You have a big day tomorrow. You get everything ready, hop into bed tired, and set your alarm. Except, when you do wake up, you find yourself even more exhausted than when you went to bed. It’s the start of another long, sleepy day.
Does this sound like you? If you find yourself constantly tired in the mornings, there may be a reason for it — something you can actually control. This article will cover the most common reasons we wake up tired in the mornings and what you can do about it. Finally, a restful night’s sleep is at hand.
Reasons You’re Tired When You Wake up
The complete list of reasons we wake up feeling tired is near exhaustive. Categories for these reasons range from biological to environmental and even genetic. Below are the most commonly occurring explanations and methods to change them. However, if you are having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping restfully, see your doctor for a more thorough diagnosis.
The REM Cycle is Interrupted
When we go to sleep, we go through four different stages. The first three stages are called NREM, or Non-Rapid Eye Movement, stages. The final stage, REM sleep, is when our bodies are at full rest and is also the stage we tend to dream in.
The first stage, or light sleep, usually lasts about five to 10 minutes. Here your body relaxes and your breathing slows. It is very easy to be woken up from this stage.
The second stage puts your body into sleep mode. You can still be woken up easily, but your body is preparing for the deep sleep to come: your heart rate slows, and your core temperature drops.
The third stage is one of the most crucial. The deep NREM sleep stage is where our bodies repair cells and fight illness and infection. By the time the three NREM stages are complete, you will have been asleep for about an hour and a half.
Then you enter REM sleep. During this ten-minute stage, you are at your deepest level of sleep. The body is preparing for waking up or reversing the sleep stages, and our brains are highly active, leading to dreams. Once REM is complete, the process starts all over again.
If you wake up in the third NREM stage or the REM stage, your body won’t be prepared. You can feel disoriented, confused or unaware. While it is difficult to wake from these stages, it isn’t impossible.
Alarms, for example, will raise us out of deep sleep. If we wake during these two stages, regardless of how long we have been asleep, we will feel tired and groggy for hours.
To help avoid this, make sure your alarm is set in increments of 100 minutes from when you fall asleep. Doing so will wake you up when you are in one of the first two stages of sleep, and you will feel much more refreshed, alert and ready to go.
Food and Drink
We seldom compare what we eat with how we sleep, but we should. Often, we will sit and relax after a long day waiting for the proper bedtime. We will read, watch television or play on our phones and tablets.
During this time, we may also enjoy a snack. While there isn’t anything wrong with this, it may affect how well your sleep and for how long.
If you have a drink at night before bed, it should be plain water. Anything with caffeine is going to mess with your heart rate for several hours after you finish the drink. This can affect how long you stay sleep cycles, or if you even enter them at all.
And let’s not forget about our bladder. Filling your system with liquids will eventually need to come out. When our bodies relax during sleep, the bladder fills more frequently. If you drink too much just before bed, you may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself.
Food can have similar effects. Anything you eat with sugar in it will affect your insulin levels and your heart rate. Both can lead to a restless night’s sleep and feeling even more tired when you get up in the morning.
If you do drink caffeine, you should stop about 2 or 3 pm to give the sugar time to exit your system. If you eat a snack at night, it should be nuts, grains or vegetables. Fruits have natural sugars which will be processed by your body just like a piece of cake will.
Try not to eat two hours before going to bed and finish your drinks at least an hour and a half before going to bed. This will help your body process everything you have ingested, so it doesn’t have to do it while you are asleep.
Now that portable screens are highly popular, we use them at night to help make the transition from day to night. We may get in bed and turn on the television in our bedrooms or play a game on the phone or tablet.
We do this under the false assumption that we are relaxing and will soon go to sleep. While it is true that you will eventually fall asleep, the longer you look at that screen, the longer it will take.
If the device remains on, you also won’t spend as much time in the third stage of NREM sleep or in REM sleep, which will result in a less restful night.
The screens emit light and keep our brains more active, which is something you need to try to avoid when going to sleep.
To combat the problem, you should avoid using any light emitting device when you are in bed. Instead, you can listen to the radio, or read a book. Because there isn’t a movement or direct light into the eye, your brain can begin to slow down and prepare your body for sleep.
Removing the electronics from your sleep preparation will give you a chance to relax fully and let your body do what it needs to while you are sleeping, which ends up in a deeper, more restful sleep.
During the day or our lives in general, we are going to have some stress. Some will naturally dissolve into nothingness and others will stick around for a while. In extreme cases, we may even develop anxiety.
These situations can lead to restless sleep, or even difficulty getting to sleep. Once we are asleep, though, the brain still focuses on the stress causing attributes. Doing so makes us wake up more frequently, spend less time in the deeper stages of the sleep cycle and awaken groggy and irritable.
While we can’t really do much about the stress when it is bedtime, there are things you can do to help your mind transition off the stress issues and allow you to prepare your body for sleep. Reading is common as it allows both sides of our brains to focus on something else for a little bit while getting our body ready for slumber.
If you aren’t a nighttime reader, you can also try yoga or meditation, listen to relaxing music or those sound effects tapes. Forcing your body into a state of calm will reduce the build-up of stress that causes our body to tense up. The more relaxed our body is, the easier it is for our brains to take over and put us to sleep for the night.
There are several aspects to sleeping that we may not be aware of interfering with our sleep cycles. Sleep apnea, for example, prevents us from getting to the deep stages of sleep and won’t allow our bodies to rest.
Other conditions like sleep apnea should be diagnosed by a doctor. If you find that you are waking up tired and feel that you haven’t gotten any (or enough) sleep even though you were knocked out for several hours, you should call your doctor.
Having a condition diagnosed will allow proper treatment so you can finally get the sleep you desire and need.
Sleep comes to us all, eventually. However, if you are waking up still feeling tired, there may be simple fixes to your issue.
You will want to avoid visual and brain stimulation created by movement and direct light from small screens. You should also put down the caffeine in the early afternoon and avoid having snacks that contain sugar before bed.
You also need to allow for uninterrupted REM cycles, totaling six to seven hours of sleep (5 or more complete REM cycles). Doing so should increase the likelihood of waking up refreshed and ready to go.
In the event you have a medical condition preventing your restful sleep habits, you should be evaluated by a doctor. Treatments are available and based on the specific condition that is preventing your restful sleep.