What is Sleep Drunkenness? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention | Sleep Clinic Services

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What is Sleep Drunkenness? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Sleep Drunkenness Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

You may have experienced sleep drunkenness at some point in your life and not even know it. In fact, some people who have regular episodes may not remember them at all.

What is Sleep Drunkenness?

Sleep drunkenness, also known as confusional arousals, are those moments where you wake up and you feel confused. You may not know where you are or what day it is.

It sounds harmless enough and something that you have most likely experienced at some point. But, it can actually be harmful to your health and even dangerous to yourself and others. Episodes happen when you are woken suddenly during your sleep cycle. Usually during deep or non-REM sleep. But it can also happen when you wake up normally.

During an episode of sleep drunkenness you are in a state between being in deep sleep and awake. You may be able to have a conversation with someone or get up and walk around. But you will have no memory of these actions. Some episodes can even result in violent and hostile behaviour. That’s why it’s important to do something about it.

How Do You Know If You Have Sleep Drunkenness?

Unless someone witnesses your sleep drunkenness episode, you may never know you have it. Even though your episode could last for up to 15 minutes. Or, even longer.

According to a study led by Dr Maurice Ohayon from Stanford University, 1 in 7 people experiences sleep drunkenness. After surveying more than 19,000 adults, Dr Ohayon found that 15.2% of participants experienced one episode in one year. And over half of them had it more than once per week with 32% lasting for 5-15 minutes and 30% lasting for more than 15 minutes.

Obviously, the biggest indicator is someone else witnessing an episode. If your partner, family member or friend witnesses any of the following when you wake up then it’s best to let your doctor know if you:

  • Don’t know where you are or what time of day it is,
  • Are agitated, aggressive or violent,
  • Have difficulty speaking,
  • Are confused,
  • Are having hallucinations,
  • Appear to be sleepwalking, or
  • Any other unusual behaviour.

And, if you have no memory of it happening then it’s more than likely sleep drunkenness.

<a href='https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/tired-white-cool-computer-typing_1113121.htm'>Designed by Freepik</a>What Causes Sleep Drunkenness

Sleep drunkenness can cause health problems and can be dangerous.

So, it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s causing it and, if possible, put a stop to it.

The main thing that makes episodes worse is sleep deprivation. Getting less than 6 hours sleep each night has been proven to cause sleep drunkenness.


If you’re like most people the cause may be an underlying sleep disorder. In fact, Dr Ohayon mentioned above found that 84% of people in his study who have sleep drunkenness disorder also have another sleep disorder, a mental health disorder or were taking drugs such as antidepressants.

Overall, people with sleep disorders were 3 times more likely to report sleep drunkenness episodes than those without.

The sleep disorders most likely to cause sleep drunkenness are:

The results are clear. At the end of the day, any sleep disorder that makes you sleep deprived is most likely going to cause sleep drunkenness.

Treatment and Prevention of Sleep Drunkenness

In most cases, simply getting more sleep will stop sleep drunkenness. But, if you’re like most people, that’s easier said than done. Especially if you’re suffering from a sleep disorder and you don’t even know it.

Many sleep disorders such as sleep apnea go untreated. And, it’s not always because people are too lazy to go to the doctor or don’t make their own health a priority. In many cases, some people aren’t even aware that they have sleep apnea.

Treatment of your sleep drunkenness may very well hinge on the treatment of your sleep disorder. Talk to your doctor about your condition. If you have a sleep disorder, the health consequences are serious, and treatment is so easy.

Call us today on 1300 246 637 or submit a contact form below for a free no-obligation chat with one of our friendly Sleep Therapists. Contact us now.



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


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