The Betterment Project
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What It Means When You’re Waking Up Tired

Waking up tired is frustrating. No one is actually expecting to wake up to the sound of Edvard Grieg’s “Morning Mood” playing with birds lightly chirping, but most of us do hope to wake up feeling like we’ve sufficiently rested.


When you wake up feeling groggy and just as tired as you were when you climbed into bed, you probably grab an extra cup of coffee and plan to go to bed even earlier than the night before. That’s because the occasional feeling of being tired when you wake up isn’t usually sending up any red flags.


However, when you’re waking up feeling tired for the third or fourth time this week, it’s easy to feel frustrated and a little concerned. When this becomes a recurring event, it’s time to take action. It’s a good idea to understand the causes for waking up tired and how you can improve your sleep hygiene and the quality of the sleep you’re getting so you can wake up bright-eyed for a change. 


Why Am I Still Tired?


Occasionally waking up tired isn’t much cause for alarm, but if you feel it’s frequently occurring, it may be time to discuss it with your health care physician. There can be underlying causes, so be sure to pay attention to your body, your habits, other symptoms, and lifestyle changes to form a better understanding of what’s happening. 


Here are some of the common causes for waking up tired:


Sleep Inertia


If you feel like waking up to start the day is the hardest part of your day, you may struggle with
sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is the period of transition from being asleep to being awake. For some people, it can last for several minutes, and for some people, it can last several hours. Sleep inertia results in impaired performance, reduced ability to respond to danger, and the desire to just go back to sleep. 


In the song “9 to 5”, Dolly Parton describes tumbling out of bed, stumbling to the kitchen, and pouring a cup of “ambition” (a.k.a. coffee). This fun intro perfectly describes sleep inertia, but morning coffee and shower don’t help sleep inertia. This could be attributed to delays in the transition through sleep phases in the sleep cycle. 


It’s more pronounced when you are woken up suddenly from a deep sleep. Ensuring you get an adequate amount of time to cycle through your sleep phases may help, and some apps can help wake you during the correct sleep phase to help you struggle less with sleep inertia. 


Consider a supplement like Complete Calm Sleep Gummies from ASYSTEM to help you fall asleep at night and stay asleep at night. A natural supplement can aid in your ability to wake up rested and less groggy. Our gummies are proven to improve sleep, so you wake up feeling refreshed, fall asleep faster, and leave you without daytime grogginess.



Poor Sleep Hygiene


According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene refers to both your bedroom environment and your daily routines that promote quality sleep. When you practice good
sleep hygiene, you should not only sleep better, but you should also enjoy a full day of being awake and alert. 


If you’re unsure about your sleep hygiene, here are some things to consider that could be contributing to poor sleep hygiene:


  • Inconsistent bedtimes and wakeup times
  • Daytime naps that are too lengthy (longer than 30 minutes)
  • Watching tv or looking at your cell phone or tablet until just before bed
  • Sleeping in a space that’s not cool enough, not dark enough, or not quiet enough
  • Sleeping in a space that doesn’t have comfortable bedding

Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to improve your sleep hygiene. If this is your culprit, you have the power to change.


Contributing Factors From Lifestyle Choices


Poor sleep hygiene can be one factor, but choices we make regarding diet and lifestyle can impact our sleep and how tired we feel when we wake up. 


Some common lifestyle choices that can have you waking up still tired include:

  • Inadequate amounts of exercise: Regular and consistent exercise can help contribute to getting a good night’s sleep regularly. It’s not recommended that you exercise just before bedtime because it can actually make you feel too alert to fall asleep. Still, it is recommended that adults get regular exercise to help them fall asleep and improve sleep quality.

  • Not getting enough natural light exposure. Taking in sunlight in the morning helps our brains start the circadian rhythm, which keeps us awake during the hours we’re supposed to be awake, but it also helps us fall asleep when it’s time to sleep. Without adequate exposure to natural light in this way, it can be challenging to regulate your body’s internal clock.

  • Caffeine too close to bedtime. Caffeine is a drug in the stimulant drug class. It is used worldwide to increase wakefulness, but consumption too close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep quickly. With a half-life of about 5 hours, it can take caffeine a while to leave your system entirely. Timing your last caffeine of the day can do wonders for your shuteye.

  • Excessive urination at night. Waking up to use the facilities in the middle of the night can be frustrating. Doing so frequently can be exhausting. A certain level of wakefulness occurs, and sometimes it can take the body a while to settle back down into sleep. To limit this sleep disruption, it may be necessary to limit your fluids before bed, but if the problem persists, it may be time to speak with your doctor.

Various Sleep Disorders


It’s unlikely that you would know you have a sleep disorder without speaking with a physician, but some common ailments that can contribute to waking up still feeling tired include:


  • Sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Bruxism
  • Periodic limb movements disorder

If one of these is to blame, you likely have other symptoms to couple with waking up tired. For this reason, it’s important to listen to your body and document anything of concern to provide your primary care physician with a clear picture of what you’re experiencing.


Improve Your Sleep Hygiene And Sleep Quality


Not everything that could be causing you to wake up tired is within your control, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best fighting chance at a restful night’s sleep. Here are some helpful tips to improve your sleep hygiene and your sleep quality.


  1. Set a schedule - Consistency is key, so arranging a time to go to bed will help you strive towards consistent sleep. 
  2. Set the mood - Having a cool, dark, quiet place to sleep can help set the mood for a peaceful night of sleep.
  3. Set the tone - Reducing blue light and practicing relaxing techniques can improve rest.
  4. Taking sleep supplements - No routine is perfect, but a natural supplement can help you rest more quickly and easily. 
  5. Sunlight exposure - Daily morning light exposure can set you up for a restful night’s sleep and leave you ready to face the following day with a little less sleep inertia.

It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor if you’re concerned about your sleep health, but it’s also essential to do your part for successful sleep.


Summary


Waking up tired is frustrating. Figuring out why you’re waking up tired can be a process, but when you do your part to give yourself a good night’s sleep, you can rest a little easier knowing that you’re doing the best thing for your body. A consistent schedule, a healthy lifestyle, and a little supplemental encouragement could be all you need to wake up ready to tackle the day.


Sources:

Sleep inertia and sleep drunkenness | ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

What Is Sleep Hygiene? | sleepfoundation.org 

Exercising for Better Sleep | hopkinsmedicine.org 

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Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

  • Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert

    Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.

  • Dominick Gauthier, Performance Expert

    Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)