Ever get that feeling in the morning, your alarm rings full blast, yet you can't even muster enough energy to hit the snooze button? You're not alone. That feeling of lacking energy is what's called sleep inertia.
It's a phenomenon that can happen to anyone, regardless of age, sex, or any other factors. Sleep inertia, or the feeling of morning grogginess, typically shouldn't be a cause for alarm, unless it starts to disturb your day-to-day life.
How do I get sleep inertia?
We have four sleep stages that vary in the amount of brain activity. Sleep inertia usually occurs when we are awakened during our deep sleep, or at a REM stage.
Deep sleep and REM place the body in an inactive state, generally making it harder for you to wake up during these phases.
Unfortunately, when you wake up during this stage, the feeling of inactivity carries over to your awakened state.
How would I know if I'm experiencing sleep inertia?
The telltale signs are when you wake up tired, feeling confused, disoriented, or fatigued - moments after you've woken up.
A person experiences sleep inertia during the first half-hour of awakening. Having the feeling go beyond that may point to something else.
Other manifestations also include an impeded motor dexterity and a decreased cognitive ability. Having that in mind, it's best to avoid performing tasks that require great attention to detail and fine-motor movement first thing in the morning.
I've had eight hours of sleep, why do I still feel groggy?
While being sleep deprived can give just about anyone a headache, it's not necessarily the main culprit for sleep inertia.
Sleep inertia correlates with poor sleep quality, in which sleeping duration isn't the only factor considered.
Disruption in your sleep cycles, such as having less time spent in deep sleep, impedes your body's ability to rejuvenate energy.
Regardless if you've slept for 3 hours or 8 hours, if you don't get enough deep sleep, there's a high likelihood for you to wake up feeling groggy and lethargic.
What causes sleep inertia?
Drinking alcohol before bed
A glass of wine to cap off a night isn’t uncommon, and for many, it makes dozing off a bit easier.
The downside of dozing off from alcohol is that it disrupts your body’s function at a hormonal level, affecting your melatonin production.
Melatonin is the hormone secreted from your pineal gland that tells your body whether it's time to sleep or be awake.
Disruption in your melatonin levels can cause you to dwell longer in a light sleeping phase, which effectively deprives your body of renewed energy levels.
We all know how the smell of freshly brewed coffee can just perk us up during the day, even more so when you consume it.
A cup of joe gives us the caffeine fix we need to provide us with the extra energy boost we need during the day.
Sadly, caffeine intake too close to bedtime can create a jarring effect on our sleep cycle.
It takes the body at least 5 hours to clear half of the caffeine in our system and may take 12 hours or more to dispose of the rest.
Having caffeine in the system may allow you to fall asleep, but it can also make your light sleep phases longer.
No, it doesn't necessarily mean that seeing anything that's blue causes you to decrease sleep quality.
Blue light is an umbrella term for the different wavelengths of light that dictates our circadian rhythm or our body clock.
A natural form of blue light comes from the sun, the presence of blue light tells our brain to stop secreting melatonin. This is the main reason why it's natural for us to be awake during the daytime, and asleep at night.
This causes trouble for people that work night shifts, as the natural process of their body is to make them sleepy when the sun is away, and to keep them awake in the presence of sunlight.
Blue light isn't only present from the sun, but it's also projected by artificial lighting sources such as light bulbs, screens, and mobile devices.
Watching TV or browsing your phone as a method to fall asleep isn't exactly the best method to doze off.
More often than not, exposure to these devices causes you to be more awake since the brain associates the blue light emitted as a signal to stop melatonin production.
In some instances, sleep inertia just happens. It could possibly be nature's way of reminding us that we should value our sleep more.
Experiencing a groggy feeling upon waking up doesn't necessarily mean you're doing things wrong. But, it could be a wake-up call (pun not intended) for you to value the activities you do before you sleep.
What can I do about sleep inertia?
Avoid sleeping for too long
It might sound ironic, but sleeping too much can cause a feeling of tiredness during the day.
The latter parts of our sleep cycle commonly dwell in the REM phase, which elicits significant brain activity. This phenomenon causes a bit of lightheadedness when we wake from our extended slumber.
Instead, a better way of approaching sleep is to create and follow a sleeping schedule and develop it into a habit.
Develop a sleeping routine
For some people getting to sleep involves a routine that's naturally designed by having to sleep every day.
May it be lighting candles, drinking chamomile tea, setting schedules, or other sleeping routines. Find things to do that can keep you in a relaxed mood and that you can associate with sleeping.
A routine tricks your brain into thinking that it's time to rest and secrete melatonin.
Of course, you have to avoid things that tell your brain to wake up. So, turn off those lights and put your smartphone away; these will help you sleep faster and get you better quality sleep.
Take a Breather
Sleep inertia occurs for just a few minutes after you've woken up. If you could make a few adjustments to your sleeping schedule, there should be no reason to not just wait for the disorientation to go away.
Just don't go back to sleep again, cause that's only going to make grogginess more apparent.
Take your mornings easier, breathe, meditate, go out for a walk, and maybe stretch a little.
Having your blood flowing and circulating is one of the best natural ways to shake off the lightheaded feeling of sleep inertia.