Sleep Inertia: When Unconsciousness Follows You Into Consciousness

This morning while groaning and blinking stupidly at my coffee I decided to google “prolonged morning grogginess” to see if anyone else out there has this problem and/or solutions. I discovered that the “correct” term for morning grogginess is actually “sleep inertia“, which I think is a wonderful term. It brings to mind beds flying through the night sky while the sleeper dreams peacefully but then suddenly stops. The poor sleeper maintains inertia and goes flying out of the bed and into a morning routine.

Sleep Inertia Diagram

Reading about sleep inertia brought me to a disorder called “Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome“. It’s a circadian rhythm sleep disorder; the gist of this is that individuals with this disorder cannot fall asleep at “normal” hours but still have a need for a normal amount of sleep. As a result, when they try to get up at normal hours, their body is in the midst of stage 3 or 4 (as opposed to REM, 1 or 2) when their body isn’t ready to wake up. This could lead to more pronounced or prolonged morning grogginess (sleep inertia).

It sounds to me like they’re describing a night hawk.

The wikipedia article on Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome was quite interesting. It seems like the best thing for people with really rough cases is to adapt; jobs that run from 1-9PM or something like that might actually make this syndrome an asset! Heck, Stephen Wolfram seems to be doing alright, and his (very cool) personal statistics paint a prototypical painting of a night hawk.

Anyway, I’m glad my night hawk-i-ness doesn’t seem to be quite that bad. If I didn’t have a partner and a cat all sleeping in the same bed, I’d try my luck with Sleep Cycle to wake me up during appropriate sleep stages. Unfortunately the app works by monitoring the amount of movement it experiences, and when there are three of us in one bed, well, I doubt it’ll be accurate.


Leave a Reply