It’s not unusual to wake up feeling a bit groggy. For many people, it’s nothing a cup of coffee or shower can’t fix.
But if you regularly wake up tired, especially if you continue to feel fatigued throughout the day, there may be something else going on.
Here’s a look at some common causes of waking up tired.
Chances are, your morning grogginess is just sleep inertia, which is a normal part of the waking process. Your brain typically doesn’t instantly wake up after sleeping. It transitions gradually to a wakeful state.
During this transition period, you may feel groggy or disoriented. If you aren’t careful, you can easily fall back asleep.
Sleep inertia slows down your motor and cognitive skills, which is why it sometimes feels impossible to do anything right after you wake up.
Sleep inertia can last anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, though it typically improves within
If within the first few hours of falling asleep, you suddenly wake up from a deep sleep and are in a confused state, you may have sleep drunkenness.
Also called confusional arousals, sleep drunkenness is a sleep disorder that bypasses the inertia phase. An episode may last for up to 30 to 40 minutes. You may not even remember it occurred when you wake up to start the day.
You’re more likely to experience symptoms of sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness when you:
- don’t get enough sleep
- wake up abruptly from a deep sleep
- set your alarm for earlier than usual
what you can do
Sleep inertia is a natural part of waking up, but you can limit its effects by:
- regularly getting a full night’s sleep
- limiting naps to less than 30 minutes
- drinking coffee or another caffeinated beverage when you get up
If your symptoms persist, visit your primary healthcare provider. They can rule out an underlying sleep disorder.
Blue light is any artificial lighting that emits blue wavelengths, which aren’t necessarily a bad thing. During daylight hours, they can boost alertness and mood. But this isn’t the vibe you’re going for when you’re heading off to bed.
Energy-efficient lighting and electronic screens have increased our exposure to blue light, especially after sundown.
Blue light, more than other types of light, suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, which is your sleep-wake cycle. This makes it harder for you to get good-quality sleep, which can leave you feeling tired the next morning.
what you can do
To reduce the impact of blue light on your sleep:
- Avoid screen time for two or three hours before you go to bed.
- Use dim red lights at night, which don’t have as powerful of a melatonin-suppressing effect on your circadian rhythm.
- Expose yourself to a lot of bright light during the day.
- Use blue-blocking glasses at night or an app that filters blue light if you have to use electronics at night.
A poor sleep environment can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
If your morning fatigue is accompanied by stiffness or aching body parts, your mattress could be to blame.
Mattresses are also home to common allergens — such as dust mites, which can cause nighttime sneezing and coughing, especially in people with allergies and asthma.
What you can do
Make sure your mattress isn’t hurting your sleep quality by:
- replacing your mattress every 9 or 10 years, ideally with a medium-firm mattress
- using a hypoallergenic mattress cover if you have allergies
Too-cold or too-hot bedroom
Being too hot or too cold can cause restlessness and make it hard for you to fall or stay asleep. Personal preference should play a role in your bedroom’s temperature, but a cooler room is better when it comes to a comfortable sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you still have trouble sleeping, warming your feet by wearing socks may help dilate blood vessels and adjust your internal thermostat.
A 2007 study shows that adults who wore unheated or heated socks to bed were able to fall asleep faster.
what you can do
Create the optimal temperature for quality sleep by:
- keeping your bedroom between 60°F and 67°F (15°C and 19°C)
- wearing socks to bed or placing a hot water bottle at your feet
- choosing appropriate sleepwear and bedding for your local climate
Even if you’re the type of person who can fall asleep with the TV on, noise can still have a big impact on your sleep quality.
Reducing background noise can help to increase the amount of deep sleep you get each night and decrease the number of times you wake up during the night.
What you can do
Even if you can’t get rid of the source of noise, you can try:
- sleeping with earplugs
- using a sound machine, which you can find on Amazon
- keeping your windows and bedroom door closed
What you consume before bed can keep you up at night and make you feel tired in the morning.
Too much caffeine
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that promotes alertness.
Having too much caffeine during the day or having it too close to bedtime can:
- make it harder to fall asleep
- make it harder to stay asleep
- increase the number of times you go to the bathroom overnight
Coffee, chocolate, and certain teas and soft drinks all contain caffeine. Caffeine can also be found in certain medications, including some prescription and over-the-counter pain-relieving medications.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
To keep caffeine from interfering with your sleep:
- Avoid having caffeine three to seven hours before bed.
- Limit your intake of coffee or other caffeinated beverages to one or two servings a day.
- Check medications for caffeine content.
Alcohol has been shown to have a sedative effect and make you sleepy, but it doesn’t lead to a good sleep. According to the Cleveland Clinic, alcohol increases the number of times you wake up once the relaxing effect wears off and prevents you from getting deep sleep.
The more alcohol you consume before bed, the more it disrupts your sleep, increasing your likelihood of waking up tired.
what you can do
You can prevent alcohol from affecting your sleep by:
- avoiding drinking alcohol in the evening
- limiting your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men
Drinking too much of anything too close to bedtime can make you frequently get up to urinate throughout the night. This can also happen in certain situations if you’re retaining a lot of fluid.
Excessive urination at night, also called nocturia, may also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. If you continue to wake up two or more times per night to urinate after limiting how much you drink before bed, speak to your doctor.
what you can do
You can reduce how often you get up to urinate by:
If nothing seems to be helping your morning grogginess, you may have an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders require diagnosis and treatment by a healthcare professional, who’ll likely have you come in for a sleep study.
Sleep movement disorders
Sleep movement disorders are conditions that cause movement before or during sleep, making it hard to fall or stay asleep.
Some common sleep movement disorders are:
- restless leg syndrome, which causes uncomfortable sensations in your legs and a strong urge to move them that intensifies when trying to sleep
- periodic limb movement disorder, which causes your limbs to flex, twitch, or jerk during sleep. Movements may occur every 20 to 40 seconds and may last up to an hour.
- bruxism, which involves clenching or grinding your teeth during sleep
Sleep apnea, usually obstructive sleep apnea, is a serious sleep disorder that causes your breathing to stop periodically in your sleep. You may not even realize you have the condition.
Other signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- gasping for air during sleep
- feeling tired after a full night’s sleep
- trouble staying asleep
- waking with dry mouth
- morning headaches
Insomnia involves having a hard time falling asleep or waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep. Short-term insomnia is very common and often caused by stress, a traumatic event, or sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, such as a hotel room.
Insomnia that lasts a month or more is considered chronic insomnia. This can be a condition itself or a symptom of an underlying issue.
Along with waking up tired, insomnia can also cause:
Waking up tired can often be remedied with a few changes to your sleeping habits and cutting back on caffeine or alcohol. If nothing seems to be helping, it’s best to follow up with your doctor to check for underlying conditions.
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