Sleep Inertia

Last Updated: May 30, 2020

Definition - What does Sleep Inertia mean?

Sleep inertia is a brief groggy sensation that people experience following a period of sleep, often characterized by impaired cognitive abilities and/or slow psychomotor functions. The duration of sleep inertia can reflect the amount and quality of sleep coupled with any underlying sleep disorder, for example, sleep apnea and delayed sleep-wake phase disorder. Evidence suggests that sudden awakenings during particular phases of sleep can influence pronounced episodes of sleep inertia, especially, during the non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep cycle.

WorkplaceTesting explains Sleep Inertia

Different medical theories exist to account for the physiological effects connected to sleep inertia. For instance, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the brain is considered the locus for primary cognitive functions including alertness and memory. An immediate awakening from sleep disrupts otherwise normal biorhythms in which a hormone called melatonin is secreted to promote sleep.

Sleep inertia causes delayed biochemical responses that are usually proportionate to repeated occurrences of sleep deprivation. For this reason, it is recommended to adopt sleep habits conducive to health, in turn, avoiding prolonged periods of sleep inertia limiting mental and/or physical energy. However, many individuals who suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, for example, are subject to intermittent episodes of breathing cessation and other symptoms compounding sleep inertia. In the workplace, certain fields of discipline require mental alertness and intense concentration to foster efficient and optimal productivity. To this end, many employers are promoting naps as a beneficial method to curtail sleep deprivation while engendering a more refreshed workforce.

Although workplace stigmas exist, research indicates that short naps can bolster cognitive awareness, incidentally, enhancing production output by a large margin. Individuals and employers can coordinate strategies to reduce or avoid sleep inertia through good sleep hygiene, prescribed medication, and ergonomic solutions (i.e. dark, quiet spaces).

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