Sleep inertia is something that occurs when a person is woken suddenly from the deepest stages of sleep. When this occurs, the body's sleep cycle is interrupted, resulting in diminished functions and extreme grogginess. Here are 10 tips for fighting sleep inertia and waking up refreshed.
1. Maintain a Schedule
Circadian rhythms, or the body's natural sleep/wake cycle is very sensitive. Even minor changes to a person's schedule can cause sleep disturbances. To avoid this, it's important to maintain the same routines, whether it's a weekday or a weekend. Often if people don't work on the weekends, they will stay up later and then have hard time going to sleep on Sunday, when they have to prepare for work the next day. So by maintaining a regular bed time and waking time, the body won't experience as many sleep disturbances.
2. Avoid Caffeine in the Evening, But Drink Up in the Morning
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant. While many people don't feel any affects from a cup of coffee, the body definitely responds. Consuming caffeine in the afternoon and evening can linger well into the night, wreaking havoc on the body's sleep rhythms. However, caffeine in the morning can help give the body the jolt it needs shake off the effects of sleep inertia. If functioning is a problem first thing in the morning, try a coffee maker with a timer and leave it set up the night before so that the coffee is ready when it's time to wake up.
3. Exercise, But Not Too Late
Exercise is a known energy booster. By exercising at night, one might think that they are going to tire themselves out, but the opposite will actually happen. By exercising in the morning or early afternoon, a person will get an energy boost to get rid of sleep inertia and be ready to sleep well at night.
4. Be Careful with Napping
Napping is a great way to boost energy during the day if one is feeling groggy, but it can actually cause sleep inertia if not careful. The reason is that if someone naps for too long, they progress into a deeper level of sleep, and when they wake, they will experience sleep inertia. If someone is going to nap, be sure to avoid dark places as this will make the body think its night time, and keep the nap to one hour or less. Anything more can cause sleep inertia when waking as well as make sleeping at night difficult.
5. Set the Alarm Clock Earlier than Needed
If waking up is a problem for some people, they should set the alarm to go off earlier than they actually need to get up. This will give them a buffer to ensure that they aren't late. For those with extreme sleep inertia, it may be necessary to set an alarm to go off in intervals, say every 10 minutes, to ensure that they don't fall back to sleep or just ignore the first alarm. It also helps to place the alarm on the other side of the room so that the person has to get up to turn it off.
6. Avoid Dark Shades or Blinds in the Bedroom
Since the body's circadian rhythm responds to light, it's important to make sure that the light cues from the environment are not interrupted. This is particularly difficult for those who work second and third shift, because they need to sleep when it's light out. This often leads to a condition called "shift work disorder." Use regular window treatments in the bedroom so that the natural light from the environment can help regulate the body.
7. Try a Zeo or Sleep Tracker
These are great devices for anyone who has chronic sleep problems. These are monitors that attach to body and track sleep. The information can then be downloaded to the computer so that a person can track how their sleeping and even share that information with their doctor, helping to pinpoint problems which lead to sleep inertia. Some even have features that are specifically designed to help people avoid sleep inertia.
8. Keep a Journal
It may seem funny, but often the things that trouble sleep are the things that trouble people in their daily lives. Relationship concerns, financial concerns, work concerns and the like all lead to people being unable to sleep properly because the mind doesn't relax. By keeping a journal and writing down the things that are going on in one's life, it gets it out of the mind and allows someone to come back and deal with the problem rested.
9. Jump Out of Bed...Literally
By jumping up out of the bed, the body gets a sudden jolt of energy that will counter the effects of sleep inertia. Any type of physical exercise in the morning will help clear the cobwebs, so try working a morning workout into the routine before it's time to walk out the door.
Light is a powerful thing. Darkness triggers the body to release melatonin which is what makes us sleepy at night. If falling asleep at a decent hour is a problem, try a melatonin supplement. They are available inexpensively over-the-counter. This can help alleviate sleep inertia by making sure that a person gets enough sleep to wake rested.
Sleep inertia can be a serious problem, but it's by using these tips, people can find some relief and hopefully find a better night sleep.