The effect of artificial dawn during the last 30 min of sleep on subsequent dissipation of sleep inertia was investigated, including possible involvement of cortisol and thermoregulatory processes. Sixteen healthy subjects who reported difficulty with waking up participated in random order in a control and an artificial dawn night. Sleep inertia severity was measured by subjective ratings of sleepiness and activation, and by performance on an addition and a reaction time task measured at 1, 15, 30, 45, 60, and 90 min after waking up at habitual wake up time at workdays. At all intervals, saliva samples were collected for cortisol analysis. Sleep electroencephalogram was recorded during the 30 min prior to waking up; core body temperature and skin temperatures were recorded continuously until 90 min after waking up. Subjective sleepiness was significantly decreased and subjective activation increased after waking up in the artificial dawn condition as compared with control, in which lights were turned on at waking up. These effects can be explained by effects of artificial dawn on skin temperature and amount of wakefulness during the 30 min prior to the alarm. Artificial dawn accelerated the decline in skin temperature and in the distal-to-proximal skin temperature gradient after getting up. No significant effects of artificial dawn on performance, core body temperature, and cortisol were found. These results suggest that the physiology underlying the positive effects of artificial dawn on the dissipation of sleep inertia involves light sleep and an accelerated skin temperature decline after awakening. © 2010 European Sleep Research Society.