Confusional Arousals And Sleep Drunkenness

confusional arousals cartoon

If you’ve ever had an episode of confusional arousals, you may have experienced something as strange as what I’m about to describe.

After going to bed as normal one day, I later woke up in the middle of the night and sat up in bed. I’m not sure how long I was sitting there without doing anything at first, but I do remember feeling a bit thirsty.

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

It was only when lifted it to my mouth that I must have realized it didn’t contain any liquid, 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 eventually 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 the episodes.

Do you wake up confused and do unusual things?

If you sometimes behave in a confused, strange, or even aggressive way if you wake up in the night, it could be that you’ve also experienced confusional arousals.

And if it tends to happen in the morning, it could potentially be that you have ‘sleep drunkenness’. This is the popular name for what sleep experts call severe sleep inertia. Or in layman’s terms, being unusually slow to come back to life when you wake up in the morning!

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

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

Poll results

Way 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 (1-3 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.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, confusional arousals typically occur as you wake from the slow-wave, or N3, sleep stage.

In the spectrum of sleep disorders, confusional arousals are classified as a parasomnia. Parasomnias include unwanted events or experiences around sleep, such as sleep talking, sleep paralysis, and nightmares.

In an interesting research study published in 2020, the authors describe confusional arousals in a way that I think helps understand what can happen during a typical episode:

CA are episodes during which the subject sits on the bed and looks around as if confused. CA often begin with automatic movements, vocalizations or moaning and can progress to thrashing about in bed or violent behaviors towards oneself or others. Individuals usually appear with slow mentation and have poor reactivity to environmental stimuli; attempts to awaken the person are often unsuccessful and may be met with vigorous resistance.

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 specific groups of people are 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.” 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists several possible causes:

  • Recovery from sleep deprivation.
  • Consuming alcohol.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder.
  • Psychotropic medication.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Being forced to wake up.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also suggests that there are several possible risk factors.

They say you are more likely to experience confusional arousals if you have a relative who has them. In addition, the following factors can increase the chance of them happening:

  • Rotating and night shift work.
  • Other sleep disorders (hypersomnia, insomnia, circadian rhythm sleep disorders).
  • Not enough sleep
  • Stress.
  • Worry.
  • Bipolar and depressive disorders.

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.

If you drink alcohol or take recreational drugs, it might help to see if you have fewer episodes when you don’t drink or take drugs.

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.

The standard advice from sleep professionals to practice good sleep hygiene might also help. In particular, find ways to reduce stress, and 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.

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 though. 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 attempting 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 confusional arousals will then resolve too.

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.

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 that 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 your story in the comments below.


  1. I had an episode of this last night. I woke up thinking that it was Monday and that I was late for work. I live in a house that everyone leaves at about the same time, so I yelled to take everyone up, needless to say, someone got up and told me it was Sunday and snapped me out of it. At that point I felt embarrassed. I’m thankful that I found this article and that there are many others with the same problem.

  2. I’ve had a few episodes of these confusional arousals. Usually I am worried about something I should have done and I start to look for something related to this, like a report that I should have done but I can’t remember what is. Last week I had this episode that I woke up and started looking for an app on my phone and I knew I had to find it but I couldn’t remember what or where it was or even for what I would use it. So I kept browsing each app trying to find it. It took me a few minutes to realize what was going on. This scared me a little since my father has Alzheimer’s disease and behave confusedly during the night I am afraid of having some symptoms of an early stage of it. I was glad to find this article and see that I am not alone and can be another explanation for these strange behaviors of mine. Thanks for the article.

  3. Here just recently I have been waking up in the middle of the night thinking it was time to get up and I was late for work. I get out of bed and wander around the house for a few mins before I realize it is still dark out and eventually go back to bed. These episodes seem to be getting worse this past month. Not sure why.

  4. I’m married to someone I believe suffers from this condition. I wake him sometimes to take care of things left undone (powering down devices, moving from recliner to bed, etc). Nine times out of ten, he jumps up with urgency, but then speaks nonsense. I’ll ask him to turn off the bedroom tv. But standing there, looking me in the eyes, he responds with “there’s a pallet in the way. It’ll never reach the doghouse” wth?! He’s even gripped me violently as if defending himself from an attacker. That is what scares me the most because we now have a child who’s no longer in a crib and hops into our bed while we sleep. I have no idea how to deal with this. I only found this page because I googled the issue. We sleep in separate rooms and I make sure our son comes straight to me when he awakes.

    • Maybe stop waking him up? I have exactly the same problem with my wife; if it ain’t life-critical, do not disturb — it’s a feeling of being in a drunken stupor and on autopilot. As like when you are in a drunken stupor, you tend to autonomously hold yourself back from doing seriously dangerous things; but you have limited judgement as to your actions. If your son doesn’t provoke nag or present as a threat, I’d say the risk is minimal. I’d be more concerned about forcing the poor husband to sleep in a seperate bed — this is the sort of illness that can be managed if all parties are aware.

  5. Thanks for the article. I woke up the other day and it took me a few minutes to understand that the strange woman in my bed was my wife. Afterwards if felt like I was losing my mind. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    • I fell asleep in my chair and when I woke up I didn’t know who my husband was. And thought that my mother (who died in 1970) was somewhere in the house.
      It took about 5 minutes to realize who my husband was. Thought maybe I was experiencing something like what Alzheimer’s patients feel.
      Glad to know that it’s not that unusual.

    • I regularly wake up confused about the strange person in my bed (it’s always my husband). However, in those moments I’m concerned I’m in bed with a stranger and rush to the closet to put on clothes. I almost always snap out of it right as I’m getting back into bed with my clothes on. Only a handful of times have I awakened wearing different clothes than when I went to bed. This has been distressing me.

  6. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, except I don’t think it’s the middle of the night. I’ll look at my phone at be like “Oh god I’m running late” and jump up and get ready, do my hair and makeup and get dressed. And I eventually realize that it’s not time for me to get ready, it’s 12:30 am. And I’ve completely gotten ready after I’ve snapped out of it.

    • This happens to me periodically. I think I have a deadline and will wake up and set my clock or make plans. After a few minutes, I will remember that I don’t have one.

    • I actually researched this because the memory I’ve had recently, after suddenly waking at night, of the things around me and the details of how I spent the night before prior to sleeping is astounding. I woke up in the night in darkness and I automatically turned to my left, stretched my arm to a precise length and direction, then reached for my phone unlocked it and put on the torch icon in order to ease my journey to the light switch in a careful manner. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed doing this and I can’t help but wonder how I’m able to make perfect logical actions as such when I suddenly wake up.

      Regardless of all these, I have admittedly woken up to funny tales of my incoherent articulations, slurred speeches and senseless responses with or without provocation, shared by my bed partners to me over breakfast. One day, my siblings called in the middle of the night from a different country to get important verification of something and all I could hear was their laughter in response to my words. One of them remarked that it seemed it was night and that I had been sleeping, and explained to the rest on a conference call that there was no use for the call since I wouldn’t be giving any sensible solutions. I didn’t think much of it, I gratefully hung up and returned to sleep. I usually don’t remember most details of my confusional arousal states, but I remember the reactions of people and know that it probably occurred.

  7. Thank you son much for this explanation! I’m so happy to find out that I’m not some strange person. I’m 18 and I’ve experienced this my whole life: I’m woken up by a family member, given a task to do for the day or asked a question and I have a whole conversation with them but when I wake up, I can’t remember a single detail of it or the fact that I even had that conversation. So yeah, they get mad at me and I’m also confused but glad to see that there are other cases like that.

  8. I’m glad to read about these other experiences. I’ve had about five of these episodes. I am sixty-five and in relatively good health. I am happily married and my ninety-nine-year-old mother lives with us. She is frail physically but still has her right mind. So this is what one of my episodes is like: I wake suddenly with a frantic urge to find something. A couple of times, I woke terrified that I had gone to sleep with my contacts in (and I rarely wear my contacts) I search for the solution and the contact case until I snap out of it. This only happens about once every few months. Last night, I had the feeling that I had forgotten to take some kind of important medication. I got up and turned on the bedside table lamp, and searched (again frantically) but could not find it. I was frantic and confused until I snapped out of it.
    I am afraid it is the onset of dementia or Alzheimers. I am glad to read of other experiences, but it is still unclear to me what might be causing these episodes.

    • I think you do all these because you have important assignments to accomplish that you are subconsciously worrying about, so that even when you have accomplished these tasks you can’t remember not to worry because of the time you have spent worrying about them beforehand.

  9. I occasionally experience this the world becomes a painting, I am on the bridge of reality and only move my head to gain awareness of my surroundings then, I remember where I am.

  10. Gosh, am I glad I found this website is… thank you! In general, I don’t sleep well and regularly wake in the middle of the night for a call of nature and I n occasions, imagine there are other people staying in the house (which there isn’t). I lay very still in bed for what seems like ages, worrying about waking these people on my way to the bathroom, which is silly, because our en-suite bedroom is in a separate part of the house, and the guest bedroom is on another floor with its own bathroom, so waking someone up just wouldn’t happen. So whilst I’m still lying there in darkness, I then mentally work my way through the house… is there enough milk/bread/cereal for guests at breakfast… did I leave clean towels out… are they warm enough… is the house clean/tidy… the list goes on and on, until my bladder won’t wait any longer and I simply have to get up. Weird. It’s only when I get out of bed that I slowly realize there are no ‘visitors’ in the house. Sometimes I think I know who the visitors are – generally, people I haven’t seen for a while… sister from USA, friends from up north… and at other times I don’t really know who they are – they don’t have a name or a face. Either way, it becomes a big issue for me to make sure my guests are comfortable and have everything they need. When this is happening, I find it very disturbing.

  11. I thought I was alone on this matter.
    I’m 31 and I’ve been waking up at least 3 times a week, thinking I’m somewhere else.
    I’ve woken up, not knowing that I have a daughter at times. I’m a mom of 2. I’ve also woken up thinking that I need to put pants on for some reason and even with me being half a sleep I still find pants and put them on. It’s Almost like someones come over so I need them on but it’s 3AM.
    I’m always stressed and I do take medication but only once a day. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do but deal with it.
    This has been going on for 4 years now and only in the last year has it gotten worse.
    Thank you. I don’t feel so alone.

    • My husband is mad at me because he says I called his work phone 3 times at about 3:30 am and left voice mails threatening to hurt or kill him. I have absolutely no memory of this.
      Sometimes I wake up in the morning and find my bedroom trashed, broken lamps, gashes in the wall, glass shatters on the floor. We have been separated for 7 years and I live alone. Is this maybe unexpressed anger?

    • I came home from work change clothing it was maybe around 3:30 in the morning smoke that cigarette went to bed and I remember I have my phone on and I was running into walls opening doors I turned on the stove I was just lost in the house I’ve never had this happen to me before so can you break it down as to what happened last night.

    • I had this for the first time. I woke up couldn’t speak, didn’t know my daughter, took me a minute to scream out her name. I couldn’t remember it. This is my first time and it scared me.

  12. This happens to me often and seems to be exacerbated by SSRI medication. I also sometimes twitch as I’m falling asleep, which may also be exacerbated by medication. For example, I have been waking up more lately confused about where I am, searching for things on the floor, I often find myself talking in my sleep or yelling, trying to push through, sleep paralysis, and laughing/crying. This has been present with or without medication but seems to increase with SSRI medication. However, there had been a constant throughout much of it, that I don’t believe Behavioral or medical help has been able to resolve. I find myself to have more confidence and to be less afraid in my, what I have called “half subconscious state”. I find that when I am aroused, for example, I have much more desire to go online and use a dating app, where when I am fully conscious I feel too afraid or anxious. I see no issue with my sexuality when I am in the half-subconscious state, and am willing to take healthy risks that my anxiety will not allow me to, or shame won’t allow me to, in my conscious state. I’ll wake up fully with an idea and then not go for it, because I am awake. It’s awful. I wish I could be in the half-subconscious state because it has a similar effect that anti-anxiety medication has had on me, particularly benzodiazepines. The SSRI medication barely works for me for what I truly need, and then even dampens sexual arousal. I hope someone reads this, but I’m probably a unique breed and have an overactive mind, I think I am “too consciously” aware sometimes, and I am drawn to psychedelic drugs, alcohol, other drugs due to the altercation or sometimes, tuning out the consciousness but enhancing the subconscious part of my mind as I feel more at ease and comfortable. Not all substance work though, and it’s not like I can easily access them anyway, so it’s just…I guess I look forward to these half-sleep states. I feel most at ease.

  13. I’ve been wondering if confusional arousals could explain something that’s been happening to me a few times over the past couple of years. Although I’m not sure that’s it, since those episodes have been pretty infrequent and seem very mild compared to other confusional arousal experiences.

    A necessary premise: I live with my parents, so I help my mother with the house chores. When my father is away for a few days or even a week or two for work or to go hiking, I sleep in my parents’ bed with my mother so we have one less bed to make. It sounds silly, but it does save time in the morning, especially because with my siblings and grandma living with us, we’re six in one house, so there’s always lots of stuff to do.

    Now, when my father comes back, I obviously go back to sleeping into my own bed. That’s generally not a problem, but every once in a while, there comes at least one night (sometimes two, rarely more), usually a couple of days up to a week after moving back to my bedroom, when I get confused about where I am exactly. I wake up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason (no one comes to wake me up, and I never remember hearing loud noises or feeling too cold or too hot or seeing bright lights) and I think I’m still in my parents’ bed, but dad’s home so I can’t stay, so I have to get up and go to my own room. Luckily, I tend to linger for a few minutes before getting up even in the morning, which means my brain has enough time to go “… wait a second!” and I remember going to sleep in my bed. However, I still need time to catch up with what’s really happening, so instead of going back to sleep, I start looking for clues about my position. My bed is a single bed while my parents’ is a double bed, my bed is against the side wall while my parents’ bed is in the centre of the room, my parents have a nightstand but I don’t… I move around and feel around with my hands, testing to see what I find. Then, once I’m sure I’m in the right place and don’t actually need to move, I go back to sleep. Which happens surprisingly quickly, considering that in normal circumstances, I can take up to an hour to really fall asleep. The morning after, I have a light headache, but that’s probably just because I should have used the time I spent looking for clues to rest. I also have some trouble recalling the details of the episode and sometimes wonder if it happened at all, but then I focus on one detail in particular (like “I put a hand out to touch the side wall and it was cold” or “I risked falling out of the bed while testing its size”, things like that) and realize it was indeed real.

    What confuses me is that I don’t take any medication, I don’t have any sleep disorder or any other kind of disorder that I know of, I don’t drink unless it’s a special occasion, I don’t do shift work, I’m 22 so even if I go to sleep at 1am or even 2am (which happens pretty rarely, anyway) I shouldn’t feel it quite that much yet… but then again, it might be worry related. My parents and their relationship have been going through a rough patch for quite some time, and though I haven’t been fully aware of it until a few months ago, maybe a part of me has been perceiving the tension between them and reacting to it for longer than that. And maybe that part of me wishes both of them would spend more time away from each other to figure out their problems before coming back together… but that sound dangerously close to pop psychology, doesn’t it?

  14. My mom used to talk in her sleep and wake up thinking strange things were happening. but she was taking lots of medications so I figured it was the medication causing it. The last few months though I’ve started having similar things happen and I’m not on any medication. I’ve always been somewhat of a sleepwalker and sleep talker, but that was pretty much it. Now I wake up multiple times a night (almost every night) thinking things are falling on me…most recently, my ceiling or my ceiling fan have been ‘falling’ or causing some disruption, but in the past, it was bugs or spiders. I used to jump out of bed brushing off the bed and flapping the covers to get them off. Now I get up and turn the fan off thinking that if I stop it from spinning it will solve the problem. Then I wake up later hot so I turn it back on. Sometimes the same thing will happen again the same night. Other times I have actually scooped my dog up and jumped out of bed because I thought something was going to fall on him. I can only imagine what he was thinking! I’m wondering if partially waking up in the middle of the night to a dark room and seeing the shadow movement of the fan is triggering something. Perhaps some light in the room will help. Tonight I’m going to try to go to sleep telling myself that nothing is falling on me and maybe if I wake up I’ll remember that. So strange!

    • It was so crazy to see your comments because my fan has been haunting me for well over a year now! It is always something to do with my fan. It is either starting to fall on someone, someone or something is sitting on top of it and watching me, or it’s trying to take one of us! It’s been really creepy and it always seems so dang real. I even get into arguments with my husband because I wake him in the middle of his sleep either on purpose to tell him about it, or he wakes up on his own seeing me in complete panic out of bed. Sometimes I run to turn it off and realize. I have been a sleep walker since I was a teenager but now that I’m in my 30’s I seem to remember them a lot more and it sometimes has me questioning if it’s real or not.

  15. I believe mine was caused by sleep deprivation. Last night I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I just stared ahead trying to remember where I was at. It took me a while to figure it out.
    Earlier today, I took a nap to recover from my lack of sleep. When I woke up, I started looking under my bed, dresser, etc for a kitten that I don’t even have (I have two kittens and two adults, but I was looking for a 5th one that I thought I had).

  16. This article is very interesting. I had never heard of ‘sleep drunkenness’. Every now and then over the past couple of years I’ll wake suddenly in the night really confused, trying to make sense of what is going on around me/where I am and even struggle to recognize my fiance. It’s very freaky. Then I’ll fall back asleep. Is that normal? Does that sound like ‘sleep drunkness’?

  17. Hello. I have been experiencing this for about 6 years now on a nightly basis. I’ve found that in these episodes, I will feel as if I have a sort of task to complete. But I can never complete it. After these episodes, I never remember what the task is. However, I do know I do not remember the full episodes. I’ve found that I will have short episodes before the ones I can remember where I will have full conversations with people, And even getting ready for work and school. I remember one occasion where I woke up on the bus in one of these episodes, It seems that I had gotten ready and caught the bus whilst in a sub-sleeping calm state. When I asked my friend about whom I had been sitting next to on the bus, He stated that I had my eyes half closed and head down as I walked to the bus without saying a word. Overall I’ve found to just live with it and lock my bedroom door as I sleep so there’s less chance of me wondering if I’m the night.

    • I have had two in the last year and both were when I was woken up by someone and asked to do/answer something. Both times I had dreams (which I don’t normally have) and I have no recollection of doing the task.

    • I’m not sure if what I have just had is a confusional arousal but I feel pretty panicked by it. I have just woken suddenly from a short nap after work and I did not know what day it was or where I was supposed to be. I knew I had my work clothes on but I didn’t know if I was late for work or if I had finished or anything. Not being able to remember anything for about 1 minute has really freaked me out. I started doing shift work 3 months ago with my hours anywhere between 7am and 11.30pm with last night doing a late and then an early today. I’m tired all of the time. Plus I was told I had GAD fairly recently. I used to suffer from panic attacks 10yrs ago and I really don’t want them to start again.

  18. I used to sleep walk through high school and as a child actually left the house! My mother was abusive when I was young. I finally left my family relationships after my father died 5 years ago. Best thing I ever did.

    Over the past few years, I wake up not knowing where I am and walk around the house thinking I need to leave because it’s not my house. It’s pretty scary. My heart races. I have moved quite a bit, 6 places within 3.5 years. They’ve all been in the same 30 mile radius.

    It’s happening more now that I’m researching a big move to Mexico by myself. My SAD gets worse every year living in the midwest. I feel so much better in sun and warmth.

    I’m guessing it’s due to my unconscious knowing I’m searching for a place to call home and all of the anxiety and fear that goes with it.

    I may have sleep apnea. I’ve been having insomnia more lately as the pollen has been high and I have been stuck inside with a/c and getting no exercise. I work at home.

    I also wake up suddenly within the first hour of sleep thinking there’s someone in my bedroom. It’s usually one of two images. Scares the bejesus out me. I turn on the light and walk around the house making sure no one is in the closets, under the bed…always. They I’m fully awake and remember my doors are locked and I’m safe.

    • I wake up a lot not knowing who I am, where I am, or what is happening in the world. I have to hold my phone and scroll through some photos or the phonebook to regain my memory. Last night I woke up and couldn’t remember my husband’s name (whom I’ve only been married to for 4 months) took me a couple of mins. And sometimes I wake up feeling I can see something like a shadow and on many occasions it caused me to call someone on the phone like a friend or my mom!

      • I don’t want this to scare you. I used to have epilepsy and I would wake up not knowing anything. One way to know if it is caused by a seizure is how your body feels. When I had seizures my whole body felt cramped afterwards. My legs feeling the most pain.

  19. My husband does this and it’s taking a toll on us. I know he can’t help it but 1-3 times per week sometimes and sometimes not at all, he will wake up frantically. He has no diagnosed mental disorders although I personally think he could have an anxiety disorder. We co-sleep with my daughter (I know it’s not a good thing) but we do. Anyway, she’s 10 months old and he will wake up and snatch her from me quickly if he hears a loud noise or he will wake up and reach for her over me and her thinking she fell off the bed. He is super mean when I talk to him in this state and will deny that he’s asleep for about 10 seconds or so. I’m scared he is going to hurt me or her. When he is awake he isn’t a violent or snappy person like this at all. I know subconsciously he is probably just worried about her but before she was here he would get up yelling at me about bolts after a day at work. Just scared for our safety at night. He won’t go to the doctor. Half of the time he doesn’t even remember. Please help.

  20. i sometimes wake up and can not say a common word – my wife says it sounds like jiberish. This just started, I wake up and everything is ok and i can be normal again. This has been only 2 times. I had triple bypass sugery on March 4, maybe this is the trigger.

  21. I am 75 yrs and it’s the second time at least that I can remember, I woke up feeling lost, and confuse, don’t know who I am at the moment, and feeling hungry, but after eating and having my wife tending to me, the feeling slowly drift away, the thing is that it left me with a little fear and anxious feeling. What could be the problem?

    • I wake up thinking people or guests are over, either sleeping in another room or in the living room if I am in bed. When I was married, I have gotten up and asked my husband if the people were still here. One time I opened the fridge looking for them. I have opened the back.door yelling for my mother in laws dog I thought we were babysitting but were not. I still do it, but since I am divorced I am not sure how often. I am semi-conscious and remember the next day that I did it. I once woke up and stared at my husband wondering who he was. I am never scared..just confused at the time. It is weird and has been going on for 20 yrs at least.

  22. Hi, I am a 30 year old man. I have been experiencing what you are calling as confusional arousals. Whenever I get woken up by someone, I speak absolutely random and absurd things. It doesn’t happen daily, as most of the times I get woken up by my alarm clock. It happens only when I am woken up by someone moving around in the room or someone saying my name to wake me up. Like one day my father woke me up and I woke up and asked him, “will you be my partner?”. The other day, my mother was putting clean laundry in my cupboard and I woke up with the sound, so I said “that cloth you are keeping makes people say here comes the mesh police”. One day I woke up with a bit of commotion in the living room, the maid was washing the dishes and I said, “you want a plate to help you?”. None of these things make any sense at all. And the strangest thing is that though some people get stumped by it, some question me or tell me that I am speaking random/absurd things, and in reply I act by shushing them because I feel that what I said means something and they will not understand and no point explaining it to them. It is only hours later, that I realize what I spoke at that time and feel embarrassed of it. It is like I do not have any control over what I speak at that time. None of it is aggressive. Just absurd and random. I fear I might say something randomly sexual or derogatory to a female or to a male even.

  23. Hi! I’ve noticed lately my 6 year old daughter has been waking up in confused states when she is woken up out of 1-2 hour naps. It started a few months ago when I woke her up from my bed (we were watching a movie) and told her to head to her bed. She got up without a word and went to the restroom. After about 5 minutes I went to check on her and she was sitting on the toilet with her pants still on and just staring at the wall. I asked her what she was doing and she said, “using the bathroom,” I told her that her pants were still on and she argued that they weren’t, then got up and headed back to my bed and I reminded her that she had to go to her bed. She then walked to the couch and laid down and fell back asleep. (I left her there.) a week or two later I came home from the gym and she had fallen asleep on my bed again and I told my husband the story about her “sleep walking” and sitting on the toilet with pants on and as we laughed about it, he woke her up and told her to go to her bed… she got up without talking and walked out of the room. I made the comment that it must of been a one time thing. About 3 minutes later she came and laid back on our bed and feel asleep. My husband and I snickered and poked at her and told her to go to HER bed. She stood up and we followed her to the living room and she stood in the middle of the room staring off once again and she laid back on the couch after a few minutes and fell back to sleep… the next night I came back from the gym and she had fallen asleep once again and my husband woke her up and told her to go to put her DS up and go to bed. She grabbed it and walked out of the room and into the bathroom. I walked to the door and she had toilet paper in her hand and sitting with her pants on once again. I asked her what she was doing and she said, “I don’t know” I asked where her DS was and she said, “in here.” I told her to go put it up and go to bed. She walked to where he DS cubby is looking for it and I grabbed the DS where she placed it in the bathroom and told her to put it up, not get it. She took the DS from my hand and THREW IT IN THE TRASH CAN and went to her bed whining. I was laughing hysterically and took it out and put it up myself. I went to her room to hug her and make sure she wasn’t going to bed upset (because of the whining) she kept saying, “I don’t know why I’m in trouble. I don’t know. I don’t know” I told her she wasn’t in trouble and to calm down and to go to sleep. She then dozed off. This past weekend we were at a relatives house and she passed out on the couch. Right before we were about to leave I was telling my cousin about these sleep walking episodes she has been having, and wondered if she’d do it again. Well, I woke my daughter up and told her to get her shoes on, that it was time to go. She sat up and stared off with out saying anything and for 5 straight minutes she twitched her head like her hair was in her face and wouldn’t say anything. I asked her if she was ok, scared that it was a seizure of some sort but I had no response… After she stopped twitching and we were walking to the car I asked her what her name was and she didn’t respond, I asked her if she knew her name and she said, “I don’t know.” I asked if she knew how old she was and she said, “I don’t know.” She never remembers what happens. It seems when she is a certain stage in her sleep and then woken up is when this behavior happens. I’m not sure if I should refer to her doctor or if it’s just a “tick” she has.

    • Hi Hannah
      I think if you’re worried about your child’s sleep, it’s always a good idea to talk to a professional about it to get their opinion, and if nothing else, reassure you that it’s harmless activity that will eventually pass.

  24. I recently have been having episodes similar to this almost every night after l had bronchitis? I am on antidepressants but have been for 2+ years and don’t understand why they would all the sudden be triggered now.

  25. Thank you for this insightful article. It could be that my daughter not only has Glycogen Storage Disease 1A, but also has some disorientation like you and others describe. Her medical condition requires she wake every night at 2 am to drink cornstarch mixed with water (it keeps her blood sugar level so she doesn’t go unconscious). She is a full-time college student with a heavy load and a very hard worker and stays up until midnight to get her assignments done. She also has a part-time job 8 hrs week. The problem is that most nights she is oblivious to her 2 am alarms. I hear the alarms all the way down the hall with two doors between us. She has the newest sonic boom with bed shaker, a bell alarm and her cell phone alarm. They will go off forever if I don’t go into her room to shut them off myself. When I go in and call her name numerous times she doesn’t respond. I resort to gently shaking her shoulder and she finally wakes up, says she didn’t hear the alarms and yells, “get out” and an assortment of other insults. My husband and I trade off checking on her. She yells at my husband too, but his voice seems to wake her easier. The next day she says she doesn’t remember anything about it. She started wearing a Fitbit to see what sleep stage she’s in at 2am. The Fitbit recorded she was in light sleep right before I tried to wake her so that doesn’t add up. She sees her specialist soon and it will be a major topic of conversation. Can anyone relate to this? Offer suggestions?

  26. I have been doing very off the wall things. It is usually between the hours of 11 pm to 5 am…#1 misplacing things, not putting them back where they belong. #2 cutting a cell phone cord, leaving part of the cord in the wall yet and throwing the other cord away. #3 wrapping silverware in aluminum foil and putting on the counter. And most recently #4 drinking a whole bottle of ambesol!!! I do not remember doing these things only snapping out of it after drinking the ambesol because my stomach and throat burned profusely!!! Could this be what I am experiencing? I’m very scared. What if I take something harmful. What if I do something harmful? please help!

    • Hi there
      I think considering your last experience, talking to a medical professional would be a good idea.

    • Oh my gosh! When someone wakes me, I always talk crazy, deny talking crazy and try to justify the comments / explain logic. My husband thinks it’s funny and will sometimes ask additional questions / try to have a “conversation”. Sometimes this goes on until I realize that I’m talking crazy. I never remember what I’ve said prior to “waking up”. I’m not violent or mean – I just say the most absurd and meaningless things.

      Well, a few weeks ago, I got up (likely around 3 am, I usually get up at 4:00 or 4:30) and poured a bowl of cereal for my daughter and made my son a PB&J sandwich, put it on a plate, cut it into 4, and put it in the fridge. While doing it, I felt like it was a task that had to be completed. Then I went to bed. When I saw these things in the morning, i remembered doing it. Preparing PB&J and cereal is not something I do, so it was exceptionally odd for me to do this in the middle of the night.

      Last week, I woke up feeling/thinking I was awake. I was a little confused but felt driven to do “something” (if that makes sense). I went to the kitchen to get a drink of bottled water – I ended up drinking pet neutralizing carpet cleaner. I calmly walked to the sink, knowing it wasn’t my water, spit it out, drank water from the tap, and went back to bed. I didn’t remember until the next morning when I saw the open bottle of carpet cleaner.

      Yesterday, my husband work my up before he left for work. He had made me a cup of coffee and put set it on the counter. (FYI – i use re-usable coffee cups with lids). I grabbed another coffee cup and filled it with white soda, put a straw in it and places it in the fridge. Then I grabbed a bottle of Reddi Whip, sprayed it on top of my coffee, put on the lid of the re-usable cup, and put it in the fridge. Then I grabbed two more lids, sprayed each of them with Reddi Whip and put one on top of the other (like a lid / Reddi Whip sandwich) and placed them in the sink. I was semi-aware of what I was doing, but it was seemed entirely normal / logical. Then I walked around the house looking for my cup of coffee – I eventually found it in the fridge. Then I went back to bed. When I woke up, I didn’t remember what happened until I saw the lid / Reddi Whip sandwich in the sink. Then if all came back to me. This stuff is so bizarre . . .

  27. Thanks for the information. I am 49 I have had sleep paralysis since I was 16 and both my daughter’s starting having it around that age as well (from spiders, to aliens, to a person in our rooms). In addition I have always had a few episodes a month of waking up and not knowing where I was even though I was in my own bed. But About 2 years ago I started experiencing something different than sleep paralysis and different than not knowing where I was. I wake up now and I don’t know who I am. I lay terrified. I look around the room trying to get clues. Names and feelings come back to me. They don’t make sense. I think I am a child (my child). Then I remember no, I an adult, no I am a mom. But I think I am my mom. Who am I? I’m married? To who? In this I’m trying to figure out where I am as well. It is a scarier feeling than I have ever experienced with sleep paralysis. I get scared one day it won’t come back to me who I am. It comes back so slowly. I drink very seldom, I have no mental illness and I do not take medications (I rarely even take aspirin). Afterwards I just can’t understand how I could not know who I am or where I am. It seems like it should be there but I just can’t access it.

    • I have had this ‘amnesia’ a few times now. Although I don’t experience any panic. I wake up and cannot figure out who I am. I seem to try to p iece it together by my relationships. I’ll say, I think I have a boyfriend… wait! No! I’m married! I have a husband- in real life I’ve been married 32 years, happily. Most recently, I said upon waking, ‘do I have a mother?’ …pause, pause…Yes, I have a mother… then I can figure out who I am. It is starling to note how long it takes me to remember who I am. Otherwise, I’d say it’s strange but not completely unpleasant.

    • I am 30 years old and have had sleep paralysis, night terrors, and this sleep drunkenness as well. Ever since my sister died four years ago, I wake up several times a week and I will be confused about who I am, where I am. then I realize who I am, but think it’s my sister in bed with me. It takes a while before I remember I am married and it’s my husband. If my son cries out in his sleep, I wake up and think it’s my sister crying and needing me. It is just so strange to me that my mind forgets the most important people, but also dwells on another of my most important people.

  28. This sounds like what I have. It happens about every 4 to 5 months. I get up out of bed and usually, early hours of the morning between 1 and 3 am. I do very strange things. The first one I remember is putting cokes and cupcakes throughout the house. I made my husbands coffee using the dog’s dry food instead of coffee grinds. I woke up once at the kitchen table with a hand full of black pepper and eating it. Once I woke up and was at my toaster and I was fixing to stick a fork in it. Just recent I woke up in the bathroom with toothpaste on my face also had the Drano bottle opened in my hand. I worry that I may do something to harm myself.

  29. I have had this ‘sleep drunkenness’ happen a few times in the past few months. It tends to happen on nights before work even if the next day isn’t that important. It has happened 4 times now and the same experience each time. It’s hard to describe the feeling but I usually wake up with my heart racing and I’m convinced that time is going by twice as fast around me (and also like I’m moving backward). I feel like I’m just getting farther and farther from reality and that I’m out of place. My conclusion is always the same, I need to get to work now then because I’m going to be very late (even though its 3 or 4am). Then once I start putting my shoes on, I kind of snap back into reality and I calm down. But each time its the same thing and it takes like 20 minutes to snap back into reality. It’s very weird.

    I don’t have any medical problems but I have been under a lot of stress with a mild depression so I’m assuming that has something to do with it. Would love to hear some input.

    • This happens to me, too! For some reason, when I look at the clock, (usually between 12-1), my brain thinks it’s the afternoon and I have to hurry and get ready.

  30. I have this quite often. Maybe about once a week. I have no associated conditions as far as I know. I just find that I wake up in the morning and don’t have a clue what day it is. It doesn’t last for too long. Only a few minutes but it’s very strange to lie there and rack your brains about whether I have to get the children up for school!!

  31. I had an episode this morning when my daughter called and woke me up I told her that they should put a handle on the inside of the refrigerator door. I told her that I was painting with glow in the dark paint. I told her that I ate a banana. I was saying all kinds of strange things that made no sense, but I would be aware I was saying them and try to wake up and could not really get awake.

  32. I have this happen to me when I’m running a slight fever.
    My latest episode happened last night when I woke and thought I was in a dark Shed with cobwebs around me. I panicked for a few seconds sitting up and looking around having no idea where I was, I was so scared! then suddenly I could see that I was in my bedroom and I instantly became calm.

  33. Hi. I think something is wrong with me. I woke up and couldn’t remember my husband face. I tried so hard to think of anything to remind me or strike a thought; so that I can remember, how his face look. When he walked in the room, that’s when my memory came back. I am so confused. Please help me

    • I woke up starring at my husband at the time and did to know who he was, I wasn’t scared of him, just confused

  34. A few years back I was working shiftwork and I would wake up in the middle the night and make a mess of the kitchen and cook. Then when the alarm went off me to go to work I wouldn’t wake up fully. It’s kind of scary and my Son Took me to the emergency room one time and they did a CAT scan and said I was fine but that I needed to sleep with my head elevated. Now the last two days I’ve been doing that again and as a matter fact in the middle of the day, I’m a realtor, and I was taking pictures of a house to list it and the next thing I remember is driving down another part of town. That was scary because I didn’t remember even leaving the house or driving to the location I was at. I thought it was low blood sugar but my blood sugar wasn’t that low. So I ended up having to go back to the house to make sure I even locked it up. I could’ve killed somebody driving like that and I don’t know what to do about it. Today I’m feeling kind of funny to but I’m not going to drive to be safe. Please help me, I don’t like Feeling like this.

  35. I have had this experience only very rarely but I have just had it again tonight . I often leave a DVD playing quite softly , perhaps some light comedy, and I fall asleep to that when I’m on my own. I am always afraid of intruders during the night time. The room is dark apart from the television and I fall asleep. Then suddenly I hear the door chime sounding , very loud, only I think it’s the phone by my bed ( the door chime is on the other side of the room ) I look at the phone.I can’t sort it out.I get up prepared to repel boarders, it is gone midnight after all. I go downstairs. All the major doors are locked on the inside, and additional bolts are in place, there’s no one in the main room or indeed anywhere in the house. I put on the outside light and notice the main gate is shut and no one is in the garden. I don’t notice any alarm notification on the main control panel, usually a blue flashing light ( this would show someone has entered ). Can this be an halucination? Could it be confused waking? such as you describe or have I misinterpreted some noise. ( I have had it previously,&thought it was the phone but no calls were recorded ) It is so real. I should point out I do get rare attacks of sleep apnea and not infrequently wake confused about appointments for the day.

  36. Hi, the first time I started having these episodes is when I started traveling. The very first episode I ever had was me getting up in the middle of the night at a hotel and thinking “why am I in this hotel”, “this isn’t my hotel room” but it was my hotel room…. I got up walked outside of my hotel room and finally snapped out of it and realized it was my hotel room. The second episode I had was the very next day… i came home from a vacation and got up in the middle of the night and got on my phone and called my sister and told her I didn’t know where I was!!! I was in my bedroom!!!!

  37. I’ve noted these things for at least 6 months, I’ve had so many sleep issues they’ve maybe been around longer. Upon starting to wake and not being able to move much, on these days, I don’t know where I am. But I am always me. I cannot figure out what age I am, what house I am living in, what stage of life I am in, what room, if it’s one of the houses I grew up in or the one my family and I live in now. My eyes won’t open and I try and feel blankets and guess by the atmosphere. I do not move until my senses are aware and my eyes are able to open. I’m not a fan at all.

  38. I woke up at 3 am to call my boyfriend who works night shift . But when I woke up , I felt like I had to do something and I have forgotten it. Like, I couldn’t recollect what I had to do. I felt like I had to evaluate answer sheets and was going through my phone to find a reminder about it (to know if I actually had any) . It continued for almost 5-8 minutes. I was in a confused state during that time. But when I became more conscious, I was like “What the hell was I looking for?” and was scared aboyt what was actually happening to me. I had suffered from anxiety disorder before. So I thought this might be something related to that. That’s why I searched online to know why that actually happened with me. Now I know….

  39. I was talking on the ‘phone late at night, and I was dozing off, because I was so tired. I jumped awake and didn’t recognise the room I was in. This lasted or a few seconds. I often wake from a half sleep state, feeling confused and disoriented for a few seconds. It is as though my brain can’t catch up with me. This makes me panic like mad, even though it lasts only seconds.I am on a cocktail of medications, including bisoprolol. I think that beta-blockers could be the cause. I am on 10mgs, which is quite high.

    This usually happens when I am just dozing off; then I open my eyes, and whatever I am looking at feels unfamiliar. It is really freaky.

    This evening, for instance, I dozed off whilst knitting. I was only just drifting off, when I suddenly woke up, knitting still in my hands. It was as though my eyes recognised them as my hands but, for a few seconds, my brain didn’t. I kept blinking my eyes and sat bolt upright in a state of utter terror.

    I’m not describing this very well, but does anyone else have similar experiences? Perhaps you could describe them better than I can. I’d love to hear about experiences similar to mine.

  40. Hi I’m 22 years old. I started having this problem for about two years or less. Idk if it’s bc I have two jobs and I work about 50 hours each week which I don’t think is that bad honestly. But I do need to take a daily nap to function. I try my best not to Bc I hate sleeping w.e I have of my day left. But I can’t stay awake so I sleep for 2-3 hours after work. Sometimes my family tries to wake me up and I don’t wake up no matter how many times they call me. They say I woke up and went back to sleep but I don’t remember. I’ve also answered phone calls from my bf when I’m asleep and I don’t remember talking on the phone till I actually see the phone all there. They say I also say stuff that makes no sence sometimes. Does this happen to other people? Can this eventually go away? I hate having to deal with this

    • I do this too! Makes me feel crazy! I went to an ENT and had a home sleep study to try to find the reason for my “fatigue” the ENT just looked inside my nose and said I had a sinus infection and ordered a home sleep study only after I begged and bothered him! It came back that I snore. Nothing else – only the wires kept coming off at night and I breathe through my mouth at night so I think that whole home study was a bunch of balogna… But anyway! Try to see if you have sleep apnea!! That could be why you are so tired! You aren’t getting enough REM sleep.

      • Sleep apnea wreaked havoc on me! Sometimes I found it impossible to stay awake during the day and had to take a nap first thing after work. I almost ran off the road on my way home from work. I had hallucinations at night and panic attacks. My doc suggested a sleep study and it came back positive. After a couple of weeks I felt like a new person! But I still have the sleep drunkenness. I wake up many mornings thinking I’m in my childhood home, and my parents are there. They both passed away over 20 years ago and there’s only my wife and me in our home since my children have flown the coop. I was scared I had dementia or early Alzheimer’s. This make me feel better.

    • Everyone does this to an extent. You just sound very tired. I wouldnt even say its a sleep disorder. I would ask that people not call you during sleeping hours as its apparent you arent getting quality sleep if its being disturbed :) If your on call I recommend a bepper and shutting your phone off when you sleep. People need to respect your sleep times.

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