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While many people take sleep for granted, a huge portion of the population suffers from various sleep disorders and conditions that affect they quality of their sleep. Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that disrupt sleep quality – and confusion arousals are one condition that falls under the parasomnia category. But what are confusion arousals, anyways?


What are Confusion Arousals?

Confusion arousals are a sleep disorder that can cause you to act in strange ways while waking up. People suffering from the disorder often wake up feeling extremely confused, disoriented or disturbed. The odd symptoms have lead some to nickname this disorder “sleep drunkenness”.

Episodes typically occur open waking from NREM sleep, which is more prevalent in children than adults. Therefore, the disorder is much more common in children than in adults, but it can affect people of all ages. Children from age 3-5 are most commonly affected, with up to 17% of children in this age group being affected. In adults, confusion arousals tend to be a sign of another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, or the consequence of an abnormal sleep schedule.


What are the Symptoms of Confusion Arousals?

  • Disorientation or confusion upon waking
  • Unresponsiveness upon waking
  • Impaired or slowed speech upon waking
  • Confused thinking or poor memory upon waking
  • Aggressive or confrontational behavior upon waking (more common in adults)

Essentially, patients suffering from confusion arousals wake up feeling confused and disoriented. The feeling tends to go away within a matter of a few minutes, but it’s nonetheless an unpleasant way to wake up. In some cases, patients displaying these symptoms might be at risk or already suffering from other sleep disorders or conditions.

Typically, after the episode occurs the patient will not remember it happening. This often leads to people having confusion arousals but never realizing it after the fact, unless someone else witnesses it.


What are the Causes of Confusion Arousals?

In children, the causes of confusion arousals are unclear. The condition is common enough that researchers have struggled to single out a specific cause.

In adults, these episodes are most likely to be caused by:

  • Shift work or working nights
  • Jet lag
  • Stress
  • Disorders relating to the circadian rhythm
  • Insomia
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Certain psychotropic medications

In addition to the above factors, research has suggested that adults suffering from other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are more frequently affected by confusion arousals.


How are Confusion Arousals Treated?

There is no direct treatment for confusion arousals, but some patients have found success by addressing the root cause of their symptoms. For some, that means avoiding shift work and establishing a more regular schedule. For others, that might mean addressing sources of stress and worry in their lives. And for others, that might mean seeking treatment for related sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.


How Can I Learn More?

If you believe you, your child or someone you know might be suffering from this condition, you should speak with your doctor. He or she will likely have you keep a sleep journal, and/or conduct a home sleep study in order to learn more about your sleeping habits. From there, you can discuss personalized treatment options.

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