How to combat morning grogginess

If you regularly feel groggy after waking up in the mornings, you may be experiencing ‘Sleep Intertia’, which is caused by abrupt disruption of sleep. Whilst not currently considered a sleep disorder in itself, individuals who have certain sleep disorders are more likely to experience more severe or longer lasting Sleep Intertia. A visit to your doctor can help to pinpoint the cause but there are also certain lifestyle steps you can take to facilitate better sleep and increase wakefulness.

What is Sleep Inertia?

Sleep Intertia is the feeling of grogginess, disorientation, drowsiness, and sometimes cognitive impairment that immediately follows when you wake up. Sleep is crucial to health and wellbeing so, when experienced over a long period of time, Sleep Inertia can have a big impact on the quality of your physical and mental health and does tend to be more common amongst those with alternative sleep schedules. According to research, this grogginess can last up to a couple of hours after waking and can impact on people who work long or frequently changing hours or shift work. It can also affect those who suffer from overall poor sleep quality during the night. Even those who sleep well can experience Sleep Intertia if they are regularly woken up abruptly.

What are the symptoms of Sleep Inertia?

Most noticeable upon waking, these fade over time during the day. They can also be felt after naps over 30 minutes. The most common symptoms of Sleep Inertia are grogginess, a desire to go back to sleep, impaired cognitive ability, impaired visual attention, and impaired spatial memory. Keeping a sleep journal may provide you (and your doctor) with insights into your sleep and wake patterns. If you can pinpoint a trigger for your Sleep Inertia, such as excessive caffeine or inconsistent sleeping patterns, it may help to make some lifestyle adjustments and record any changes.

Lifestyle tweaks to help alleviate Sleep Inertia

  • Limit napping: Sleeping for a short period of time during a break at work, or after lunch if you are at home, may help to reduce Sleep Inertia. However, make sure these are no longer than 20 minutes to prevent waking during deep or slow-wave sleep.
  • Pick the right bedding: Natural bedding that is breathable and temperature regulating will create an optimum environment for a more restful night. Research has shown that wool bedding works with your core body temperature to keep it balanced throughout the night, so you are less likely to suffer from disrupted sleep through feeling too hot or too cold. A good mattress, made with natural fibres, will also help to increase your sleep quality. Try to avoid bedding or bedlinen made with synthetic fibres or polycotton blends as these are not breathable or temperature regulating. Discover our 100% British wool bedding, individually handcrafted in our Devon workshops.
  • Temperature adjustment: The optimal sleep temperature in your bedroom is 16c – 18c. A room that is too hot prevents your body cooling and stops the trigger for ‘sleep mode’, it is also likely to cause you to wake up through the night. Find out more about temperature and sleep.
  • Don’t hit the snooze button:  Your brain knows the alarm will go off again and you don’t get any of the deep, resting sleep between snoozes. Set the alarm for when you have to get up and if you are still tempted to press that button, try placing the alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get up.
  • Gentle waking: Many alarm clocks are jarring and loud, which can exacerbate the feelings of confusion or grogginess upon waking. Try a smart alarm clock app that registers when you are in a light state of sleep or try a sunrise alarm that wakes you with gradually increasing light and gentle sounds.
  • Watch your caffeine intake: Whilst a cup of coffee, tea or energy drink can give you a boost to help you feel less groggy in the mornings, too much of it may negatively impact your sleep. Learn more about caffeine and sleep.

Additional sleep tips that may help prevent Sleep Inertia

  • Light restriction: Keeping your sleep and wake cycles in tune with the natural sunrise may help to reduce Sleep Inertia. During the summer months this can be more difficult, as the sun rises much earlier, so black out blinds or curtains can help. Studies have shown that artificial light can impact the body’s natural circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep.
  • Consistent wake and sleep schedule:  This helps your body to develop a healthier sleep pattern, so try and stick to it, even during holidays and over weekends.
  • Exercise: This has been shown to have a positive impact on sleep quality, however, try to avoid high-impact exercise just before bed.
  • Switch off: The blue light emitted from smartphones, tablets and computers negatively affect sleep quality. Try and switch off at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking: Drinking at night and before bedtime may make you feel sleepy, but it impacts on the quality of deep sleep, leading to disruptive sleep patterns. Smoking has been associated with sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and low sleep satisfaction.

Always consult your doctor or other medical expert if you are experiencing poor sleep over an extended period of time.

Ref:  The Sleep Foundation, NHS, The Sleep Charity