August 25th, 2014
05:51 PM ET
1 in 7 suffer from sleep 'drunkenness'
Have you ever answered the phone in the morning to discover it was actually your alarm clock going off, or had a conversation in the middle of the night and woken up the next day with no recollection of it?
A new study suggests you are not alone. Researchers found many of us have had a similar experience in our lifetime.
The study, out Monday in the journal Neurology, says one in every seven people suffer from sleep "drunkenness" disorder, also called confusional arousal.
Confusional arousal is when a person wakes up and remains in a confused state for a certain period of time before either going back to sleep or fully waking up.
These episodes typically happen, according to the National Institutes of Health, when someone is awakened during non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a deeper sleep period. And they're usually triggered by a forced awakening, like an alarm or phone call.
The study authors had more than 19,000 adults fill out a survey about their sleeping habits. They found 15.2% of the participants experienced one episode of confusional arousal during the past year.
Dr. Maurice Ohayon, lead study author and a sleep expert at Stanford University, was surprised by the substantial percentage. When he looked carefully, he says, he found over half of these participants have "confusional arousal one time or more a week, and that is considerable."
What's even more interesting, says Ohayon, is how long confusional arousal seems to last. While more than one third of the participants who experienced episodes once a week reported they lasted under 5 minutes, 32.3% of people said their episodes lasted between 5 and 15 minutes and 30% of people experienced episodes lasting 15 minutes or more.
If someone is experiencing these episodes, they need to let their doctors know, says Ohayon. An episode can cause violent behavior during sleep, according to the study.
"You can hurt yourself physically, hurt someone (else). You wake up irritable and possibly violent." He compares it to waking up in a hotel room - you don't know where you are or what hour it is, so your reaction or responses to the environment are not adapted.
Ohayon says shift workers, such as doctors or pilots, who nap during work and can be awakened suddenly, should block at least 15 minutes of time for their bodies to truly wake up before, say, taking command of a plane or making life-or-death decisions.
The study found that 84% of those with sleep drunkenness disorder also had another sleep disorder, a mental health disorder or were taking psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants. Less than 1% of the people with sleep drunkenness had no known cause or related condition.
Dr. David Alexander Schulman, director of the sleep lab at Emory University in Atlanta, says having these episodes isn't uncommon. "Fifteen percent sounds shocking," but when you think about it, most of us have had these type experiences.
One of the things that can make confusion arousal worse is sleep deprivation. Schulman says it's well known that American's don't sleep enough. "If you are getting less than 6 hours a night, and you are having confusional arousal, then the first thing you need to do is try getting more sleep," he says.
Schulman was skeptical of the number of participants whose episodes lasted more than 15 minutes. While he says these episodes can be common and often funny, most people don't continue to talk into the phone for 15 minutes when their alarm clock is going off.
"I'd be surprised if the episode lasted more than 15 minutes," he said. "That's one of the struggles with a subjective survey."
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
Once, when traveling, and staying in a relatives home, in a basement room, I woke up and it was so dark, and I was disoriented and thought I'd been buried alive. Very disorienting. Took a few minutes to remember where I was. Scared the cr*p out of me for a few minutes though.
My husband has this when he falls asleep in the lazy boy. When I wake him to get him to come to bed sometimes he is
agitated, angry and disoriented. I keep my distance until he snaps out of it! Don't try to talk to people in that state, you
will only anger them. Just say nothing and keep your distance–they will calm down and come to their senses.
I remember staying over at my friends house when I was a kid, woke to go pee in the middle of the night and thought I was at my house, and ended up falling down the stairs and landing in their kitchen. Woke up the entire house at 5am.
I peed in the refrigerator one night – it did not go over big the next morning.
My husband says that when he was in his 20's, his roommate got so drunk he peed on the stereo.
I suffer from drunken sleepiness. Man, I just pass right out.
I definitely have the same thing. I pass out like a light, but if someone tries to wake me up I have been known to take a full swing at em, or really try and hurt them. Normally I am a very nice gentle person, but mess with me when I'm out and I try and injur you haha
My husband took down a wall while sleeping in the extra room one night. My daughter started screaming in the other room because she is deathly afraid of bugs. He told me the next morning he had a dream that he had tried to go through the wall. Sure enough, I got home and looked, and there was half the wall, gone. Thanks for the new wall babe.
I find this very hard to believe. Actually, I find this impossible to believe.
I don't find it impossible to believe. My wife suffers from these kinds of episodes when she is extremely tired. She has never tried to tear down a wall, but if she wanted to in her sleep she could. It is incredibly hard to wake her from this state and she can perform most functions with limited success. If she has something to talk about the conversation can last 30 minutes. It has is advantages. She can't keep a secret in this state so if she is upset about something, she'll tell me why. At the same time, it has its disadvantages. If she is upset with me, I get to hear it twice.
I believe that was an instance of somnambulism (aka sleep-walking).
A) What does your daughter being scared of bugs have to do with anything in this story? Wasn't she screaming due to a madman breaking down walls? B) Your husband didn't notice that he took out half of a wall in the morning when he woke up? He just went about his day thinking how weird the dream was?
I sure hope this isn't a federally funded study, cuz who the hell hasn't experienced this and who the hell cares?
The people on the receiving end of a sleep-induced car wreck or plane crash might care. Why would you not want something potentially dangerous federally funded and studied? I personally know a good number of people who were in serious accidents caused by sleep deprivation. Seems like preventing that sort of thing might be a good idea.
Agreed, this is so silly to even be concerned with.
Your comment is hilarious. So true.
I know, my husband would go on for 10 minutes, almost every night. I started sleeping on couch or daughters bedroom.
What are you, five? Go play with yourself so the adults can talk.
Couldn't agree more, so stupid. To the person who said people that experience sleep deprivation or accidents due to sleep induced incidents would be interested in this study... you lack logic. This issue has literally nothing to do with falling asleep at the wheel. This study focused on waking people from a deep sleep. If your friends are getting awoke from deep sleeps while handling automobiles, they're doing it wrong.
I actually fell down the stairs a few days ago because of this. I miss two nights of sleep a week and am using prescription antidepressants. It isn't a laughing matter. I would never try to drive in this condition!
In my house growing up and even now we have a phrase to describe this phenomenon. We call it "waking up". Sad that in this world of syndromes and disorders, the simple act of waking up is now being classified as not normal. Geezz this is fracking ridiculous.
This is not about what for most of us is simple waking up. This is about an unusual but not rare condition that has the potential to be dangerous.
Just say "I tried to read this but words hurt my head so I'm going to guess what it was about and get it wrong" next time.
No this is different from waking up. I've experienced this before and it's really weird, and it happens when you are forcibly awoken like with an alarm clock. I had an episode once where I "woke up" and was seriously convinced that I was a character from a book I was reading. It was a non-fiction book called the Unwinding and I believed I was a man named Jeff Connaughton. I'm a girl! lol I was stressed out because I thought I had to write a speech. I've also had other weird episodes.... they usually involve stressful things, like homework, writing essays, taking tests, doing math. One time this happened (I can't remember if I was doing sleep-math or sleep-essay writing. I was doing something school related) and when I finally became coherent, I realized I had a pencil in my hand! lol This only happens when I don't get enough sleep, and even then, it doesn't happen that much, so I'm not too worried. I've never been violent in my sleep!
Wrong. This is not just waking up. I have been with my significant other for three years now and if there's something wrong with me and I attempt to wake him up, he gets up but will be in a completely different mindset. Full on conversations about things he thinks are actually happening. As I type this, he just woke up because I was accidentally too loud and started going on about trying to find something. It's incredibly frustrating and I'm scared that there's going to be something seriously wrong with me and he will not snap out of it. It takes almost 8 mins most of the time for him to finally start acting normal. This happens often and sometimes when I'm trying to understand him, he gets violent. This isn't waking up. Don't speak of things you don't know.
This is news? Everyone experiences this, the people who did not respond with memories simply didn't remember having the episodes.
I bet a lot of people suffer from sleep after drunkeness.
Another syndrome for doctors to control and make money on by frightening us. Now if you don't wake up "bright eyed and bushy tailed" the second your eyes open, you have a dangerous medical condition that only a doctor can cure.
Hopefully people can tell the difference between normal waking up groggy and this kind of 15 minutes of being confused enought to possibly hurt someone out of fear – those who cannot would need a doctor's help anyway.
Learn to read, sonnyboy. Don't just skim over it. A lot of dullards today who want to comment about something they made up instead of the actual article.
This is different from "not being fully awake immediately after sleep" or "being cranky". To have it sometimes almost feels like your body is useless: your brain doesn't start working right away (not "you're still mentally asleep"), your body isn't ready to move yet (not "you're still too tired to move"), you can't remember important things like where you are. The term "sleep drunkenness" is almost the best term for the state.
One reason to be more aware of it is to know that, for example, a trigger lock on a gun might keep you from accidentally shooting your child in the middle of the night because it forces you to wake up before you pull the trigger. People have been convicted of crimes and put in jail for things they did during this state. For the cases where it was truly not preventable, we might want to think twice about criminal responsibility. In my opinion, it is tragic if someone is incarcerated for something they truly had no control over.
Reblogged this on Zany Epigram.
let the insurance claims and excuses to your boss for your behavior roll in. This "study" sound like a mouthpiece for the lazy to justify their actions
The word lazy has a specific meaning – it's not a catch-all for all the people you don't like and all the things you don't understand. Do you really think someone would wake up panicked enough to possibly hurt someone out of laziness?
More of CNN's targeted message/inside joke content? People who don't know how to be sober minded calling others drunk? People who can't stand rules attempting to lay down the law? Or just renters doing slum lords bidding?
What are you even trying to talk about? You must be one of those confused people from the article.
this is not a joke i have had phone conversations i dont remeber ive had people kick me in the nuts while i was sleeping i got up started yelling and went right back to sleep there are people out there that do things if they are woken up and go back to sleep you dont remeber a thing that happened its not a joke
Been there done that...especially when my Grandmother was in the hospital and I was going back and forth 250 miles between home and there and my parents' house every couple days. I'd wake up and look at the wall "OMG where's the door?!" then realize oh, no, I'm just not where I thought I was and get over it. Only time anything bad happened was when a spider got in the smoke alarm in the middle of the night and I tried to walk through a closed door...though the sudden pain woke me up quite effectively.
This article is interesting enough without CNN trying to sexy up the headlines for a completely NORMAL experience.
For those who scoff because "this happens to everyone once in awhile," you're lucky it only happens once in awhile. I think the article is referring to those who have regular or constant problems. My mother asked us not to talk to her for the first 15 or 20 minutes after she awoke in the morning because her brain was not "on" yet. She said when someone tried talking to her during that time, it sounded like noise. She couldn't understand what we were saying and the "noise" hurt her ears and her head. I started experiencing the same thing in my 40s. The earlier I have to wake up, especially with an alarm, the worse it is and the longer it lasts. Also, when I awake, no matter how much sleep I get or what time I go to bed, I feel drugged and could EASILY fall back into a DEEP sleep. This means that I have to fight my "drunk" mind/body EVERY morning to get out of bed at a decent time. It is a miserable way to start the day, day after day. This article states that there may be an underlying sleep disorder involved. It gives me hope! I will have to do more research.
Sleep apnea is serious too. My dad has been on a machine for 15 yrs. People stop breathing in their sleep, oxygen not getting to the brain.
Helen Keller woke up and answered the waffle iron.
why was the waffle iron ringing? she should have that checked....
Helen Keller, around the block in 80 days.
I once suffered from this as well. I was sleeping on a friends lazy boy once, and when I woke up in the middle night I left lost, lonely and confused. I started to panic and I cried and kept crying asking God why is this happening to me. I stumbled around until I found a flashlight, but the batteries were dead. I found a tissue box to wipe away my tears from crying so much but it was empty. I became even more agitated and aggresive that I punched a hole through the family room wall. It must have startled my friends daughter because she started to scream, as she is afraid of bugs. The hole I punched was big enough that she had turned on the light and just then I realized I was suffering from sleep drunkeness. I was so relived.
At least you didn't make love to their daughter.
I'm not sure why this is called a 'disorder'.
Awakening is not an instantaneous process, varying levels of confusion would be expected.
we should all remain in our comas - so the libs can run the world right into hell unopposed......
My husband would be angry if woken up and often doesn't remember conversations. He's always been like this. It's a little worse now that he has ptsd from his tour of Iraq and his tour in Afganistan. (the memory part, not the anger part, thank goodness) so that he had to turn off the ringer on his phone while he slept or he'd answer it and not remember it. (he works midnights)
My granddaughter who sleep walks told me one summer morning when she was 5 that she woke up outside. Now I call that a safety issue!! We put locks at the top of the doors where she couldn't reach them.
We had to do that when the kids were small too. Fortunately, our house at the time had those sensors that beep when the door is opened....and at 3:00am, I went to see why it was beeping to find one of the kids outside in their pajamas. Put swing locks at the tops of the doors the next day. Figured that in a sleepwalking state, they wouldn't have the presence of mind to climb on a chair over to open it, but if there were a fire, they'd be awake enough to do so.
While some of the comments are funny, my concern about this is whether it actually lasts longer than believed. My thinking is that people who have to awaken by the time they fall into a deep sleep, because they only get a few hours a night due to work/school/family schedules, who don't feel fully awake for the duration of their "day". This can lead to falling asleep behind the wheel, feeling unfocused, loss of memory, overeating (because the body is confused), even insomnia. Is there a correlation?
That would explain why I woke to find myself eating a frozen chicken cutlet.
I woke up one time pressing the cancel button on the microwave over and over again at 4am. I think the beeping was what shook me out of it enough to go back to bed. Woke my Mom up too; the look on her face was priceless.
It is a very scary condition to have. One night I came home after bowling and passed out in my backyard. I woke up being kissed all over my face by a beautiful blonde.. when I woke up my wife showed me pictures of me kissing our labrador retreiver. Funny thing is the dog kisses better than my wife.
I'm incredulous that this is news. The researchers probably got a huge grant to do the study.
Think that's good, try 'pee in the closet' Ambien.
I had a buddy do that one night in the barracks...could of been the massive amount of alcohol though.
this just in 1 in 7 people do stupid stuff when sleepy or are lacking refined motor skills minutes after they wake up . could this affect your life ? will you survive drowzymagedon ? why the fk is this news ? all this and more at 11 ...
maybe the problem is long work days and late night news
I have family members that do this regularly. I always found it completely baffling, as when I wake up, I am completely awake every time. I've had family members completely unable to understand the simplest things when experiencing this, it can be very frustrating waiting for them to come to their senses.
Something this article doesn't go into is that if a person who regularly suffers from this is habitually sleep deprived (I only need 5 hours sleep a night and I'm fine!) they fall into a confused state during normal 'wakefulness'. I watched someone argue with a DMV rep at the 'info about your teen getting a license' booth at the state fair, telling them they weren't making sense, explain it better, over and over again until we finally drew him away and said we got it, we'll tell you later. It wasn't complicated info, it was just complicated to him at the time.
I usually don't remember that I dreamed that I was awake but woke up asleep. But it's only disturbing in heavy traffic.
Is it hard work for you to act like such a heartless jerk, or does it come natural? You really ought to be ashamed of yourself. Until you are perfect, you have no right to judge others. If you have nothing positive to contribute to people's comments, then keep your ignorant opinion to yourself!
I wonder how many disorders we will have in another decade,... I tend to think they keep trying to create more and more out of any typical thing just to justify their research existence and the money grab,...
Utter BS. What a waste of my time. Fire these researchers and put them to work plowing a field,
Plow it yourself, and why are all these children commenting on this story? Did someone find it on her phone while you were waiting for the bus, and you all just decided to snark on it? Get lost. Pretty obviously you can't understand what it's about, so just go comment on the latest Bieber story and let us talk, please. Thanx.
I have this sort of thing where about once a month something will apparently wake me out of a dead sleep and I will beat the ever living crap out of my wife and kids, then go back to sleep, wake up the next morning and not remember it.
I laughed. You had better be kidding!
May I please know if this sleep drunkeness thing is serious? In a way like it'll do something damaging to your health if prolonged?
This happens to me all the time, but I am never violent in this state. My mother used to us this state against my brothers and me while growing up to find out whatever we were hiding from her cause she discovered that we couldn't tell a lie while in this state cause it is only our subcounsous mind providing the information. I made my husband swear that he would never attempt this with me, not like I would know if he did though...lol.
Nobody here smart enough to read the article before commenting, so nobody here worth talking to. Bbye kids.
Isn't REM sleep rapid eye movement sleep?
no kidding. there are times that i go to bed with my shirt on. the next day woke up it was gone. not remembering i take it off during my sleep though. it must be this!
I kissed my way up to CEO at a health insurance company. Now I take over $1,000,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other CEOs, VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easily fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
Pretty soon the only people that will be able to afford health care is us big wigs. And that’s the way it should be. We don’t want you little people using up the resources when we need them. And once again, I thank you little people for capping my SS tax at the $117,000 level. Now I only pay 1.17% SS tax and you little people pay 6.2%. Also, thank you for extending my tax breaks. I’m using the extra money on my vacation houses.
I hacked your company's computer and now I have unlimited health care and you get free aspirin. Baby aspirin.
And thanks for the new curved screen tv such a high limit on your credit card you will never notice
I have narcolepsy, so it happens often at night, but very often if I nap.
I kinda figured everybody had this, from time to time, depending on exactly what stage of sleep you get woke up in.
On night I was sleeping in a motel and I got this. I woke up uttering words in Hebrew and then starting freaking out thinking I was in a French street play. I scissor kicked the wall so hard that my foot went through the wall. There was a couple and their daughter sleeping in next room. The daughter started screaming because she was scared of bugs. I think this snapped me out of it.
What is up with all this "scared of bugs" stuff? I don't get it! It doesn't even make sense!
I have/suffer from this. It usually only lasts about 10-15 minutes but can sometimes go on for an hour. For that time period, I'm completely useless: I can't answer questions, can't walk, can barely see or hear things, can't remember important things like location... If you need something from me before the drunkeness is over, you're out of luck... or you're only getting bits and pieces of it.
It's more than just "not being fully awake". It's almost like sensory deprivation.
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