What is sleep inertia?

What is sleep inertia?

How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Are you a grumpy, groggy mess? That feeling of excessive drowsiness and disorientation is called sleep inertia. If you’re well slept, you should be able to shake off the cobwebs of sleep inertia in 5 to 30 minutes. 

During this time, sleep inertia causes our concentration to be impaired and our reactions dulled. This can make even simple tasks like having a shower or making breakfast, feel like climbing Everest! However for some people, this grogginess can last for several hours into the day. This excessive sleep inertia can be an indication that you are significantly sleep deprived.

Why does sleep inertia occur?

When we go to sleep, we cycle through several sleep stages. Sleep inertia occurs when you are suddenly jolted awake during REM sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep. During this phase of sleep, we have high levels of melatonin coursing through our bodies. So when we are shocked awake it naturally takes time to shake off this sleep hormone.

How to ease sleep inertia

  1. If you suffer with excessive drowsiness for hours each morning, you are sleep deprived. This could be because you are not getting enough sleep, or because the sleep you are achieving is not of high quality. Introducing a relaxing bedtime routine has been proven to help you sleep more deeply and for longer.
  2. If the draw of the beautiful red snooze button is too much to avoid in the mornings, try leaving your phone across the room so you can’t be tempted!
  3. Many people will heavily rely on coffee to get their engines revving in the morning, but this can actually be counterintuitive. Not only can loading up on caffeine negatively affect your heart and mental health, but it can actually cause you to feel MORE tired later in the day!
  4. Avoiding napping! Even a brief 10 - 20 minute nap has been shown to cause excessive post-nap impairment and sleep inertia.
  5. Waking up naturally is ideal but the reality of life makes it difficult for most of us. If you have a set wake-up, try shifting your bedtime earlier so you can consistently achieve eight hours of time in bed every night.