit because I only have one,” says Colon, who often lucid dreams that he’s flying around to explore different places.
Finally, use those midnight stirrings to your advantage. “Waking up four to six times as you sleep is normal," says Colon. "No one sleeps through the night." The heaviest dream period is in the second half of the night. Each time you wake up is the perfect opportunity to reset your intention to lucid dream and then slip into slumber with sexy thoughts on your mind.