HSD and Sleep Drunkenness

Sleep drunkenness is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty waking up, similar to an abnormally long hypnopompic state. Normal people are disoriented for a moment or two when awakened from deep sleep. People who suffer from sleep drunkenness may be in a confused state for up to half an hour or more. Sleep drunkenness is often found in conjunction with hypersomnia -excessive sleepiness during the day. The whole syndrome is called HSD, for hypersomnia with sleep drunkenness.

What is HSD, and what are typical experiences of an HSD sufferer?

People with HSD often do not react to an alarm clock, or they awaken just long enough to shut it off. Usually family members or roommates must be enlisted to awaken the person. Even then, a person with HSD may be confused and disoriented and will return to sleep if left alone. Later the person may not remember having been awakened. Even after a cold shower, a person with HSD may resemble a drunken person. People with HSD report very deep sleep like anesthesia. Most say they never dream, and they fall asleep within seconds of hitting the bed. Many also have sleep attacks during the day, although they can make it to a bed or table, unlike narcoleptics.

What is somnomania?

Somnomania is a term coined by Canadian psychiatrist Alexander Bonkalo to describe a rare sleep disorder in which a person flies into a violent rage or lashes out violently when awakened.

Casady (1976) gives an example:

Late one night in the year 1600, a German knight, J. von Gutlingen, was aroused from a deep slumber by his friend and companion-at-arms. History fails to note the reason for the intrusion on the knight's sleep, but it does record his bizarre response. He leaped out of bed, grabbed a knife, and plunged it into his friend's heart. The German court convicted Gutlingen of murder, and condemned him to death. (p.79)

Somnomania is distinctive because it occurs mostly in males and usually only during a sudden awakening. Perhaps in Homo sapiens it is an evolutionary adaptation to the possibility of being attacked at night while asleep. The brains of some modern males could still contain circuits allowing them to awaken ready to defend themselves from attacks by enemies or wild beasts.


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