Do you suffer from sleep drunkenness?
Do you ever wake up in a panic, confused about your surroundings? If you do, you’re among the millions of Americans thought to suffer from “sleep drunkenness.” Also called confusional arousal, the condition can be frightening, with some sufferers describing moments of sheer terror upon not knowing where they are or recognizing their partners.
Sleep drunkenness is more common than previously thought, one study revealed. About one in seven people – just under 15 percent – will occasionally wake up disoriented, and as many as one in 12 will experience sleep drunkenness at least once a week.
- 36 percent of the people reporting episodes of sleep drunkenness also had hallucinations;
- 15 percent of the people reporting sleep drunkenness said their episode involved sleepwalking. About half of the time, sleepwalkers exhibited violent behavior;
- 37 percent of those reporting sleep drunkenness also had a behavioral health condition.
Most often, the confusional arousal cleared within five to 15 minutes, said Maurice Ohayon, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, in a statement. While that might not seem like a long time, “a lot of things can occur in 15 minutes,” Ohayon said in an interview with Today.com. “If it’s a person with responsibility and they are awakened in the middle of the night, they will not have the right answer to a problem. Or imagine a pilot in a plane taking a nap and awakening to a bad situation. He may make a bad choice.”
For most people, the consequences are much less dire, and the episodes more benign. Ohayon cited an example of survey participants mistaking alarm clocks for phones, and carrying on middle-of-the-night conversations. Or, think of that foggy feeling you get when waking up on the weekend and taking a moment to realize you don’t have to work, or the confusion you experience when you wake up in a hotel room.
For most people, and especially if this only happens to you every once in a while, confusional arousal is nothing to worry about, said Christine McBride, clinical sleep educator at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. But for people who experience sleep drunkenness once a week or more, it could signal an undiagnosed sleep disorder. Those people should follow up with their physicians, she said.
“This is just another example of how big a role sleep plays in overall health,” McBride says.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.