How long does it take for your brain to wake up?

In this article we are going to answer the question ‘’How long does it take for your brain to wake up?’’ We will explain why it costs so much to get up in the morning and what happens in your brain during this process.

How long does it take for your brain to wake up?

The brain takes 30 minutes to wake up, this period is called ‘’sleep inertia’’ it is characterized by a marked reduction in alertness, increased drowsiness, and poor brain performance.

Waking up in the morning is entering a zombie mode where ideas circulate thickly through a lethargic brain. This mental pie affects us all and, unfortunately, it takes much longer to dissipate than we would like.

For us, who have to face the demands of the job or the university, a real eternity passes. Now, a team of researchers at the University of California has just discovered through a study what mechanism is behind this daze: it is called sleep inertia and, as the authors themselves indicate, there is little we can do against it.

To reach this conclusion, the scientists had 34 participants take 45-minute naps where they entered two periods of deep sleep known as N2 and N3.

Five minutes after waking up, they had to solve a math test and, 25 minutes later, another test. Unsurprisingly, participants made more mistakes as soon as they woke up, and brain scans indicate why:

Even though the participants’ bodies were awake and moving five minutes later, their brains were still asleep in certain capacities.

“When we wake up from sleep, our brain does not immediately change from a dream state to a fully awake state, but instead goes through a transition period called sleep inertia. During this period, the brain progressively changes from sleep to wakefulness. normal, and so does our cognitive performance,”

The lead author of the study, Raphael Vallat, tells Inverse, who estimates the time it takes for our brain to regain” functional segregation “, that is, its ability to oscillate at about 30 minutes. between focused and unfocused mental modes.

Unfortunately, and according to Vallat himself, there is not much we can do to speed up this process, not even the godly caffeine:

“There are some results that show that caffeine increases functional segregation between the networks of active tasks and those of negative tasks., thus improving the brain’s abilities to switch between these two modes, but it takes 30 to 60 minutes for caffeine to reach its maximum level ”.

In other words, by the time it takes effect on us we have already overcome the inertia of sleep. The best thing you can do is be patient and, according to Vallat, “wait a few minutes before making important decisions.”

What is the inertia of sleep, the state that causes your clumsiness after waking up

If you are one of those who after getting up you are clumsy and cannot even speak to you because of a bad mood, you should know that it is not something that is linked to personality but to a neural phenomenon. Actually, according to science, it is a state that most of us go through when we wake up, called sleep inertia.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) lists sleep inertia as a type of parasomnia that can affect both adolescents and adults. And a 2006 Harvard University study described this phase as “the decline in cognitive performance that occurs immediately after waking up, decaying for tens of minutes.”

Specifically, and according to another experiment led by Dr. Raphael Vallat of the University of Berkeley in California, this time of “clumsiness” is characterized by a marked reduction in alertness, increased drowsiness and poor brain performance.

This experiment measured the brain activity of 34 people at 3 different times: 45 minutes before napping, 5 minutes after waking up, and then once again after 25 minutes. The results of this research did indeed verify a decrease in brain performance that lasted for about half an hour.

The deeper we sleep, the effects of sleep inertia are more pronounced

In addition, it also certified that during the time that sleep inertia lasts, the brain continues to perform functions that are exclusive to when we are sleeping. And that if sleep was interrupted in a deep phase of it, the dips in brain performance were even greater.

This study, one of the most recent, was published in the scientific journal NeuroImage in 2018 and based its research on sleep inertia on participant performance tests, EEGs, and MRI.

However, other previous works studied this phenomenon, the considerations to take into account according to the activities carried out immediately after waking up and the possible ways to counteract it.

Risk professions

A 2016 University of South Australia study highlighted this process as a concern for workers on duty or performing maximum security duties immediately after waking up. This research pointed out how sleep inertia may have influenced serious accidents. For example, in the one that occurred in India in 2010, when a plane crash left 158 ​​dead.

The Indian government, in a report on a plane crash in 2010, attributed the causes to a state of inertia in the dream of one of the pilots.

The Indian government report concluded that “the pilot had slept for a long time during the flight, which may have caused sleep inertia. As a result of the relatively short time between waking up and having to maneuver, possibly contributed to errors in making decisions “.

The University of South Australia study evaluated how much sleep inertia could be counteracted by consuming caffeine, washing your face, or varying the light, temperature and sound within the room.

The results determined that none of these factors produced a significant change in sleep inertia until at least 15 minutes after waking up.

Therefore, they recommended continuing research and avoiding tasks that require safety and maximum concentration immediately after getting out of bed.

The definitive method to facilitate your awakening and wake up with more vitality

Is it hard for you to wake up? And even more to get out of bed? Do you have the feeling that your brain doesn’t start up until mid-morning? Are you one of those who just got up can’t even stand to be talked to?

Quiet! Seiji Nishino, professor in the department of Psychiatry at Stanford University and with a long and recognized career researching sleep, assures that this can easily change, that getting up as new only depends on you.

And in his book The Art of Rest (Kitsune Books) he details the method and offers a series of natural tricks to achieve an easier and more vital awakening.

Nishino gives the keys to solve any problem related to sleep, from insomnia to getting up early, through nighttime stress or insufficient rest, starting from a theoretical basis based on scientific research on the physiology of sleep and wakefulness for a then offer some simple routines that facilitate a good rest and a better awakening.

Because, to get up well, with vitality, the first thing is to get an optimal rest at night, which for the Japanese researcher has more to do with the quality of sleep than with the quantity.

1. Boost the quality of your sleep

Dr. Nishino’s method of achieving restful sleep involves taking a hot bath about 90 minutes before bedtime to increase body temperature and then adjusting to match our first sleep cycle.

And since the quality of sleep is induced by a gradual decrease in internal temperature, the researcher urges to wear breathable pyjamas and not to use many blankets or to bundle up too much. Let alone go to bed with socks on! In fact, science says that sleeping in a cold room is better for health.

On the other hand, to rest well you have to “turn off the switch” of the mind. And that is not achieved with visual stimuli from the screens, but with boring and monotonous routines before bedtime, such as preparing the next day’s clothes, cleaning the skin of the face, or a relaxing activity such as meditating or reading a book.

2. Set two alarms, 20 minutes apart

To improve our awakening, the researcher recommends doing it in advance, setting two alarms: one twenty minutes before the time we have to get up and the other at which the alarm clock would normally sound.

The method and the 20-minute interval is based on the knowledge that the REM phase of sleep (lighter sleep, with eye movements and dreams) is longest in the morning and on the fact that the change from the non-REM phase REM occurs within about 20 minutes.

And is that waking up in one phase or another of sleep affects how we wake up. If you feel groggy when the alarm goes off, you may have been pulled out of your REM phase.

Therefore, the advice of the Stanford researcher is to set the first alarm at low volume, in case we are in the NREM period (deep sleep) and a second alarm, at the usual volume, trusting that in the course of those twenty minutes between one and Another is the phase change and one can then wake up more easily and less groggy.


3. Wake up to natural light

A determining factor between sleep and wakefulness is exposure to light. Our eyes are equipped with light-sensitive proteins that, when activated, control the release of melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.

In addition, sunlight is a powerful switch, affecting our biological clock and giving the order to start the day. That is why the sleep specialist advises leaving the curtains or blind partially open at night to wake up with light.

In addition, to enhance wakefulness and vitality, he advises exposing oneself to the morning light, having breakfast in a lighted corner or taking a short morning walk to get active.

4. Go barefoot

A good way to facilitate wakefulness, to “wake up” the body, is to reduce the external temperature of the skin. Although there are many ways to do it, the researcher proposes to do it by stepping on the ground with bare feet because the feet contain very efficient nerve endings for regulating temperature, so that the cold ground will awaken our senses.

5. Wash your face with cold water

Another very effective method to lower skin temperature and help us wake up and clear ourselves up is to wash our face with cold water, which refreshes –physically and mentally– immediately.

In this article we answered the question ‘’How long does it take for your brain to wake up?’’ We explained why it costs so much to get up in the morning and what happens in your brain during this process.

Now that you know how long it takes for your brain to wake up and how to facilitate this process, wake up!

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Betuel, E. (2018, October 24). Brain Scans Reveal Why It Takes So Long to Wake Up in the Morning. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from Inverse website:’s%20results%20show%20that%20during,minutes%20to%20fully%20achieve%20this.