Do You Suffer From Sleep Drunkenness?

Wed, Sep 12, 2018

sleep drunkennessOne in seven people suffer from sleep drunkenness and most don’t even know it. Here we look at what it is, what causes it and how to prevent it.

Sleep Drunkenness in a Nutshell

Sleep drunkenness, or confusional arousals, are those minutes after you wake up suddenly and you feel confused. You may not know where you are or what day it is.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal and it’s probably something that’s happened to you. But what you might not know is that it can be destructive to your wellbeing and even dangerous to yourself and other people.

If you are woken suddenly during your sleep cycle you may have a sleep drunkenness episode. For the most part, it’s during non-REM sleep although it has been known to happen when you wake up normally.

It’s that moment when you’re coming out of deep sleep but you’re not quite awake yet. You might have the capacity to have a chat with someone or get up and wander around. Regardless of what you do during an episode, you will have no memory of these activities. You may even become violent or aggressive as has been often reported. That’s why it’s so important to see your doctor if you think you may suffer from this condition.


Symptoms of Sleep Drunkenness

So, how do you know if you have sleep drunkenness? If someone witnesses you having an episode then they will most likely tell you. But otherwise, you may not find out. Despite the fact that your episode could keep going for up to 15 minutes.

A study headed by Dr Maurice Ohayon from Stanford University found that 1 out of 7 individuals has sleep drunkenness. Of the 19,000 people surveyed, Dr Ohayon found that 15.2% experienced one episode in a year. What's more, over half of them had it more than once a week with 32% of episodes going for 5-15 minutes and 30% lasting for over 15 minutes.

Clearly, the greatest indicator is another person seeing you experiencing sleep drunkenness. If someone witnesses any of the following when you wake up, then it's best to see your specialist:

  • Confusion about where you are or what time of day it is,
  • Aggressive behaviour,
  • Inability to communicate properly,
  • Hallucinations,
  • Sleepwalking,
  • Any abnormal behaviour.

What's more, if you have no recollection of it happening it's more than likely sleep drunkenness.


sleep drunkennessCauses of Sleep Drunkenness

Sleep drunkenness is a serious condition. It can cause medical issues and can be risky. Think about it, you have no real control over what you are doing or saying. And no memory of it happening afterwards. It's essential to understand what's causing it and, if you can, put a stop to it.

The primary cause is lack of sleep. Getting under 6 hours of sleep every night has been demonstrated to cause sleep drunkenness. And, one of the major causes of lack of sleep is a sleep disorder. Indeed, Dr Ohayon found that 84% of individuals in his investigation also have a sleep disorder, a psychological problem or were taking medication, for example, antidepressants. And, individuals with sleep disorders were 3 times more prone to sleep drunkenness.


Sleep drunkenness is most likely caused by the following sleep disorders:

  • Restless legs syndrome,
  • Sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea
  • Circadian rhythm disorder,
  • Insomnia, or
  • Hypersomnia.

Basically, sleep disorders result in a lack of sleep which results in sleep drunkenness. It’s a vicious cycle that, if left untreated, is very harmful to your health.

How to Treat and Prevent Sleep Drunkenness

So now you know that getting more sleep will stop sleep drunkenness. It sounds simple enough but if you’re like a lot of people it may not be as easy as it sounds. Especially if you don’t know you have a sleep disorder in the first place. Disorders such as sleep apnea are difficult to detect without a sleep study.

Treatment of your sleep drunkenness rests heavily upon treatment of your sleep disorder. Chat with your doctor about your condition. If you have a sleep disorder, your health is at risk. But rest assured that treatment is very easy.

Call us at 1300 246 637 today for a free no-obligation talk with one of our Sleep Therapists. Get in touch now.



  • M. M. Ohayon, M. W. Mahowald, D. Leger. Are confusional arousals pathological? Neurology, 2014; 83 (9): 834.