How to Prevent Sleep Inertia

Napping; the most famous of hobbies of humankind in the twenty-first century. You’re having a bad day? Nap! Sleep-deprived chasing deadlines? Nap! Want to reward yourself? NAP! Naps are known for their amazing benefits such as their impact on better cognitive functions, the performance of memory, and also their boost on creative thinking. However, as much as we love to nap, what we don’t love is the groggy feeling that follows the nap. 

           The post-nap feeling marked by drowsiness and grogginess is known as sleep inertia. Lynn Marie Trotti, Md, MSc of Emory Sleep Centre and Department of Neurology of Emory University School of Medicine, in her paper describes sleep inertia, a normal phenomenon, as the transition from sleep to waking, a distinct state that is measurably different from wakefulness and manifests as performance impairment, reduced vigilance, and desire to return to sleep. Its effect may last from several minutes to several hours.  

Source: Photo by Lux Graves on Unsplash

           According to the Healthline article by Jennifer Larson and Stephanie Watson, sleep inertia is caused by higher levels of delta waves in the brain that is closely linked to deep sleep, slower brain reactivation where regions such as the prefrontal cortex vital for executive functioning takes some time to reactivate back after sleep and also slow blood flow in the brain. As common as sleep inertia can be, a few countermeasures can be taken to reduce its horrible, groggy effects.

Caffeine Fix

           By now you can recall back all the times you turned all rainbows and sunshine from being a grumpy cat after a good cup of hot morning coffee. Coffee is like a warm hug in the morning. Caffeine is said to be good at promoting alertness by reducing adenosine (a by-product of cellular energy expenditure that increases with time awake and causes drowsiness). However, caffeine consumed sometimes can interfere with your subsequent sleep opportunities. Thus, it’s important to avoid it during certain occasions such as anytime nearing your usual sleep schedule at night. 

Source: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Strategic naps

           Study shows that short naps such as naps of 15 minutes or less are considered to be effective when it comes to avoiding or reducing sleep inertia by improving performance and alertness and by reducing sleepiness. Thus, on days when you are in real need of a nap to increase performance but want to avoid feeling the grogginess that follows at all costs, you might want to shorten your nap time. 

Get into your zen mode

           Given that sleep inertia is marked by impaired cognitive performance, mindful meditation can be the perfect solution as it promotes executive functioning and the ability to sustain attention. Mindfulness meditation has been found to reduce one’s fatigue and anxiety ratings which may be affecting their information processing. Mindfulness meditation’s calming effects and increased capacity to focus on the present might also be a cause for the improvement of impaired cognitive performance. 

Source: Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Other countermeasures

           There have been a few pieces of research looking into the relationship between temperature and sleep inertia and it was found that application of a cold wet cloth and fan breeze does improve the post-nap performance supporting the hypothesis that changes temperature does modulate sleep inertia. Another common way would be washing your face when you get up as it improves subjective alertness. Any other activities that you personally find effective to reduce sleep inertia are also encouraged. More countermeasures are still looked into and investigated such as the role of light, sound, and self-awakening.

           So what are you waiting for? The next time you can feel the grogginess of post-nap creeping into your day, you know what to do to make it right. Get your caffeine fix, plan strategic naps, and get into your zen mode to say bye to sleep inertia!


Jananie Chandrarao is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Jananie Chandrarao
Author: Jananie Chandrarao

Psychology undergrad with a flair for writing.