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Study: Grogginess Can Have Dangerous Consequences

It takes time for most people to really wake up once they’re out of bed. A new study shows that in the first few minutes after awakening, our decision- making ability is no better than if we had too much to drink.

It's no wonder so many people drink coffee in the morning to get charged up for the day.

A new study conducted at the University of Colorado finds that the grogginess you feel when you just wake up can be more debilitating than getting no sleep at all. Josh Rodgers is a student who participated in the study. Here he is deeply asleep in a university lab.

During an observation, Josh was ask to get out of bed and walk over to a desk to take a simple math test, he didn’t move quickly or think clearly.

Josh says he had difficulty, "It's difficult. It's surprisingly difficult."

Professor Kenneth Wright led the study which has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We found that when you first wake up, your performance is actually worse than anything that we see across 26 hours of being awake."

Professor Wright also found when the poorest test scores were likely to occur.

"The most severe impairments are initially upon awakening with one's first few minutes."

Most of the grogginess -- called sleep inertia -- wore off within ten minutes of getting up. But for some people, it can last for up to 2 hours.

Professor Wright and other researchers tested a group of patients first after getting a full night's sleep for several weeks.

Then they tested them after staying up 26 hours straight.

The patients did better with no sleep at all.

Ruth Meyler travels a lot and can vouch for the research. She shares her experience, "I've been up for 36 hours straight ... and it's no problem."

There's a reason for that. Professor Wright says the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, like the rest of the body doesn't want to wake up when the alarm goes off.

"This is the area that is associated with our ability to think clearly, our ability to make decisions."

These findings are critical for doctors and other emergency workers and military personnel - people who often have to make important decisions -- sometimes life or death decisions -- while experiencing sleep inertia.

It's also something people who drive to work should consider. Professor Wright says most traffic accidents occur early in the morning when people are on their way to work.