Confusional Arousal

Last updated: May 31, 2019

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The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

When a person acts in a strange or confused way as they wake up or just after waking up, that person may have a condition known as confusional arousal. This is a sleep disorder wherein a person appears as if he or she doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Confusional arousals belong to the group called parasomnias. Parasomnias are sleep disorders involving unwanted events while a person falls asleep or while that person is waking up.

When a person suffers from confusional arousal that person seems to be awake even if he has a foggy state of mind. A patient experiences an episode if another person has to physically wake up the patient. It is common for a patient to shout or sleepwalk while experiencing an episode. There are also patients who grind their teeth during an episode. An episode may just be a few minutes long. It can last up to several hours in some instances. It is not unusual for a person to have no memory of an episode.

What causes confusional arousals?

Some of the most common causes of confusional arousals include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Psychiatric medications
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Periodic limb movement disorder

What are the symptoms of confusional arousals?

When a person suffers from confusional arousals, he or she may:

  • Show confusion or disorientation
  • Have normal motor activity but not the gross motor activity
  • Have no memory of an episode
  • Unable to respond properly after an episode

How is confusional arousal diagnosed?

A doctor will need to review a patient’s medical history in order to come up with a proper diagnosis. The attending physician may require a patient to keep a sleep diary for at least two weeks. This is a way of recording a patient’s sleep habits. A sleep diary may also point out a part of the sleep routine that may be causing confusional arousals.

The doctor may recommend an overnight polysomnogram. This is a sleep study that will allow the doctor to monitor the patient’s brain, heart and lung activities. A polysomnogram may be helpful especially if an underlying condition is the cause of confusional arousals.

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Is there a treatment for confusional arousals?

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

Treating confusional arousals hinges on treating the underlying condition that’s causing an episode. For example, if an episode is due to obstructive sleep apnea the treatment will focus on treating OSA instead.

A bedroom that is conducive to sleeping can also go a long way towards preventing an episode. It is also important to avoid stressful activities as they can trigger an episode.

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