Are confusional arousals pathological?

Maurice M. Ohayon, Mark W. Mahowald, Damien Leger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the extent that confusional arousals (CAs) are associated with mental disorders and psychotropic medications. Methods: Cross-sectional study conducted with a representative sample of 19,136 noninstitutionalized individuals of the US general population aged 18 years or older. The study was performed using the Sleep-EVAL expert system and investigated sleeping habits; health; and sleep, mental, and medical conditions (DSM-IV-TR, ICSD-II, ICD-10). Results: A total of 15.2% (95% confidence interval 14.6%-15.8%) (n 5 2,421) of the sample reported episodes of CAs in the previous year; 8.6% had complete or partial amnesia of the episodes and 14.8% had CAs and nocturnal wandering episodes. Eighty-four percent of CAs were associated with sleep/mental disorders or psychotropic drugs. Sleep disorders were present for 70.8% of CAs. Individuals with a circadian rhythm sleep disorder or a long sleep duration ($9 hours) were at higher risk of CAs. Mental disorders were observed in 37.4% of CAs. The highest odds were observed in individuals with bipolar disorders or panic disorder. Use of psychotropic medication was reported by 31.3% of CAs: mainly antidepressant medications. After eliminating possible causes and associated conditions, only 0.9% of the sample had CA disorder. Conclusions: CAs are highly prevalent in the general population. They are often reported allegedly as a consequence of the treatment of sleep disorders. For the majority of subjects experiencing CAs, no medications were used, but among those who were using medications, antidepressants were most common. Sleep and/or mental disorders were important factors for CAs independent of the use of any medication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)834-841
Number of pages8
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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