Investigating the science of waking up

  • March 8, 2021
Investigating the science of waking up

A new study led by Andrea Luppi investigates the links between the groggy state some people feel when they wake up and neural inertia.

By assessing each patient’s individual susceptibility to sleep inertia and current sleep debt, anaesthetists may be able to estimate individual likelihood of their patient experiencing neural inertia.

Andrea Luppi and colleagues

Do you wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy? That’s the traditional depiction of a good night’s sleep, but for many it is not the case. In the first minutes or hours after waking up, they feel groggy and lethargic.

This grogginess is called “sleep inertia” and a new study, led by a Gates Cambridge Scholar, investigates how it might apply to sleep induced by anaesthesia and how understanding it better may help patients to recover.

Sleep inertia varies across people and those with conditions such as narcolepsy suffer most. It is also more common when we don’t get enough sleep.

In the study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, Andrea Luppi [2017] and colleagues propose that sleep inertia also occurs when people are waking up from artificial sleep induced by anaesthesia.

This “neural inertia” has been described as the difference between the dose of anaesthetic needed to bring
people in and out of unconsciousness and is observed across different species, from invertebrates to
mammals.

Sleep inertia is known to increase with age, and the researchers argue that, if neural inertia is just a form of sleep inertia, it may explain why older people are also more susceptible to neural inertia.

They say testing for individual patients’ susceptibility to sleep inertia may therefore help anaesthetists to predict the occurrence and extent of neural inertia.

They write: “If our hypothesis is correct, then it could have implications for clinical practice: by assessing each patient’s individual susceptibility to sleep inertia and current sleep debt, anaesthetists may be able to estimate individual likelihood of their patient experiencing neural inertia. In turn, this may better equip them to counteract adverse effects such as post-anaesthetic delirium.”

Andrea is doing a PhD in Clinical Neurosciences with the support of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

*Picture credit: young woman sleeping by Pedros Simoes, Portugal. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Latest News

‘Glaring’ lack of diversity identified in journal editorial teams

Only a third of editors on journal editorial teams in environmental sciences and public health are women and less than a quarter are affiliated to institutions in low- and middle- income countries, according to a new study. The study, “Challenging the “Old Boys Club” in Academia: Gender and Geographic Representation in Editorial Boards of Journals […]

Exploring at the intersection of humanities and technology

Alex Mentzel has lived many careers and he’s still only in the first part of his life. Brought up in a musical family, he worked as an actor in film, tv and musical theatre, co-founded an app that aims to provide accurate and potentially life-saving information to people living in conflict zones and is now […]

Gates Cambridge announces new Provost

The Gates Cambridge Trust is delighted to announce that its new Provost – its first female leader – will be Professor Eilís Ferran. Professor Ferran has a wealth of experience both as a distinguished academic and as a former Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations. She succeeds Professor Barry Everitt as Provost on 1st October […]

Scholar selected as member of Junge Akademie

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been admitted to Germany’s prestigious Die Junge Akademie. Andrea Binder is one of 10 new members to be admitted to the academy.  It provides interdisciplinary and socially relevant spaces for outstanding young academics from German-speaking countries. Die Junge Akademie was founded in 2000 as a joint project of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and […]