Confusional Arousals (Sleep Drunkenness)

confusional arousals cartoon

If you’ve ever experienced confusional arousals, you may have done something as equally strange as what I’m about to describe.

Two weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling a little thirsty.

But instead of doing the logical thing and reaching for the glass of water on my bedside table, I picked up my phone.

It was only when lifted it to my mouth that I must have realized that it didn’t contain anything drinkable, and put it back on the table.

I then vaguely remember rummaging around for the real glass of water and knocking it off the table onto the stone floor.

I think the sound of the shattering glass must have snapped me out of the confused state. But even then I couldn’t quite understand what I was trying to do.

Over the next few minutes, I slowly came back to reality, and got up to clean the floor. It was only when I was back in bed that it dawned on me that I hadn’t been my usual self.

It seems I’d experienced an episode of what’s known as confusional arousals. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time either, but like many people, I probably don’t usually remember it.

Do you wake up confused and do unusual things?

If you sometimes behave in a confused or strange way, perhaps when someone else wakes you up, it could be that you’ve also experienced confusional arousals.

And if the official medical label is a little strange, you can always opt for the more popular name of ‘sleep drunkenness’.

In this article, I’ll be taking a look at what confusional arousals are, what causes them and what can be done about them.

I’ll also discuss some fascinating research which shows how common a sleep disorder it is, and who is more likely to have it.

Poll results

Back in 2015, I ran a poll to find out how often readers experience confusional arousals.

Note that it’s a poll of people reading this article because it’s relevant to them. So the figure of 2.8% who have never had them is likely to be higher in the general population.

Interestingly though, out of 657 readers, 230 said they have confusional arousals very regularly – between 1 and 3 times per week. However, 188 people only have a few per year.

chart showing the results of a poll into the frequency people experience confusional arousals

What are confusional arousals?

The International Classification of Sleep Disorders diagnostic manual describes confusional arousals as being when someone wakes up in a confused state.

That might sound obvious, but the confusion can take different forms. For example, you might be confused about who you are, where you are, or what’s happening around you.

If someone talks to you, you might have slow or slurred speech. You might give short, blunt answers to questions, or make no sense at all.

It typically happens on waking from the slow wave stage of sleep in the first third of the night. But it can also occur when waking from any stage of sleep.

In the spectrum of sleep disorders, confusional arousals are classified as a parasomnia. Parasomnias include disruptive sleep occurrences like sleep talking, sleep paralysis and nightmares.

Who experiences confusional arousals?

It’s believed that an equal number of men and women experience confusional arousals. And it’s more common in children and adults under the age of 35.

In 2014, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine published some fascinating research into confusional arousals.

The research made major news headlines, perhaps in part because they could use the captivating title of ‘sleep drunkenness’.

Importantly, the researchers discovered that it’s surprisingly common and that some groups of people are much more likely to have it.

Key points and findings

Here are the main findings of the Stanford study:

  • They interviewed 19,136 adults in the United States.
  • 15.2% had experienced confusional arousals in the last year. Over 50% of those had experienced it more than once a week.

Of the 15.2% who had confusional arousals, they found:

  • 84% were associated with either a sleep disorder, a mental health disorder, or were taking psychotropic drugs.
  • 70.8% had another sleep disorder.
  • 14.8% sleepwalk.
  • 37.4% had a mental disorder (mostly bipolar and panic disorders).
  • 31.3% were using psychotropic medication (mainly antidepressants).
  • Just 0.9% had no related condition or identifiable cause and could be said to have a confusional arousal disorder.
  • 8.6% have either partial or no memory of episodes.

Different types of confusion

The study found the following were the most common types of behavior or confusion:

  • Temporospatial disorientation (confusion about where or when they are): 57%
  • Hallucinations: 36%
  • Difficulty speaking or thinking clearly: 34%
  • Confused behaviors: 20%
  • Sleepwalking:15%
  • No memory of episodes: 9%

Interestingly, the team concluded that confusional arousals were often reported as arising from the treatment of other sleep disorders. And that both sleep and mental disorders were important factors – as seen from the figures above.

Aggressive behavior provoked by another person

Do you or someone you know sometimes act in an aggressive way during an episode? This is understandably worrying and can be stressful for partners. So why does it happen and what can you do about it?

In 2007, Mark R. Pressman, Ph.D. published an interesting review that looked at violent episodes during confusional arousals.

He wrote that violent episodes aren’t common. But when they do happen, it’s usually in two situations:

  • If someone wakes you up.
  • When you behave in a complex way in bed in your sleep, and someone else tries to calm you by holding or grabbing you.

He further clarifies that:

Violent behaviors associated with provocations and/or close proximity were found to be present in 100% of confusional arousal patients

So perhaps it’s best to avoid physical contact with someone having an episode unless they are putting themselves or others in danger. And to try to avoid waking someone up who is prone to confusional arousals.

Causes and risk factors

Confusional arousals are thought to happen when transitioning from deep sleep to a lighter sleep stage, or when woken up suddenly.

Researchers in 2018 summarize what happens in a slightly more technical way:

Confusional arousals (CA) are characterized by the association of behavioral awakening with persistent slow-wave electroencephalographic (EEG) activity during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep—suggesting that sensorimotor areas are “awake” while non-sensorimotor areas are still “asleep.” 

In addition, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists several possible risk factors and causes:

  • Shift work
  • Sleep disorders – sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, insomnia, hypersomnia, circadian rhythm sleep disorder
  • Lack of sleep / recovering from sleep deprivation
  • Stress and worry
  • Psychotropic medication
  • Drug abuse
  • Being made to wake up
  • Bipolar and depressive disorders
  • Alcohol
confusional arousals risk factors infographic

Treatment and prevention

There isn’t a specific cure for confusional arousals as such, and no one-size-fits-all treatment.

If another disorder is causing the episodes, that’s what needs to be treated. This is something to speak to your doctor about, especially if you have signs of a serious sleep disorder like sleep apnea.

The same applies to mental health conditions that can be treated and managed. And if you’re taking medication, it’s a good idea to mention the episodes to your doctor.

It’s also important to try to focus on your sleep and make sure you’re getting enough – don’t allow yourself to become sleep deprived over time.

Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink or cutting it out altogether might help.

And the advice from sleep professionals is as always to practice good sleep hygiene. In particular, find ways to reduce stress, develop a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine so you go to bed in a calm frame of mind.

You’re not alone

One final note if you’ve been worrying about your behavior is to remember that you’re not alone. Don’t be embarrassed or think you’re abnormal because of what you do when you’re not fully aware.

Many people experience sleep disorders or go through periods where bizarre things happen to them at night.

But if it’s worrying you or having an impact on your life or relationships, it’s a good idea to speak to a medical professional. At the very least they should be able to set your mind at ease.

The funny side

Personally, I choose to deal with it by trying not to take it too seriously. I try to laugh at myself when I do strange things like attempt to leave my bedroom via the wardrobe (yes, really!).

I know I have other sleep problems and am constantly working on those. So I hope that one day I’ll get on top of my sleep problems once and for all. Perhaps the sleep drunkenness will then resolve too.

But until then, other than worrying about replacing a broken glass, I’m able to see the funny side. I remind myself that little events like this can make life all the more colorful.

Understandably, if your confusional arousal episodes are causing problems because of aggressive behavior, sleep disruption or complaints from a partner, you might not see the funny side.

But if it’s just the occasional event of mistaking your phone for a lamp, or not knowing who you are for a moment, then perhaps a smile or laugh is the best way to stop yourself get stressed by it.

Your thoughts

If you’ve experienced confusional arousals I’d be very interested to hear from you. What exactly happens during your episodes? Have you found anything makes them more or less frequent?

It’s often the case that readers find reassurance in knowing that they aren’t the only ones who experience a particular sleep disorder. So please feel free to share you your story in the comments below.

610 thoughts on “Confusional Arousals (Sleep Drunkenness)”

  1. I seem to wake up early in the morning with my head going over the tasks i should have completed over the course of my sleep, the tasks all seems very sensible and real in my head. Only for two minutes later for me to realise the riduculousness of it all, and then forget what the tasks i’m supposed to have completed are. Happens regularly, very strange. Also when looking at my alarm clock after waking up my head seems to think it is continously changing fonts and what its tasks are. Also very strange. I can’t explain either action.

  2. Well my mom just came in to my room to ask me where her mother who has been dead for 8 years is and I was worried she was showing early signs of Alzheimers or something. Is this confusional arousals?

    1. Well l’m no medic but has this happened once only? My father had Alzheimers and the overriding question was always asking where his mom was. Having said that both my parents have been dead around 8 years. I was their main carer and l still leap out of bed some mornings fearing l am late getting to them. I don’t have any sort of dementia. I’ve been tested and tested. I’d keep an eye on things if l were you.

    2. I have been having these episodes for 3 or 4 years. Never used to dream at all now I dream constantly and remember most of it. But it’s the getting out of bed at night that bothers me. At first, I thought I was sleepwalking but why would I remember it if I were sleeping, it’s like I don’t really know where I am and my body moves but very jerky motion. I remember last night actually shaking my head trying to wake up. And finally, I snapped out of it and went back to bed. What bugs me I never did it before a few years ago. First started out with night terrors. Would wake up fighting a monster or alligator. Now it’s mostly getting up and walking around in a trance till I finally wake up all together

  3. Hi,
    I experienced this the other night. All I’m going to say it was absolutely terrifying! I felt like I was going to pass out with panic inside me. Never felt like this in my life.
    I was woken up and I literally just jumped out of bed I started running downstairs to my mums room. I was confused and I had no idea where I was and what was happening around me. My heart was pounding like a sledgehammer. This is the 3rd it’s happened to me. I was scared to go back to sleep because of how it made me feel. It’s really awful to go through this. Only those like me will no what’s it like to experience this terrible nightmare as I would call it.
    Don’t Know what caused this.
    I have been diagnosed with depression/anxiety. Maybe this could be a cause.

  4. Hey, my Girlfriend sometimes wakes up and doesn’t know who I am. A lot of the time she just turns over and goes back to sleep just in case I wake up and speak to her. In her head she knows it’s me but her brain just doesn’t seem to do the same. She remembers this in the morning hence how I know. It scares her a lot. She’s going through a lot of stress and takes medication. Thank u for this article I can tell her tomorrow what is happening coz I think she struggles to understand it and it upsets her

  5. Hi
    This started happening to my husband about 2-3 years ago. He is 25 years old. It only happens about once or twice a year so we haven’t been to the doctor about it. It honestly scares me every time it happens and it actually just happened to him tonight. It only happens when he is woken up suddenly after being asleep for less than an hour.

    This time I heard him get up and go to the bathroom. I thought everything was fine until I heard a banging noise. I walked in to ask what was going on and he was under the sink in the cabinet. I couldn’t see what he was doing but our sink pipe was disconnected and nasty water was everywhere. He said “I’m trying to make the noise stop”. Since he’s had these before I knew what was going on so I tried to get him back in bed but he wouldn’t go. He kept cursing and yelling at me saying it wasn’t his fault. He also kept locking himself in different rooms to get away from me and kept saying “my team/the team will be mad at me”.

    He’s never hurt me physically, although the words can definitely make me upset and this time they did. I usually end up crying wondering why this happens to him and once he comes to he gets upset and sad. This time he was scared to go back to sleep because he didn’t want to hurt me.

    What should we do? I’ll take any advice honestly because even though it doesn’t happen often it’s happened enough that I can’t take it anymore.

    1. Get a sleep study done ASAP. You can put locks on your doors and motion lighta these will often help wake him up. Dont ever try to stop a person doing this. You are not a part of their dream just let them wake up. If its coming put of no where I would see a psychologist. I think most people with these Confusional Arousals have mental health problems as well like anxiety, depression, & PTSD so as long as there is no other daytime strange behavior you can relax knowing its prob nothing like Schizophrenia. Also if he drinks, takes melatonin or sleep aids I recommended a period without. If he takes SSRIs you might consider taking them in the morning to help avoid these unhappy little aide effects. I wake up and see people staring at me. I throw pillows, scream and have even ran down stairs but usually wake with in 10 to 2p seconds. If its going on for long periods that is a different but similar sort of sleep disorder. I also occasionally see Giant spiders. On occasion Ive tried to use my closet door to get to the bathroom or thought my alarm clock was my lamp or forgot where I was for a moment. Also my husband and kids know never to wake me up by getting close to my face or they are likely to get punched. Ive always been this way but many things aggravate it, especially stress!

    2. Norman J Goldberg

      For a few years, I have had sudden flailing of my arms which may cause physical harm to my wife sleeping beside me so that we place a large pillow between us at bedtime
      Occasionally the activity is preceded by an aggressive dream, or running from someone who I perceive is out to harm me. Most often I am not aware of any dreams preceding the activity and never aware of the activity itself. My wife tells me about it the morning
      These episodes occur in clusters and I may be free of them for a few months.

  6. For me it’s always the same, I wake up next to my boyfriend and can’t recognize him (probably not knowing where I am as well :) So I trip out that I have a stranger in my bed and then I try to live or put some clothes on. And then I slowly start to recognize him and fall asleep again OR I wake up and stay up for a little while until I come down.

    1. Yes! I do this all the time… He often wakes up with me shining a light in his face trying to work out who he is. I also think he’s my daughter sometimes. In fact I do loads of different things but this one is one I’ve done a lot. I’ve even left the room trying to find him

      1. Same here lol ahh the stories. I blame SSRIs they really do a number on your sleep cycles! Sometimes I touch his face and its so dumb lol I think we know whats happening but just need confirmation to go back to sleep soundly. Im pretty sure we wouldnt want to shine lights on and arose a stranger in bed with us ?

  7. I just woke up from a nap this eve. thinking it was the next day. I jolted awake, wondering what time it was. My phone said 7:00. I thought it was in the am. (Really wasn’t).

    I don’t have to go to work till 9:30am tomorrow so I decided to go back to sleep and set my alarm for 8:30am. It took me a few minutes to figure out why the alarm kept saying that it would ring in 13 and a half hours!

    Duh! Lol I laughed and made dinner.

  8. I wake up and will not understand what I am looking at and then after a couple of seconds, I will realize it is the bureau, or the tree out the window, etc. I have been taking bisoprolol (beta blocker) and apixaban (blood thinner) so I suspect that this is a side effect of one of them, although it took a year to happen – I have looked at forums and it seems other people on one of these drugs, around my age and after a year of taking the medication had similar experiences. It has also happened a couple of times just after dusk and once in the day, but perhaps that has more to do with losing contrast sensitivity.

  9. my boyfriend was in the navy and wakes up either not knowing where he is or thinks he is still on the ship. He works 2nd shift and already has a problem sleeping. he was not sure why 5 years after getting out of the service he is now all of a sudden having this issue. some people have told him it is PTSD but it is not affecting his life except for being tired. have any other military people commented about this? could be another study in itself

  10. I’ve been traveling a lot for work, and frequently don’t sleep well the first few nights in a hotel, but it’s the confusion I feel when I wake up in the middle of the night when I am back home that is the weirdest. Often I dont remember where I am and think that I am on travel, then I became alarmed that someone is sleeping next to me, and I’m convinced that it is a coworker who crawled into the same bed as me after I fell asleep. I’ll often get up and leave the room in search of another place to sleep and make it to the next room or even downstairs before I realize that I am at home, and the person sleeping next to me is my husband. Other times I wake up convinced that there is a guest in the house, and I need to do something to make sure that something inappropriate doesn’t happen (like wearing revealing pajamas and running into them in the hallway or worried that I left underwear in the common bathroom). My guess is that the disorientation is a result of all my traveling, and the sense of impropriety is a result of having grown up I’m the Bible belt.

  11. I wake up looking for the kids that I am supposably babysitting or the dog I was dog sitting and I am frantic looking everywhere. I wake up my husband and ask him where are the kids or the dogs ? He is puzzled and I keep asking him worried. What is going on?

  12. I have been under a lot of stress and I am having spells of waking up and not knowing where I am . There is fear involved; I don’t know who’s house I am at or where a light is to turn off. I did have this happen to me while visiting family who were remodeling.

  13. Ever since I was little I remember my sister waking up by herself and being totally delusional. She would talk slowly, always asking me something that makes no sense. Then she starts doing nonlogical things and just falls asleep. About ten minutes ago I woke her up and she acted the same but it was the first time she didn’t wake up by herself. She never remembers these episodes. Is this serious?

    1. Hi Ena
      As long as she’s not harming herself or others in her sleep, and her daily life is not being affected, then it’s probably nothing to worry about. Try not to wake her up though if she has incidents when woken by someone. If she, or the family, is concerned, a chat with her personal doctor about it might help.

  14. This explains things so much. I’ll wake up super panicked all the time. For example, I took a nap, and at 8pm I woke up, looked at the clock, saw that it was 8pm, and even though it was dark outside and my school starts at 8:30 am, I ran downstairs and started getting angry at my dad, asking him why he didn’t wake me up to take me to school. He was super confused asking me what I was talking about, and then all of a sudden I snapped out of it.
    Another weird case was when I woke up at 2:30am, and I grabbed my phone, looked at the time, and for some reason I freaked out and thought I was late to school, again. Even though the phone said “2:30am,” my brain read it as “8am.” So I ran down the dark hallway of my house and woke up my friend, telling him we were late to school. He was super confused and then told me it was 2:30. That’s when I snapped out of it.
    After about a year of not experiencing this, it happened again last night. I always lock my bedroom door before sleeping, but last night, I woke up at midnight, and ran to my door. I shook the door handle and freaked out, thinking I was locked in forever. I started shaking the handle and yelling for help. After a few minutes, I snapped out of it and realized I could unlock the door handle from my side (obviously).
    I’ve experienced it more times than this but it’s super bizarre when it happens and always makes me feel anxious while it’s occurring lol.

  15. One night I remember the lights being on, and I was standing up, so I sleepily started to get ready for the morning. I got clothes out of my closet and dresser and changed into them. Next I went to the bathroom to wash my face. When I walked across the hall to the bathroom it was pitch dark but I was too sleepy to realize. Once I got into the bathroom I finally looked back in time and realized that the hall I just walked through was pitched dark. I then went into my room and checked the clock to see that it was 3 am in the morning. I never remember getting up to turn on the light, I do remember doing everything else but my mind was not awake enough to stop, and this has happened twice in the past 2 weeks. I have barely ever sleepwalked in my life and I am just curious why the same thing has happened twice very recently. Thank you.

  16. I just recently started the habit of waking up at 9:30 pm after having just one hour of I think a very deep sleep and not knowing if its 9:30 Am or PM.. I start my tea, get ready for work and then takes me a few minutes to figure out its PM and I go back to bed to wake up again every 2-3 hours. This is a new phenomenon for me. Does that fall into the same category as the above confusional arrousals

  17. My husband hits and kicks me at night. He threatens me and makes wild accusations. He is out of it until 7 a.m. when he morphs into a nice guy.

    Because his first wife left him, I am teaching him that if I sleep in another room it is not to leave him like she did. It is so we both sleep well.

    1. Kiki
      Thanks for your comment. That sounds like a difficult and delicate situation. Has he spoken to his doctor about it? If he is violently moving about in his sleep, it’s something that needs to be checked properly.

    2. There are really good treatments out there for these things. Go see someone and get some help. You could also lay with your husband until he falls asleep and than move rooms a few nights a week :) People will be suspicious though as abusive persons have hid behind sleep disorders to mask abusive reaponses to anger. There is no such thing as right or wrong ways to love and live with someone as long as it works for you!

  18. I sometimes wake at night to make the bed or some other chore for my son or mother, neither of which live in the home. Last night I left the bathroom light on most of the night expecting my mother to get-up and go to bed…however, mom wasn’t at my house. This has occurred before but never 3 nights in a row. I just returned home from a 2-week trip away, perhaps this had something to do with it. Thank you.

  19. I fell asleep on the sofa. When I woke up I asked my husband where she was. I was actually looking for my mother who died 32 years ago. I went and looked for her. I have done this a couple of times before. I even asked my husband who he was. This kind of thing terrifies me as I am a very anxious person. I also take panic attacks.

  20. Hi
    I have this problem since childhood i wake up in panic and ask questions or start shouting pointing to the walls or curtains .. (i lost my father at the age of 8 and my mother chose to spend her whole life with her young three children instead of starting a new life. After my father death we used to live alone in our house and at the age of 9 i started feeling my mother’s fear of living alone with small children which she always tried to hide it ) i have sleep paralyze problem but it happens once or twice a year when i’m so scared or depressed. But 4 months back my mother had a road accident and i found her in a hospital in very critical condition. that time was very stressful and after that this happens to me more than once a week i wake up in panic and start questioning my husband about the things they don’t make sense.

  21. Hi. Last week I awoke suddenly after having been asleep for approximately one hour when the jerk next door started mowing his lawn at about 9:00 at night. (I go to sleep very early because I have to be at work very early.) Because it was kinda darkish out, I thought it was dawn. I leapt to my feet thinking I was late for work, left a message for my supervisor saying I would be a little late, dressed, and shot out the door; and then realized that something was wrong because it was getting darker, not lighter outside. Went back inside and went back to bed thinking what a crazy thing that was to do. Last night, I did the same thing (without the noise from the lawnmower this time). But after I had started to dress, realized that this was same thing had happened to me previously – waking up at dusk thinking that it was dawn. I calmed myself down enough to check my phone and satisfy myself that it was still the pm. What’s going on? This is scary.

    1. This just happened to me yesterday July 18th, 2018, and I decided to google and research this because it was so bizarre. I go to school part-time, work full-time, and I’m a single mother worrying about my kids during the summer visitation at their dads. Because I have been up several late nights between homework and going to work and worry, I noticed after work I started to dose off in the car. When I got home after work at 5:47 I hit my bed and decided to lay down, and had not realized I fell into a deep sleep already. When I suddenly woke up to look at my phone, I seen that it was 7:57 (without noticing it was AM or PM) and looked like the reality of dawn looked like it was morning to me. I jumped out of bed in panic and started to text my boss I am running late to work because I slept in and didn’t hear my alarm. I even got ready for work. As I was driving I kept questioning on my way to work “strange, why aren’t there any cars on the road this morning?”, then as I got to work “why aren’t there cars in the parking lot?”, then as I got to the doors at my work I noticed the lights were off and doors are locked and nobody around, and preceded to text my boss again and a co-worker…both asking me “are you okay? It is PM” and I responded “no it’s not, it is after 8 and nobody is at work and I’m trying to get into work but the doors are locked”, then at that moment the co-worker asked me to look at the time on my cell phone because it is in the evening PM time”, and I finally regained my mind and realized how embarrassing that was! So I conclude that my stress and sleep deprivation has triggered this since I haven’t experienced this since once before during my adolescents when it was a Saturday and I woke the family up on the house and told everyone to get up because we are late for school! LOL…this is really interesting how your mind can play with you sometimes, and yes was scary afterwards. I hope it doesn’t happen to me again

  22. Hi Ethan,
    I think I have had this occurrence for the third time in a row this morning. I wake up out of sleep with my eyes still closed as I normally do, and I feel like I am at my parents house in my old room and feeling that familiar dreadfulness of getting up because of how strict they were to let me get out and about. I have been extremely tired the last few days and sleeping about 10 hours. I have developed over the last few weeks, and even the last few years before it got better recently, a late sleep schedule. Falling asleep between 10p-12a and even if I try to schedule a 7:30a alarm, I’m sleeping until 9a because I am too exhausted to wake. I am 31 and for years I have had difficulty falling asleep even if I am exhausted, waking up during the night, being woken up by slight noises, oversleeping. I have not had this assessed but I do have known thyroid issues and have been for the last three months on a raw foods diet free of all the “no-no’s” to heal myself. The last few nights I seemed to have pushed my limits and instead of closing my eyes, I was staring at my phone or watching tv both of which will give me a terrible headache. I had a dream probably before I woke up this morning that I was in my old bedroom at my parents’ house and I felt my dad and siblings left out and about without me which made me upset and fearful of getting past my mom to get out. Then later in the morning is when I woke up thinking I was home until I opened my eyes and was so relieved that I was alone in my home.

  23. Hi Ethan, I wake up, all confused. My bed will be standing on it’s end. And my bedroom will be on it’s side. There is usually a hole I could fall into, if I move. My ceiling light is some form of creature.
    I do laugh about it. And just wait for everything to return to normal. I have these episodes at least once a week. Usually more. This doesn’t scare me. But I would like to know why it happens.

  24. I’m a 65 year old female. I live alone with my cockatiel, and I have tons of great family nearby. I have always as a young child sleep talked and I was told “sleepwalked” but now I know it was sleep drunkenness. I have episodes all the time. For the last month I have been “sleep drunkenness “ thinking my cockatiel is in my bed or in the bedroom, i see him so clearly, I even feel him on my shoulder, I end up getting out of bed turn on the light and then start searching for him in the blankets. It’s so weird. My room is upstairs and his cage is downstairs, I never bring him upstairs, and in my “drunken” state it always takes me a few minutes to come to my “senses”. Just last night I swear he was on my finger, so I manoeuvre out of bed and I’m about to go down the stairs to bring him to his cage! I come to my senses half way! I’ve even made a HUGE sign taped in the doorway “Waso (my bird’s name) is NOT here”. Thinking that could jar me. Sometimes it works. That’s my story. I’m so relieved to know what it is. Wait until I share this with my family, they are all aware of my sleep, my father, I believe had the condition, he was an avid sleep talker, dreamer etc. I also have a brother that has interesting sleep issues too. Interesting very interesting.

  25. So crazy, this happens to me on and off. Sometimes it will happen a few times a week and then not again for another month. When an episode happens I will “ wake up”, sit up in my bed, look around my room and will keep saying to myself “ where am I? Whose room is this” it doesn’t register that I am in my room. I will then usually grab my phone and try to make sense out of something. Sometimes I’ll think someone else is in my room ( when there’s not) or I’ll wonder where my boyfriend is ( we don’t live together) I then usually just fall back to sleep… so strange ?!

  26. Elizabeth Castillon

    I am not sure if this is the same thing, but yesterday I was on the phone with my boyfriend. We tend to talk at late hours from 10-1am becuz I work during the weekdays. So We r talking and I just put my head down on my desk and I can fall asleep really easily so I went to my bed and laid there with the lights off now while listening to him becuz I wanted to feel comfortable, but really don’t know if I wanted to talk to him or fall asleep. I did it knowing that there’s a great possibility I’d fall asleep I guess. Well I have multiple episodes of dreaming in the multiple times i fell asleep and they would range from 60 seconds to 5 minutes. I would wake up confused because my dreams consisted of having a conversation with my boyfriend on the phone while I was laying down in the dark. So I would think we actually had that conversation but then realize we didn’t becuz I’d ask him a questions or start laughing from the conversation in the dream or I’d ask him if he said something and he’d say no. So I’m really not sure if this should be concerning. I know I may be sleep deprived becuz I sleep on average 5 hours and have a inconsistent hours of sleep like some days I get 6 or 4 and others 8.

    1. Hi Elizabeth
      It doesn’t really sound like confusional arousals to me. I don’t think it’s concerning, but I’d just separate your phone calls from your sleep time if you’re worried about it.

  27. Good Evening,

    Until my most recent episode I did not know of this term. Just had one a few hours ago. I have had a very stressful past few weeks and today has been the very first day of rest. As I am a sufferer of depression and anxiety, I knew that the next few days were going to be rough. I dozed off this afternoon after fishing all day. My daughter woke me up to let me know she was leaving and I couldn’t figure out who she was or who I was. What was strange was it was almost like I was fighting my brain to remember.It was probably 8-9 seconds before I started to come back around and then of course sent me into an immediate anxiety help. Does not happen often but any suggestions/advice would be appreciated!

  28. Hi ethan,
    Ever since a child I have been a deep walker and talker, there has been a few occasions as a child where I would walk out of the house naked or just wander off (which is dangerous) over the years as I got older it became less frequent that I would sleep walk, but still continued to sleep talk. I’m 27 now and every now and again I wake up confused and disorientated as to my where abouts. Just the other night I awoke and walked out of my room thinking I was locked in a shop after hours and no one was there and I couldn’t get out but when I came too a few minutes later I realised I was sleep walking and went back to bed, occasionally I wake up in random spots in my room or house, will this ever end or is it just how my sleeping patterns and cycles are ?

    1. Hi Jessie
      Thanks for your comment. It’s hard to say if it will continue or not – for many people it does subside with age. But if it’s continuing to cause you anxiety, it’s worth mentioning to your doctor, especially if you do things that might cause you or others harm. I also think it’s important to adhere to good sleep hygiene, stable sleep patters etc, if you suffer from these kind of sleep disturbances. The more effort you put into keeping your sleep in check, the more chance you have of sleeping better.

  29. I’ve had only two of these in my lifetime. Once I had to wake up one Saturday because I had to go to a band rehearsal. My mom asked me what I wanted for breakfast and I remember answering “Toast I guess”, but can’t remember if there was more to the conversation or not. Only when she closed the door over so I could get dressed did I think, “What the heck just happened?” The second time, I had a bad night one night so I went to bed later the next morning since I had nothing special that day. My dad came in just after 12 while he was on his lunch break, talking to me about classical music he heard on this radio show called Tempo. I remember he’d asked if I was sick and I said no. All I remember my replies to him being after that was, “Yep,” Or, “Yip.” Funny part though was this particular one I was actually sitting up. The other one I was lying down. I don’t remember much of that second one. But that one too after the sound of the door closing did I think, “What were we talking about?” I’ve never had these since. I suffer from anemia and apparently sleep can be an issue like not sleeping the full night. I’m getting better though thanks to specific foods I’m eating and am sleeping much better now. Being awoken suddenly has been a common occurrence for me but usually I come to immediately.

  30. I have diabetes and high functioning autism. I must have had high sugar. I came home and within two hours I was sound asleep. I woke up at sunset thinking it was sunrise. I was an hour late for work! I even texted my boss to tell him I’d be an hour late. How embarrassed I was when he text me back saying, It’s still Thursday night. I Was about to get ready for work when I realized my cell phone read PM and not AM. Now, I have a slight headache cause I took my night pills thinking I was late taking them. I actually took them early. This has never happened to me. My husband and only family is in prison for 6 more years. I have nobody to look out for me. I’m 54 yrs old. I do have sleep apnea and can’t afford a cpap. I have a trained cat that wakes me up if I stop breathing. But, this has never happened before. I woke up thinking it was 12 hours later.

  31. I have severe insomnia, when i do sleep I experience episodes just like the ones in the comments. Once i was falling asleep on the phone and randomly blirted out “im wearing a onsie” after that the person i was on the phone with said i got quiet for a few mins before blirting out “wait no im not , i dont know why i said that” and then passed back out. Once i woke up and went to the bathroom and began tocgrt ready for the day then undressed half way got a glass of water , left it on counter and went back to bed . I remember waking up confused how i changed and then remembered what i did. My brother whos 8 also just experienced something similar which is why i googled this. I woke him up out of his sleep he continued to wake up lay down then sit up and walk to bathroom turn on light then walked roght out and into his bedroom where he layed down got up went to kitched turned around came back in the living room sat at conputer chair and scratched his leg before getting up abd attempting to walk out front door and we had to yell to get hin to stop and he turned aroubd looked at us “huffed n puffed” and then shut the door and went to his room where he is now asleep.

  32. My girlfriend has episodes quite often where I can’t get through to her at all. She will sometimes just sit up and do nothing, lash out at me physically and verbally or mutter random words whilst being restless. She doesn’t always know where she is and is a danger to herself as she often falls into things.

  33. Almost every night, I wake up about an hour after falling asleep thinking that a noise has startled me. I blink my eyes a few times and scan the room for the thing that could’ve made the noise and usually at this point will notice objects floating around me in circular motions or figures standing near my bed. I reach out and try to and touch them but nothing is ever there. It looks so real in the moment and I fall for it EVERY time. Then I start to realize that I don’t know where I am, what my name is, or what’s going on. It happens so often now that it’s not as frightening anymore, but it’s always an odd anxiety inducing feeling. Sometimes I’ll think that I’m at someone else’s house and there are other people in the room and I feel embarrassed for taking up so much space in the bed so I roll over. I think I’m the hallucinations might be related to my allergy meds (Flonase) because they seem to lessen when I stop my meds. Ive also had sleep paralysis (usually when I’m very tired or have had some drinks the night before) and I used to sleep walk as a kid, but never as an adult. I have bad anxiety and occasional depression, but I’m not on meds for either. Have you heard of people waking up feeling embarrassed before? It’s distinctly different than general anxiety or fear.

    1. Hi Faith
      Thanks for your comment. I think it’s common for people to wake up with a strong emotion in some way connected to what they were dreaming about or the disruption to their sleep such as in your case. It sounds like a chat with your doc about the allergy meds might be a good idea.

  34. Rachel Smithgall

    I do this kind of thing all the time! My cat wakes me up in the middle of the night to feed him, and one time I woke up in the middle of the night to feed him, but I took his bowl into my room and set it on the dresser. Another time I fed him in the middle of the night I got out the pack of hot dog buns unraveled the twisty tie thing, got ONE hot dog bun out, set it in the middle of the counter, folded the hot dog bun bag under instead of putting the twisty tie back on, and left the bun sit there until I woke up the next morning. I was so confused as to why there was a bun on the counter and then I remember VAGUELY doing it in my sleep. I thought it was hilarious. I hope you guys do too ? I also say weird things as I’m falling asleep. One time I was falling asleep with my friend and I said “I hope travis liked the dog today” i didnt even know a travis or have any interactions with any dog lol. It’s weird what sleep can do with you.

  35. Hi,

    I’ve experienced these episodes frequently over the last few months but never prior to this, i’m not on any antidepressants, and I very rarely drink alcohol.

    I’m usually waking up around an hour – two hours after I’ve fallen asleep and when I wake up I don’t know where I am and I feel very confused and sometimes scared. I sometimes feel like I’m late for something but I don’t know what and once I’ve felt like there was someone in the room with me but there wasn’t.

    I usually snap out of it after a minute or two but then find it difficult to go back to sleep.

  36. I write this after just experiencing a confusion arousal 5 minutes ago. I wake up scared and look around and I get confused and disoriented completely, couldn’t figure out where I was, thought I was in the lounge. I remember now feeling my mattress as I was lying down to figure out where I was before then feeling around for my phone and turning it on which snapped me out of it. I’m not sure if my eyes were open at all until I turned the phone on. One of the scariest things I’ve ever had done to me.


    Hello, So it’s Ramadan month where we fast and don’t drink or eat anything from the time that the sun rise till it sets. And we eat some more food before the sun rises like 3am or 3:30am , so Ive been trying to wake up my sister at that time and she opens her eyes right away and talk normally except that she gets angry fast when I keep telling her to get up to eat and there is no time, so I just get her a bottle of water and put it beside her. In the next day I go tell her if she was really on her mind when I came to wake her up at night and she litterally remembers NOTHING. She did this 3 times and the last time I got kinda scared cuz I was asking if she was REALLy awake and on her mind , and she keeps saying yes and wants me to leave before she hits me, I won’t lie it looked like she was really awake and on her mind but she actually isn’t!! So what can I do to wake her up while she’s on her mind to get her to eat before the sun rise?!

  38. Hi Ethan

    I suffer from a confused arousal almost every time I am woken unexpectedly. I have no memory of the episodes ever. My first one was around 9 years ago when I was still in school and the most recent one was Saturday. I have no recollection so I am unsure of whether I am awake or not and my state of confusion. What people have told me though is that I can be aggressive and verbally assault them. I have never physically hurt someone but it worries me. This behaviour is so out of character and directed at the people I love the most. My partner is getting frustrated with me as if she doesn’t tell me I don’t apologise because I don’t remember it happening. The more severe cases to tend to be in the first third, never when my alarm wakes me. However I do find it very difficult to wake up without drifting back to sleep, I always have.

    I have no mental health issues I am aware of and I’m not taking any medication so I’m unsure how to proceed. Any advice would be great.

    1. Hi David
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear it’s stressing you out. As I said in the article, experts think that being woken by others is a major factor. Perhaps this is something to discuss with your partner so they know not to disturb your sleep if possible. Other than that, try to follow the advice in the article, and discuss it with your doctor if it continues to cause you both problems.

  39. It’s not so funny when your sister body slams your door repeatedly trying to get in your room. Considering she has already broken your arm and given you a concussion. Yeah. Not funny.

  40. Sam (South Africa)

    This happens to me mostly when I’m drunk not even that drunk but tipsy, 1st time this happened came home went to bed with my gf slept was woken up by my gf babe woke up when I opened my eyes TV was face first on the floor, secondly I pooped on the floor funny part I don’t even remember doing such it doesn’t end there on the left side of my bed the TVs down, bottom of my bed I pooped and on the right side I peed all over my sneakers n second time I started peeing on the floor n sneakers like 4 times drunk n sober, and I’m still lost on how I can do such disgusting things I’m even scared of falling asleep sometimes just wish I could sleep at the toilet wonder what’s causing this need hellp

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