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A man accused of sexually assaulting his cousin could have had "sex sleep", said a prominent sleep expert at the man's trial.

The 26-year-old accused man claims he suffers from "sexsomnia," a condition which causes him to sexually attack people in his sleep. He has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of sexual assault, according to the Irish Independent.

Dr Christopher Idzikowski's evidence contradicts earlier testimony by a witness for the prosecution, forensic psychiatrist Professor Henry Kennedy, who said it was extremely unusual for someone to be sexually aroused while sleepwalking.

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On Friday,  Dr Idzikowski disputed Prof Kennedy's claim and said the view came almost directly from an outdated 1998 textbook on sleep disorders.

“A person is capable of sexual behaviour while asleep,” he said. “It is possible for (the accused) to have sex while asleep.”

Dr Idzikowski, described by defense counsel Eanna Mulloy as one of the “grandfathers” of sleep studies, said that he had carried out several studies of the accused’s sleeping patterns and found during one test that the accused went straight into the ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ (REM) stage of sleep as soon as he drifted off.

Dr Idzikowski said that in males the REM stage was often accompanied by an erection.

The trial will continue on Monday.