What is sleep drunkenness and how can I lower my risk?

caffeine, Olumia Life, rem, rest, sleep debt, sleep drunkenness, sleep stages



Sleep drunkenness is a lack of cognitive abilities, disorientation and even amnesia present directly after you wake.

Have you ever been late to work because you somehow woke up, turned off your alarm clock, and went right back to sleep without knowing it? Or maybe sometimes you just can’t think straight after getting up? That could be sleep drunkenness, also called confusional arousal, and it’s more common than you (and scientists) thought.

A recent study by researchers from Stanford and published in the journal Neurology found that sleep drunkenness affects about 15% of Americans each year.

That’s 1 out of every 7 people or 45 million Americans.


Sleep drunkenness, according to the study, is often caused as a result of various sleep disorders, depression, and as a side effect to various medications, like antidepressants.

So what’s the big deal?

Other than the random alarm clock problem, it may seem like a bit of sleep drunkenness every now and again just means you need a couple more minutes to get ready.

In fact, sleep drunkenness lasts for as long as 15 minutes for over 30% of people suffering from it. If you’re ever in a hurry, there’s no telling how much trouble that could cause.

However, there could be plenty of situations in which people nap on the job, but need to perform quickly upon waking.

Truckers getting a bit of shut eye at a gas station before hitting the road again, emergency room doctors working long shifts, and plenty of other occupations may need to allow for more time before employees can be allowed to clock back in.

How to Lower Your Risk of Sleep Drunkenness

Though not mentioned specifically in the study, the causes point at getting the right amount of quality sleep as the best way to avoid sleep drunkenness.

Quality sleep means much more than just sleeping for 7 or 8 hours. As part of the Olumia Life Sleep score, quality sleep means getting enough time in the restorative deep sleep stages, and being aware of REM sleep, when you dream.

There are lots of reasons why we might not be able to sleep well beyond just having a lumpy pillow (although comfortable bedding is important). Stress often makes you restless or causes sleep fragmentation, which disrupts your sleep cycles.

Too much caffeine, like drinking coffee at night, may be a bit of an obvious reason for poor sleep, but alcohol, despite the initial drowsiness it can cause, messes up your sleep later on. (It’s part of what makes a hangover so bad.)

There are numerous ways you can improve your night’s sleep:

  • Make a pre-bed routine: This way you can alert your body that bedtime is coming. You’ll fall asleep easier and spend more time in bed getting shut-eye rather than counting sheep. It’s a great way to make the most out of the time you have available in your schedule.
  • Get at least 6 hours of sleep every night: Yes, we’re all very busy these days, but the best way to improve your productivity is by getting all the sleep you need, not less.
  • Be sure to repay your sleep debt
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