While you might not have heard of sleep inertia, we guarantee you have experienced it.
Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling groggy and just generally struggled to get out of bed? Or have you napped and woken up two hours later, unsure what time or month it is?
This is called ‘sleep inertia’ and is gaining a lot of hype after popular podcaster Mel Robbins spoke about it in her latest podcast episode. The video clip has generated over 6.9 million views on TikTok (so far) as she explains that snoozing your alarm is one of the main causes.
But why is this? Martin Seeley, the sleep expert and CEO of MattressNextDay, has delved into more detail about what sleep inertia is, what causes it, why you should NEVER snooze your alarm, and five alternative ways to use your alarm clock for the greater good.
Sleep inertia – what is it?
Martin Seeley, the sleep expert and CEO at MattressNextDay, explains: “Sleep inertia is the heavy, groggy feeling you get upon waking. You’ll likely feel more tired and have difficulty getting up and ready for whatever you need to do.”
“While it doesn’t last long, typically around 30 minutes, it can impact your productivity in the morning. However, if you are chronically sleep-deprived, it can take longer to shake off this feeling.”
What causes sleep inertia?
Martin said: “Different factors can contribute to that feeling of grogginess or sleep inertia. If you don’t sleep enough at night, you are more likely to experience grogginess. And if this lack of sleep continues, this is also going to pave the way for the effects of sleep inertia. While it might be harder than it sounds, getting a restful night’s sleep can reduce the feelings of sleep inertia.”
“Likewise, a long nap can lead to those groggy feelings as you fall into a deep sleep cycle and cut it short before your body is ready to wake. So, if you wake in the middle of your sleep cycle (we typically go through four to six sleep cycles), your pattern is disrupted, and you are likely to feel more tired than before you put your head down to nap. It’s that feeling when you wake and aren’t quite sure what year it is.”
Why you should never press snooze on your alarm clock?
Martin Seeley says: “Unfortunately, many studies show that pressing ‘snooze’ can negatively impact your day more than positively. This is because setting a future alarm for five or ten minutes doesn’t allow your body to fall back into a natural sleep cycle, as your snooze provides such a short window for sleep.”
“On average, a full sleep cycle is around 90 minutes. So, a 10-minute snooze could see you fall into a new cycle and cut it short.”
“In turn, your body is put into a fight or flight mode, which triggers a response that increases your blood pressure and heartbeat as you wake up, leaving you on high alert. This makes you feel stressed despite it being the start of your day.”
“I know it can be hard, but get up as soon as you hear your alarm. Doing so can make you feel more alert and ready to get out of bed instead of the inevitable struggle.”
Martin has also shared his top tips for getting the most out of your alarm clock.
Set your alarm clock 5–10 minutes earlier than you need to get up
If you’re used to waking up at 8 am, set your alarm for 7:50 am instead. This gives you enough time to wake up but not enough to fall back asleep.
Make sure your alarm is soothing and calm
If you’re struggling to wake up in the cold, the last thing you want to do is set a super loud alarm which will scare the living daylights out of you in the morning. Instead, it would be best if you had something calming and relaxing.
Many alarms have a gradient setting that allows you to set an alarm that builds up gradually, getting louder and louder until you turn it off. This means you get woken up gradually rather than being bolted awake.
Place your alarm clock far away from your bed
This means you must get out of bed to turn it off or back on if you wake up early and go back to sleep again (or vice versa). This way, it will take effort to reach over and turn off the alarm, and if it goes off too early, there will be no way for you not to get out of bed!
Better yet, place it on your windowsill
Light is the most important external factor affecting sleep. It plays a central role in regulating your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. This signals when to be alert and when to rest.
Therefore, you should open the curtains and blinds as soon as you wake up, so placing your alarm on your windowsill is a good idea.
If you’re tired after a relatively early alarm, this will help you wake up faster. Exposure to bright natural light signals your brain to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, making you feel drowsy.
Use your alarm clock to time the perfect nap
Everyone loves a nap now and again; I am one of those too. But it’s how you nap that is important. A one-hour nap could significantly disrupt your sleep. But a short nap of 20 minutes – anything longer could risk you falling into a deep sleep – can help with restorative sleep without the effects of grogginess when you wake.
So, when you go for a nap, think about how long it takes to fall asleep and then add that time to 20 minutes before setting your alarm. For example, if you think it should take 10 minutes to fall asleep, set an alarm clock for 30 minutes.
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