If you're like most people, the first 15 minutes after you wake up aren't your finest moments. Aside from morning breath, bed head, crusty eyes and grumpiness, you're not firing on all cylinders, mentally speaking, right after getting out of bed. This transitional state is known as sleep inertia. It's a period of grogginess when your body is actually still in a sleep state, including some parts of your brain that haven't quite warmed up.
Scientists believe it’s due to displaced melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep and making us sleepy. When we wake up naturally (i.e., with the sun and without an alarm), our melatonin production ceases before we wake up and dissipates before or just after. But when we're rudely awakened from our rest, it may take several hours for the melatonin to dissipate.
Although it can last for up to four hours, it generally doesn't exceed 30 minutes. Unless you're sleep-deprived, in which case you'll likely be foggy all day.
Some strategies you can incorporate to avoid sleep inertia include:
Learn your chronotype.
One of the best ways to overcome sleep inertia is to go to bed and wake up at the right time. Because the exact "right time" differs from person to person. A great way to observe your chrono-typical patterns is our new PeakAlert app, which you can train with your sleep and caffeine intake data to optimise your alertness
Get out of bed when you wake up.
Staying in bed longer can make the grogginess much worse. In order to shake it off, train yourself to wake up a little earlier (15 minutes or so) than you normally would, get yourself out of bed and then start your morning routine.
Go for a walk in the morning.
Going for a brief morning walk will not only clear the drowsiness and fogginess associated with sleep inertia, but the exposure to natural light will also help strengthen your sleep/wake cycle.
Meditating in the morning can be a great way to ease into the day when feeling a fog. Research shows that meditation improves focus and cognition, which makes it the perfect solution for sleep inertia.
It may come as no surprise, but a cup of coffee in the morning can help to shake off morning grogginess and reduce the duration of sleep inertia. In fact, a 2016 study published in the journal Industrial Health found that caffeine is one of the best options for counteracting sleep inertia. We truly believe that our new revolutionary App PeakAlert is the absolute best way to introduce some strategy into the way you use caffeine! The App uses your objective performance, sleep, caffeine consumption and other data to create a custom algorithm to support peak alertness whenever you need it. PeakAlert is uniquely able to allow users to train their own algorithm to achieve peak performance via personal advice on sleep and caffeine. It’s available for free on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store and we highly recommend you download it now.
If you are experiencing sleep inertia you are more likely to make mistakes, even when performing routine tasks. It can cause a reduction in memory ability, impairment of the capability to make decisions, and slower reaction times. Some of these effects may be especially dangerous for bus drivers, pilots and other shift workers, so it’s extremely important to develop a routine that helps you avoid sleep inertia.