Is Sleep ‘Drunkenness’ Disorder Becoming Common?

Confusional arousals, also known as sleep drunkenness or severe sleep inertia, consist of mental confusion or confusional behavior during or following arousals from sleep. For the majority of subjects experiencing confusional arousals, no medications were used, but sleep and/or mental disorders were important factors.

A novel study published in the journal Neurology unveiled that one in every seven people suffer from sleep ‘drunkenness’ disorder.

In this condition, a person remains in a confused state for a specific time after waking. The condition can take place before the person goes back to sleep or he completely wakes up. Whether sleep drunkenness is its own condition or a symptom of other sleep problems is an ongoing debate.

Sleep drunkenness describes a set of behavior as a result of being aroused from sleep abruptly and unexpectedly. It can range from mild (and comical), like confusing the sound of an alarm for a ringing telephone, for instance. However, the incoherence can also be dangerous, leading irritable sufferers to injure either themselves or those around them.

“There was a case of a man on a ship who awoke in a confused state and fell off the deck to his death”.

As per the National Institutes of Health, such incidents can happen when someone is made to awake forcefully during non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It is a deeper sleep period.

Episodes of waking up confused have received considerably less attention than sleepwalking even though the consequences can be just as serious,” said study author Maurice M. Ohayon, MD, DSc, PhD, with Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, CA.

As a caveat, the study had a significant sample size (19,136 people aged 18 or older), but was conducted via survey format. Overall, 15% of those surveyed about their sleep habits reported an incident in the last year, with 50% of those people reporting more than one episode per week. Interestingly, 84% of those who reported incidents of sleep drunkenness also had an accompanying sleep disorder, mental health disorder or psychotropic drug prescription.

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Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: A Doctor’s Guide to Solving Your Sleep Problems
Paperback – June 12, 2014 by Robert Rosenberg DO FCCP

Editorial Reviews


“Insightful, engaging, and educational! Dr. Rosenberg, a Board Certified Sleep Doctor will help your entire family to rest better at night so that you can make the most of your days and live life to the fullest.” -Pam Nease, pediatric sleep specialist

“Dr. Rosenberg is highly respected by his colleagues and is considered an expert in the field of sleep disorders. He has been educating physicians on this subject for many years as a faculty lecturer. His relaxed, entertaining, and informative style of lectures carries over into his book, allowing readers the opportunity to better educate themselves on the complete benefits of getting a rejuvenating night’s rest. I am grateful to Dr. Rosenberg for choosing to share his vast knowledge with many others by writing this book.”-Ralph McClish, Executive Director, New Mexico Osteopathic Medical Association

“Dr. Rosenberg’s experience diagnosing and treating patients have given him unique insight into what the public needs to know about sleep and how to help those with sleep disorders. Well-organized and accessible, Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day will help everyone get a good night’s sleep.” -M. Hirst, RPSGT, RRT

“Dr. Rosenberg has been my daughter’s sleep specialist for about three years. Before she was diagnosed with narcolepsy, she was severely limited in her ability to function on a daily basis. Dr. Rosenberg acted quickly in getting her tested, diagnosed, and treated. She is doing so well under his care that she is now in college, and will be graduating soon. Our family is extremely pleased with the care she received from Dr. Rosenberg, and we credit him, for all that she has been able to accomplish.” -Carla Draper

“You will sleep easier with this book! Learning about your health can be daunting and usually confusing but Dr. Rosenberg makes it simple. A top-notch sleep science expert, he provides the information you need to live a better life.” -Jessica Delfino, producer, Ricki Lake Show

“Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day is the most eye-opening explanation of why we require sleep, how to achieve it and the consequences we face if we don’t sleep. Dr. Rosenberg’s knowledge is a brilliant gift to all of us that want thrive in a typically sleepless society.” -Brit Elders, CEO, (2014-04-02)

About the Author

Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, FCCP is the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Arizona and Sleep Disorders Center of Flagstaff, Arizona. He is a contributing sleep expert blogger at and his advice has appeared in O magazine, Women’s Health, Woman’s World, and Parenting, among others.

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