Do You Suffer From Sleep Drunkenness?

A new study says that 15 percent of Americans, or one in every seven people, suffer from something called “sleep drunkenness.” But what is it, and why does it happen?

Sleep drunkenness, more accurately referred to as confusional arousal, can occur as a person wakes, leading them to feel extreme confusion, disorientation and, in a minority of cases, a short burst of amnesia. It’s likely many of us have been in this state at least once in our lives, and a good indicator is if you’ve ever turned your bedroom alarm off in the morning but then have no memory of doing it. However, some people regularly suffer sleep drunkenness, and there is cause to say that this problem can be dangerous. In fact, the stupor people experience has led to some getting injured and, in a few cases, even losing their lives.

The study, conducted by a team at Stanford Medical School and published in August in the journal Neurology, analyzed the waking behaviors of 19,136 people from across the United States. That 15.2 percent of the population group appeared to have experienced confusional arousal showed that the condition may be much more widespread than first thought. As this population sample is reflective of general trends, it may be that up to 75 million people in the United States could suffer from sleep drunkenness.

In addition to this, 8.6 percent of the sample said that they’d had partial or complete amnesia after their sleep drunkenness experience, so they didn’t even know they had been having conversations or were acting as though they were awake. Also 14.8 percent of people said that they had got up and walked about while in the confusional arousal state — and, obviously, this is where the condition becomes quite dangerous.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the research team found a significant overlap between sleep drunkenness and other sleep disorders, with 70 percent of people reporting sleep drunkenness also having a diagnosed sleep disorder like a circadian rhythm disorder. There was also a correlation between confusional arousal and anxiety and mood disorders (37 percent). However, while people who were being treated for mood disorders with psychotropic medications (like anti-depressants) were shown to be at particular risk of confusional arousal, once the researchers controlled for all other associated factors they found only a relatively small connection between psychotropic medications and sleep drunkenness at just 0.9 percent.

Currently, sleep drunkenness is treated as an adjunct to treating wider sleep or mood disorders, but this research may add weight to calls to treat sleep drunkenness as a potentially distinct problem or at the very least that it may need its own particular treatment strategy.

“These episodes of confused awakening have not gotten much attention, but given that they occur at a high rate in the general population, more research should be done on when they occur and whether they can be treated,” lead author Dr Maurice Ohayon of Stanford University is quoted as saying. “People with sleep disorders or mental health issues should also be aware that they may be at greater risk of these episodes.”

The group most likely to suffer from sleep drunkenness is children, who will usually grow out of it. However, and as above, if adults do suffer from bouts of confusional arousal, and if that problem occurs multiple times over a long period, it may be an indication of an underlying mental health complaint or sleep problem and so should be brought to the attention of your doctor.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


feather w.
Feather W4 years ago

this sounds exactly like the symptoms of disturbed circulation..

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

Thanks for the article. It is helpful knowing that it is something that affects others too. Just had a big bout yesterday. By the time I really woke up I was walking in the hall and on the phone... Creepy feeling.

Michelle M.
Michelle M4 years ago

i used to use this to my advantage when i was a kid. i would wait until a certain time of morning, right before my aunt would wake up, and ask if i could go to the ranch day camp that day. (she always said yes in her sleep) lol she never remembered, and i would get to go to the ranch that day :)

and on the flip side, i used to have a job working for a medical supply delivery company, work my 10-12 hr graveyard shift, then go 2 hrs of deliveries, then go take care of my horse that was another 2 hrs. go home, eat shower and sleep then get up & do it over again. i remember sometimes getting 4 hrs of sleep. do that for about 4 years and you will experience the sleep drunkenness.

Betty Kelly
Betty Kelly4 years ago


Shalvah Landy
Past Member 4 years ago

RK H. "This seems too made up to be real. "
This is nothing compared to a murder a person committed unknowingly-while ASLEEP.
And a mundane occurrence of EATING while SLEEPING! I saw this on either National Geographic or Discovery back when I watched TV!

JD She
JD She4 years ago


Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

I think I'm suffering from this right now...

Forwarded to those who need to see this article and are interested. Thanks for Posting.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

ERIKA SOMLAI4 years ago


KAREN L4 years ago