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Confused when you wake up? You might have “sleep drunkenness”

girl sleeping with head on a piece of bread
What’s the sleep-drinking age?
By Zach Wener-Fligner
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

If you feel or behave strangely when suddenly roused from slumber, you may have a disorder known in the medical world as confusional arousal—described far more vividly by its alternative name, “sleep drunkenness.”

According to a new study, as many as one in seven people might suffer from the disorder, which is characterized by confusion, amnesia, and even violent behavior during the moments of their waking up.

Researchers surveyed more than 19,000 U.S. adults about their sleeping habits, mental illness diagnoses, and medications they were on. They found that 15% of people had experienced sleep drunkenness in the past year—with more than half of them reporting that they had experienced an episode within the past week. The study was published in the journal Neurology.

Sleep drunkenness appeared to be highly correlated with existing conditions. Some 84% of people who reported episodes had another sleep disorder, a mental health disorder, or took psychotropic medication.

Maurice Ohayon, the lead author of the study and a sleep expert at Stanford University, said he was glad the study could shed light on the disorder. “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,” he said in a news release about the study. “People with sleep disorders or mental health issues should also be aware that they may be at greater risk of these episodes.”

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