Pamela Stephenson Connolly: Sexual healing

I am a 43-year-old single mother with two children. There have been a few men in my life in the past but I am currently without a partner. I know men have "wet dreams", but what about women? Is it normal for women to have orgasms while sleeping? I am occasionally surprised to discover I'm having one as I'm waking up. Sometimes I even wake in the middle of the night and have a feeling that I've just orgasmed. Should I see someone about this?

It is perfectly normal for women to have orgasms during sleep or on awakening. It is probably the female equivalent of male nocturnal orgasm and ejaculation - except that we rarely notice because there is no tell-tale semen left in the bed. Both men and women usually have these experiences.

In the 1950s, Alfred Kinsey wrote about this phenomenon - he discovered that 65% of the women in his study group had experienced sexual dreams, and in 20% this had led to orgasm. In a later study, researchers actually observed a woman having an orgasm while she was asleep in a lab.

Does it really bother you? If not, there is certainly no need to seek treatment. You may be missing sex with a partner at the moment, although contrary to popular belief, sexual energy is not finite, so you may still have these orgasms in tandem with a satisfying sexual life with a man. For the moment, if you engage in conscious self-pleasuring you could at least have some orgasms while you are awake to enjoy them!

· Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

· Private Lives appears every Thursday. You are invited to respond to this week's main problem. If you would like fellow readers and Linda Blair to answer a dilemma of yours, send us an outline of the situation of around 250 words.
For advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns.
All correspondence should reach us by Tuesday morning. Readers are also welcome to propose other problems, of around 250 words in length. Write to: Private Lives, The Guardian, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER or email (please do not send attachments).

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