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A wake up call on sleep disorder

Have you ever answered a phone instead of switching off the alarm when aroused abruptly from sleep? Or, have you seen anyone engaging in odd, confused behaviour when jolted out of slumber? If yes, then don’t be alarmed! According to a new study, one in every seven people suffer from “sleep drunkenness,” a neurological condition that leads to confusion during or following arousals from sleep, especially in early night or morning. At times it may even trigger violent behaviour during sleep. Worse, people suffering from the condition are likely to completely forget about these episodes when fully awake.

“Though the consequences can be just as serious, these episodes have received considerably less attention than sleepwalking,” said study author Maurice M. Ohayon, MD, DSc, PhD, with Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, CA. At the highest risk are people with depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, panic or post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

Fifteen per cent of the people in the study group had experienced at least one such episode in the last year. Most of them—84 percent—were also patients of a sleep or a mental health disorder and were on psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants. Less than 1 percent of the people with sleep drunkenness had no known cause or related condition. People with sleep apnea also were more likely to have the disorder.

“These episodes of confused awakening have not received as much attention as they clearly deserve given the prevalence of sleep drunkenness in the general population. More research is required on when they occur and whether they can be treated,” said Ohayon.

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