The process of waking up from an episode of sleep can produce temporary deficits in cognitive functioning and low levels of alertness and vigilance, a process referred to as sleep inertia. Cognitive ability varies as a function of time-of-day; cognitive ability associated with sleep inertia also shows circadian influences with deleterious effects most pronounced when awakened from biological night, possibly paralleling the core body temperature minimum. The length of the sleep episode may contribute to the severity of sleep inertia. Short sleep episodes (<20 min) produce little cognitive impairment, probably because of a lack of slow-wave sleep in the sleep episode. With longer sleep episodes, aspects of sleep depth such as percentage of slow-wave sleep or total length of the sleep episode may be important. Finally, myriad tasks have been used to measure sleep inertia effects, and cognitive deficits associated with waking up have been demonstrated on both simple and complex tasks for both speed and accuracy. More research is needed on how the type of task may interact with sleep inertia. Tests that measure known specific aspects of cognition and that can be mapped to brain systems and neurotransmitters (e.g., the Attentional Network Test: ANT) are recommended to further understand how information processing during the process of awakening is distinct from other aspects of awareness.