Sex Ed

How Many Women Have Orgasms While They Sleep?

July 19, 2013 by Justin Lehmiller

“Masturbation and nocturnal sex dreams to the point of orgasm are the activities which provide the best measure of a female’s intrinsic sexuality.” –Alfred Kinsey (1953)

Many people only associate the terms “nocturnal orgasm” and “wet dream” with men. However, it’s not the case that having an orgasm while you are sleeping is unique to any one gender. Women can have nocturnal orgasms, too. In fact, this is an aspect of women’s sexuality that was discovered, described, and (apparently) forgotten long ago.

The pioneering sex research team headed by Dr. Alfred Kinsey documented the existence of nocturnal orgasms in women more than 60 years ago. In their sample of over 5,600 women from across the United States, they found that by the age of 45, 37% of the women surveyed reported having previously had an orgasm during their sleep [1]. Those women who reported having such orgasms reported an average of three or four each year. Older women were more likely to report nocturnal orgasms than younger women.

Subsequent research has revealed similar findings and uncovered some of the factors correlated with the experience of nocturnal orgasm in women. For instance, in a 1986 study of 245 college women, an identical 37% of participants reported having orgasms during their sleep [2]. However, it is worth noting that Kinsey’s 37% statistic was averaging across women of all ages—in his research, only 8% of 20-year-old women reported nocturnal orgasms. Thus, the more recent study suggests that the prevalence of nocturnal orgasms may be greater among younger women than previously thought.

The 1986 study also revealed that 32% of the women who had nocturnal orgasms experienced their first one at age 16 or younger, with the number climbing to 58% by age 18 and 88% by age 21. Likelihood of having a nocturnal orgasm was not associated with one’s previous sexual history. Specifically, being sexually active, having sex frequently, and having previous experience with orgasm in general were unrelated to whether women had orgasms during their sleep.

Likewise, there was no relationship between frequency of sexual dreams and nocturnal orgasm. The only factors that predicted a greater likelihood of orgasming during sleep were high levels of sexual satisfaction, having more liberal attitudes toward sex, and having more positive attitudes toward nocturnal orgasm.

These findings tell us that female nocturnal orgasms seem to be relatively common. Also, if anything, the numbers reported in these studies may be underestimates because it is likely that some women may not realize they have had orgasms in their sleep (people don’t necessarily wake up while it’s happening, and there isn’t always “evidence” that an orgasm occurred the next morning).

In addition, the fact that the only variables related to reporting nocturnal orgasms were psychological in nature suggests that there may be social and cultural factors at play in determining women’s awareness of and/or willingness to report having these kinds of orgasms.

Any way you look at it, orgasms during sleep are not limited to people of any one gender and they appear to be a relatively common experience.

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[1] Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W.B., Martin, C.E., & Gebhard, P. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders.

[2] Wells, B. L. (1986). Predictors of female nocturnal orgasms: A multivariate analysis. Journal of Sex Research, 22, 421-437.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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