A Swedish man who was convicted of rape and sentenced to two years in prison was released this month when an appeals court ruled that he couldn’t be held accountable because he was suffering from “sexsomnia.”
According to The Guardian, 26-year-old Mikael Halvarsson had no intention of having sex with his victims, so he could not be found guilty of rape.
The defendant, the court claimed, “was in a state of sleepiness, unconscious of what was happening,” and his former partner apparently confirmed that he did, in fact, suffer from this rare disorder. He had tried to have sex with her while asleep, she said, and when awoken, was confused and had no idea what was happening.
Dr. Kingman Strohl, the director of research at the Sleep Center at Case Medical Center in Cleveland said that “sexsomnia” is but one of a number of unintended behaviors that accompany certain sleep disorders.
“Usually people are very scared and also quite confused as to what’s going on,” Strohl said. “We look for signs [that it has] gone on before and occurs in context of sleep walking and sleep talking.”
Another similar, but more common disorder, is the parasomnia known as sleep-related eating disorder (SRED), in which sufferers awake to find that they have raided pantries and refrigerators in their sleep. Such sleep disorders, Strohl said, are more common when individuals are very tired or have taken sleep aids.
However, Dr. Mark Eric Dyken, a professor of neurology and director of the sleep disorder clinic at the University of Iowa, said that people should be wary of those who blame parasomnia for their actions.
“There are bad people and there are sociopaths,” he said. “You worry about people utilizing this diagnosis.”