identity crisis!

Hi Janeta— 

You’re not having an identity crisis! The reason why you can’t remember who you are when you wake up is because your brain isn’t fully awake yet! This is why everything is “groggy” for a few minutes, but then gradually clears up. 

Did you know that all people sleep in ninety minute cycles? It’s true! Each night when we fall asleep, we have periods of deep sleep followed by periods of light sleep. At the end of each one of these “sleep cycles”—which last ninety minutes—we have a period of REM, or dreaming sleep.

Normally at the end of a sleep cycle we wake up briefly, turn over, adjust our pillows, and get ready for our next hour and a half of sleep. Sometimes, though, we only partially wake up—while our brains actually stay asleep. If you’ve ever been sleep walking—or had someone tell you that you talk in your sleep—this is when you do it. 

Scientists who study sleep disorders use an EEG machine to measure brain waves during sleep. What they discovered is that, despite their awake-like appearances, sleep walkers and sleep talkers actually are deeply asleep during these events. Part of the brain wakes up, which allows us to walk and talk and wonder who we are, but the rest of our brain is sound asleep. This is why sleep talkers almost always talk non-sense (their brains aren’t working fully) and it’s why sleep walkers are so hard to awaken. (They’re sound asleep!) This also explains why, when you wake up sometimes, you have a difficult time remembering who you are. You’re still asleep! 

Fortunately, most doctors say these “confusional arousals” are nothing to worry about. If they start to bug you, though, why don’t you try sleeping with a soft light on in your room? This will help you recognize your room when you wake up during the night, so you won’t feel so confused. 

You’re not having an identity crisis, Janeta, you’re just waking up half asleep! It’s totally normal, even if you do forget your name for a while!!

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