Let’s Talk Sleep Inertia: What is it and How to Beat it

Sleep Inertia

Sleep inertia – the very name of the condition implies frustration and, truth be told, there is hardly anything more frustrating than feeling utterly groggy for hours upon waking. You feel as if you are exerting inhuman effort by dragging your body to your daily obligations and kicking your cognitive processes into gear.  Truth be told, most people experience sleep inertia in some shape or form upon waking, but it typically lasts for 5 to 10 minutes. If you still feel utterly zombified two to three hours into your workday, then it should be regarded as an issue that has to be treated as promptly as possible. Therefore, let’s discuss sleep inertia, what it means and, most crucially, how to beat it.

The mess of sleep inertia and the most common go-to solution

Sleep inertia is not a particularly difficult concept to grasp. As it has been implied in the introductory section, it mostly refers to the interval of time that occurs for 15 minutes or up to three hours after waking, and which is marked by persistent grogginess and impaired cognitive performance. While one would be reluctant to classify this as a serious health problem or even an ailment, it can affect your life in profound ways, especially if left untreated. Consistent foul mood and relentless fatigue can make a mess out of your private life and career.

The most common go-to solution for sleep inertia is found in enforcing disciplined sleeping patterns and the establishment of the uninterrupted circadian rhythm. This is harder than it seems in the day and age when blue-light from overwhelming monitors and smartphones, street lights and neon-glazed sidewalks keeps us awake beyond the normal hours. However, with some interesting facts on your side, you can make the difference.

The question of sleep stages

For example, studies have discovered, quite confidently, that sudden awakening during slow-wave sleep (also known as phase 3) produces more sleep inertia. This means that your sleeping interval needs to be timed just right, and you should discuss this with your designated medical professional further since chronotype differs from individual to individual. Do this as quickly as possible because, when compounded, the detrimental effects can be profound enough to trigger the cruel process of bad sleep quality and sleep inertia that feed into each other in an endless loop.

Improve sleep quality with small tweaks

Sleep inertia often occurs due to reduced sleep quality (and vice versa). There is a battery of factors that can affect your circadian rhythm and sleep consistency throughout the night, and you can ameliorate your broad bedtime quality with some small but significant tweaks. For example, you can look into the finest pillows that are made to support your head and neck if you need to sleep on the side in order to keep your airways open.

Sleeping patterns

Source: freepik.com

Quality mouth strips will improve nasal breathing ability while still leaving you with an option to breathe through the mouth if certain airway difficulties arise through the night. Pay extra attention to the glue quality of the strips or, in other words, if it is hypoallergenic. Turn off all of the electrical at least two hours before bedtime to promote the production of melatonin and try not to ingest too much caffeine and refined sugars.

Battle sleep inertia with new habits

Of course, this last bit of advice contrasts the widespread approach to sleep inertia – the proposed ingestion of caffeine and exposure to natural light which can remedy the issue. As it usually goes, there is a dash of nuance to everything. For example, people that suffer from sleep inertia get into the habit of ingesting a lot of coffee throughout the day – at least three, typically five cups. While it is advisable to drink a strong cup or two to rouse you from grogginess, you should avoid any further ingestion of caffeine at least six hours before sleep.

Apart from this, a large cup of lemonade without any sweeteners, natural or otherwise, coupled with a quick morning walk show promising results. Maintaining regular hydration, in general, is quite helpful when it comes to any sleep-related issues, including apnea. Furthermore, some sleep experts propose brisk rising out of bed in order to battle the overwhelming onset of drowsiness. You may be tempted to stay in bed just a bit longer, but this will undoubtedly make your grogginess worse for the day.


Sleep inertia is a peculiar issue. If left unaddressed, it can have a dire impact on your quality of life, not to mention that it can sabotage your work performance and lifestyle in general. On the other hand, it is a condition that can be treated fairly successfully. It just requires a bit of maneuvering and effort, for sure, but sacrifices which you’ll have to make are not dramatic and will lead to a significantly improved sleep quality. The insight from the paragraphs above should be a reasonable starting point, should you feel that sleep inertia has crept up on you.