It’s a scene familiar to about 15% of us. Your alarm goes off in the morning, but instead of waking up alert (if not especially chipper), you’re entirely confused by what’s going on. You may be disoriented, not know where you are, and you may even try to answer your alarm as though it were a phone call.
If that’s happened to you, it’s because you’re sleep drunk.
According to a new report published in the journal Neurology, sleep drunkenness—which is having trouble coming to full wakefulness after sleep, accompanied by intense confusion and disorientation, and even sometimes violent reactions and amnesia—is a serious and surprisingly common problem.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine interviewed 19,136 people ages 18 and older about their sleep behaviors, mental health, and medication use and found that about 15% of the participants had experienced a sleep drunkenness episode in the last year, with over half of those people reporting experiencing an episode a week. Further data suggests there may be a connection between sleep drunkenness and other factors, including mental health.
Among those who had reported sleep drunkenness episodes, 84% also had either a sleep disorder, a mental health disorder or were taking drugs like antidepressants, which suggests that sleep drunkenness could be a symptom of—or a red flag for—other problems that could disrupt sleep quality.
The researchers say that even though sleep-related problems like sleep drunkenness get less attention compared to behaviors like sleep walking, they can be just as dangerous, and more research should be done to determine the best ways to treat it.