Sleep drunkenness is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a sleep disorder that makes you feel like you’re drunk when you’re not. It happens when you wake up and experience a bout of confusion, almost like an out-of-body experience. You typically won’t remember that you’ve experienced sleep drunkenness and actually may not know you do it at all unless someone else tells you.

Sleep drunkenness often happens when you wake up and experience what’s called confusional arousal. This is when you’re awake but not wholly with it. You might get up and walk around. You might talk to people, or you might lash out. The experience can vary in action and length. Some people only experience sleep drunkenness for a few minutes before fully coming to, whereas some people have it last for up to an hour. 

It’s an incredibly common problem — though unpleasant — that can often leave you feeling groggy at the other end of it. However, if it happens a lot, it can be a concern. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this sleep disorder, including sleep drunkenness symptoms to watch out for.

Symptoms of Sleep Drunkenness

  • Waking up confused
  • Waking up in the wrong place
  • Waking up not fully rested
  • Slow speech
  • Brain fog
  • Not being able to remember what happened right after waking up
  • Difficulty concentrating

What Causes Sleep Drunkenness?

Poor sleeping habits

Right off the bat, poor sleep is one of the top sleep drunkenness causes. By this, we mean not enough sleep each night or poor quality sleep. Not only could this make you extra tired during the day, but it can manifest in confusion upon waking.

Sleep apnea

If you experience sleep apnea, a sleeping condition where you stop breathing while sleeping, you could also end up experiencing sleep drunkenness. Some sleep disorders go hand in hand, and because sleep apnea causes poor sleep, it can also cause confusion upon waking.

Too much alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can make you drunk, but it can also make you sleep drunk. If you over-consume before sleeping, it can cause confusion when you wake up. This can especially happen if you’re still intoxicated from the alcohol when you wake up. This is a combo of drunkenness from alcohol and sleep drunkenness, and it can be particularly concerning.

Certain medications

Some medications, like antidepressants, can have side effects that include sleep drunkenness. Medications, of course, vary widely, so not all antidepressants will cause this. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on if you’re experiencing sleep drunkenness or just started a new medication.


Sleep drunkenness can be hard to diagnose if you live alone. Most of the time, a family member or partner is the one to tell you if you’re experiencing sleep drunkenness because they’re the ones who witness it happening. While you might fully wake up after a spell and find yourself in an unexpected place, that’s not always the case. 

Treating sleep drunkenness can be as difficult as a diagnosis because there really isn’t a specific treatment for it. However, if you’re concerned this is happening, speak with your doctor and see if you can either do a sleep study or set up a healthier sleep hygiene program. If you suspect it’s being caused by medication or alcohol, your doctor may want to change your medication or find a way for you to drink less.

Reducing the Risk 

Create a proper sleeping environment

You want to give yourself a comfortable place that encourages sleep. This will vary based on your preferences, but typically it’s dark, quiet, and the right temperature. If you give yourself a comfortable place to rest, it can mean you sleep better and wake better.

Ditch the screens

Screens before bedtime don’t promote good sleep, plain and simple. When you get into bed, put down the tablets and phones. The harsh light will be jarring on your eyes, and while you feel like it’s making you tired, it’s actually creating a war with your brain that actually wants to sleep.

Don’t drink before bed

Not only should you not drink caffeine too late in the day, but you should definitely avoid alcohol too close to bedtime. Though alcohol makes you tired, it doesn’t make you sleep well, and we already know it can perpetuate a sleep drunkenness problem. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I wake up so disoriented? 

You can wake up disoriented for a few reasons. Perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep. Perhaps you’re experiencing sleep drunkenness, which is a spell of confusion right after you wake up. 

Is it normal to have sleep drunkenness?

While it is normal to experience sleep drunkenness, it can be a concern if it happens often and if it becomes a danger to you or someone else. Many people experience it, but if it persists, speak with your doctor. 

How long does sleep drunkenness last?

A spell of sleep drunkenness can last a few minutes or up to an hour. It depends on how long it takes your body to push through the experience and fully wake up. Though you may seem awake, you’re not fully with it.

Is there a cure for sleep drunkenness?

Technically there’s no foolproof sleep drunkenness cure. What you and your doctor can do is create a sleep schedule and healthy sleep program to encourage better-quality sleep. If your sleep drunkenness is caused by something else, your doctor may encourage you to change other habits as well.