TOLEDO, Ohio. Do you feel very groggy when you wake up? When you wake up, do you throw on clothes and jump into your car to get to work? You might be suffering from something known as sleep inertia, and you may unwittingly be putting yourself and others in danger behind the wheel when you drive in to work.
According to QZ, when people first wake up, they can suffer from sleep inertia for up to two hours. If you need to drive within this timeframe, your performance behind the wheel could suffer. According to Sleep Medicine Review, sleep inertia can impact performance. To make matters worse, the more tired you are, the longer your sleep inertia will last. Sleep Medicine Review notes that sleep inertia can last as little as a minute or as long as four hours, if a person is very sleep deprived. This is why on some days, when you’ve gotten enough sleep, you might be able to wake up and feel energetic, while on other days, you might feel tired and exhausted. The average amount of time sleep inertia lasts is 30 minutes.
What does this tell us about driving safety? As general rule, you shouldn’t just crawl out of bed and hop behind the wheel. Give your body at least an hour to wake up. Plan your mornings, so that you can wake up more naturally. Give yourself time for a shower and a good breakfast in the morning. This is not only healthier, but will also reduce the chances that you’ll experience sleep inertial while driving. You should also aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. If you find yourself not getting enough sleep, you’ll need more time in the morning to wake up. Listen to your body, and if you feel too tired to drive, consider alternatives like public transportation, a ride share, or car pool with a co-worker.
Why does sleep inertia happen? According to QZ, the brain needs time to get its “systems going.” Sleep inertia is believed to be linked to blood flow in the brain.
Waking from a deep sleep can increase your risk of sleep inertia. In the earlier parts of the night, you are more likely to be in a deep sleep. This is why you feel more tired when you wake up too early. If you let yourself have a longer sleep cycle, you’ll be more likely to wake up feeling rested, because you’ll be more likely to wake up during a lighter time in your sleep cycle.
How do you know if you have sleep inertia? Do you feel the urge to hit the snooze button when you wake up? If you do, you probably are not getting enough sleep. Rather than hitting the snooze button 5 times, consider trying to get to bed one to two hours earlier every night.
Whatever you do, don’t get behind the wheel right after you just wake up. According to WebMD, the effects of sleep inertia, at its worst, can be just as bad as being legally drunk. Sleep inertia studies are being used to help workers like doctors and ambulance drivers understand how long they need to wait after they wake before they are fully functional. If you wouldn’t want a drunk doctor treating you in the ER, you don’t want one suffering from sleep inertia, either.
So, what can you do to stay safe and avoid sleep inertia in the mornings? Get 8 hours of sleep, and ideally more than 8.5 hours every night. Prioritize your sleep. Give yourself at least an hour in the morning to wake up. And have a back-up plan for getting to work, if you find yourself feeling too groggy to drive.
Driving safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you or a loved one was hurt due to the actions of a groggy or fatigued driver, you may have the right to seek damages under the law. The Schuller Law Office are car accident lawyers in Toledo, Ohio who work with victims and their families to help them seek damages after a crash. You may be entitled to seek a recovery for your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Visit our firm at https://schullerlaw.net/ to learn more about how we may be able to protect your rights.

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