I love sleeping. There’s something about entering dream land through my warm bed and the cold-side of the pillow that’s satisfying on so many levels. I hate how I’m rattled awake every morning by an alarm that leaves me drowsy and longing to go back to bed for just 15 more minutes.
Those extra 10-15 minutes of snooze time may seem satisfying, but in reality it’s detrimental to getting yourself awake and alert for the tasks of the day. Snoozing contributes to sleep inertia, which is the grogginess and yearning for sleep that you feel when you wake up in the morning.
Have you ever noticed that when you go back to sleep after waking up in the morning, you wake up sleepier and more fatigued the second time? Usually you wake up before your alarm clock goes off, probably in a lighter sleep stage. But when you go back to sleep and wake up just 15 minutes to 30 minutes later, you wake up while you’re in a deeper stage of sleep, making it harder for you to shake your grogginess.
So how can you reduce sleep inertia and wake up refreshed every morning? It’s important to realize the things that contribute to Sleep Inertia so you can mindfully apply habits to help reduce it.
Contributing Factors to Sleep inertia:
1. Depth of Sleep when Awakened: There are 4 stages of sleep (Stage 1, 2, 3 & REM) that has been observed in humans. During the night we cycle through these 4 stages of sleep multiple times. Each sleep cycle runs about 90 to 110 minutes. Waking up in the early and late stages such as Stage 1 and REM is ideal to reduce sleep inertia. The four stages of sleep are the following:
Stage 1: The beginning stage of sleep that is referred to as relaxed wakefulness. When you are woken up in this stage, you may feel that you weren’t actually sleeping at all. This is the stage where you may jerk awake while dozing off if you are not lying down comfortably.
Stage 2: Slightly deeper sleep than stage 1, but you may still be awakened easily. This is the stage where brain activity such as Sleep Spindles and K-Complexes occur. These brain activities make sure to filter stimuli that don’t pose a threat to the sleeping person, preparing them to enter deep sleep. Further, K-Complexes have been linked to developing motor learning or procedural memory.
Stage 3: This stage of sleep is called Deep Sleep or Slow-Wave Sleep. This stage of sleep most effectively relieves sleepiness and restores the body. When you first begin sleeping you spend more time in Deep Sleep than in REM sleep. As you move through more cycles of sleep, the amount of time you spend in Deep Sleep reduces and in REM Sleep increases.
REM: The Rapid Eye Movement sleep. REM sleep is where dreams occur. Your muscles are completely paralyzed while breathing and heart rate is unregulated. REM sleep is when you can experience vivid dreams that may seem like you’re not sleeping at all. This stage is also called Paradoxical Sleep because even though you have high brain activity in this stage, it’s harder to wake you up. During REM sleep your declarative memory (facts and knowledge) is consolidated and problem-solving ideas are produced.
If we are awakened abruptly while we are in stage 3 (deep sleep), we have the highest amount of Sleep Inertia. If we wake up in Stage 1 or 4 we wake up more alert and refreshed. This is why it’s the best to wake up naturally at the end of a sleep cycle right after REM sleep.
2. Inconsistent Bedtimes: Are you sleeping around the same time every night? Usually due to unfinished work or a night out with friends you end up staying awake past your usual bed time. Sometimes, you know you didn’t get enough sleep during the week and you try to catch up on the weekend. Either way, being inconsistent with your bedtime heavily contributes to Sleep Inertia because it messes up your Circadian Rhythm.
Your Circadian Rhythm is the internal clock within you that determines when you should be asleep and when you should be awake and active. Your Circadian Rhythm can be adjusted to what you need, it just requires some planning and discipline. If you happen to break your Circadian Rhythm with irregular sleep patterns, this contributes heavily to sleep inertia.
3. Environmental and Chemical Influences: In our modern world, there are so many things that are not “Natural”. We are bombarded with artificial light from lamps, tablet computers, smartphones, and LED TVs. We ingest toxins and stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine. These things typically prevent a good night’s sleep.
1. Avoid big meals before bed – You should refrain from eating anything heavy at least 3 hours before bedtime. This way your body doesn’t have to be working overtime to digest while you sleep. You can get some real quality sleep when your body can utilize all its energy to recover from a long day.
2. Don’t Drink Alcohol Before Bed-A nice nightcap can usually put you out like a light. However, even though your ability to fall asleep is improved, the quality of your sleep suffers because your body is busy metabolizing alcohol, a harmful toxin.
3. Eliminate or Drastically Reduce Caffeine– Caffeine is a very useful drug. There are many times during the week when you hit a wall. You just can’t seem to get going! These are the only times you should take any caffeine. However, you should take just enough to feel its effects. Caffeine actually delivers its results because it simply tricks your brain into thinking it’s refreshed. Caffeine interferes with your Adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a molecule that regulates sleep in your body. By eliminating Caffeine from your diet as much as possible, you will be able to get quality sleep every night because it won’t interfere with your normal sleep processes.
4. Use a Blue Light Filter for your Computer and Smartphone – There’s another hormone that regulates sleep called Melatonin. It’s released by your Pineal Gland, and while this hormone won’t put you to sleep immediately, high levels of this hormone will make you drowsy and relaxed. It’s produced in your body as a response to darkness, and it’s one of the hormones responsible for maintaining your Circadian Rhythm.
Every night we turn off our computers to go to bed, only to end up scrolling through our favorite social media app or watching a youtube video to pass the time as we fall asleep. Our computers and smartphones emit many different types of light. But the one that most effects our melatonin levels is blue light. You can use a program called F.Lux for your computer or Iphone and Twilight for Android devices. By reducing the amount of blue light that you experience at night time, your melatonin level will naturally go up, helping you sleep better and according to your circadian rhythm, reducing overall sleep inertia.
5. Use a Sleep Cycle Alarm- If you have a smartphone, the Sleep Cycle Alarm app is highly recommended (Android & Iphone). This app tracks the movement of your body while you sleep and over-time calculates your sleep cycles. Once you give it a range of time you need to be awake by, the app automatically wakes you up in the lightest stage of sleep, reducing sleep inertia when you open your eyes. You can even create “sleep notes” so you can track habits that you apply to your life to improve your sleep quality.
Overall, only you can make conscious decisions to improve your sleep. It may be more difficult said then done, but if you follow the tips above consistently it can make a huge difference in your sleep life. Getting good rest is a crucial piece to the healthy life puzzle. Make sure get some every night!
Comments will be approved before showing up.