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Have you ever had that dream where you’ve been chosen to test out a parachute harness that can give you an orgasm? Only to wake up totally confused but happy… because you’re actually having an orgasm? I have!

In fact, I’ve had several similar, decidedly not rude awakenings — and to my surprise, I’m far from alone. One 2010 study found that 37 percent of folks with vaginas are experiencing nocturnal orgasms.

That’s more than one in three of us. But since “wet dreams” are usually discussed in a penis-only context, I always thought I was some sort of strange, sexual unicorn.

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Not only do we not talk about wet dreams for those with vaginas, we also don’t do a whole lot of research on them. Most of the studies we found are old — like decades old in some cases.

So to better understand the phenomenon, I solicited the help of Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD, a psychiatrist who specializes in sex therapy and is the author of several books, including Wanting to Want.

I also reached out to Jennifer Wider, MD, an expert in women’s health and host of the radio show Am I Normal? With Dr. Wider.

First, know that you may hear different terms for it. These are the terms that all mean you reached climax while sleeping:

  • wet dreams
  • sleep orgasms
  • nocturnal emissions
  • happy sleepy fun times (OK, I made this one up)

Physically, they’re pretty similar to the orgasms you’re having when you’re awake, except that they’re out of your conscious control. And sometimes it’s just some extra vaginal fluid from arousal that doesn’t lead to an actual orgasm.

“Women having an orgasm in their sleep find themselves with an increased heart rate and breathing, as well as significant vaginal lubrication,” Castellanos says, which… yes. That makes sense.

Some orgasms are going to come at the end of a really, really good dream, while others won’t remember dreaming at all.

All kinds of people. Research suggests that many people with vaginas have a sleep orgasm even before they turn 21. There’s some indication that age and experience increase your chances. Some research also suggests that a more open attitude toward sex plays a role.

“This makes sense when you realize that sexual experience lays the groundwork for vivid and exciting sex dreams — teaching a woman what she likes and how it feels,” Castellanos says.

“Women in their 40s may be more comfortable with their bodies and be able to reach orgasm easier in general,” Wider explains. Some people, like myself, have them frequently over the course of many years, while others may have them just once or twice in their lifetime.

Even people who have never climaxed through masturbation or with a partner report having sleep-gasms, Castellanos says.

From a physical point of view, it’s fairly straightforward: Wet dreams happen during REM sleep when our breathing speeds up and our heart rate intensifies. This results in increased blood flow, including to the pelvic region and the clitoris, which can in some instances cause arousal.

“For most people, what’s going on in your mind and body during REM sleep is pretty similar to what happens to you when you’re aroused when awake,” Wider says.

The big difference between the two states of arousal is the loss of inhibitions. “The mind may choose to override the stressors of the waking state, and in this way, any anxiety that may inhibit orgasm in real life is put aside for the purpose of pleasure and excitement,” Castellanos says.

Essentially, your body mimics the physical indicators of arousal, which in turn leads to actual arousal. Since you’re not self-conscious about your squishy bits or judging the nature of your fantasies during REM sleep, your only focus is on having a good time — and sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Even people who get regular visits from the orgasm fairy can’t control when or how they happen. Still, there are a few things you can try to increase your chances:

  1. Get yourself in the mood. “Reading a little erotica might push someone over the edge,” Wider says.
  2. Fantasizing about sex can be helpful. “When a woman regularly has positive sexual thoughts, it supports the part of the brain used for creative fantasy. This may make it easier for women to have sex dreams, and therefore, nocturnal orgasms,” Castellanos says.
  3. Try a night on your stomach. Castellanos also recommends falling asleep on your stomach, which might create some clitoral stimulation thanks to the increased blood flow, triggering a sex dream.

Of course, whether you’re having 10 sleep orgasms a night or none at all, it’s all perfectly normal — and that means no one has to feel like a lonely, orgasm-having unicorn.

Masha Vapnitchnaia is a travel and lifestyle writer and researcher. She has been traveling her whole life, taking her first flight at the age of 4 and taking 100 more since. Follow her pilgrimages at @unlikelypilgrim.