Waking up in the morning feeling no more refreshed than you did when you went to bed is not a good way to start the day.
Unsurprisingly there are a lot of reasons why this might happen and we’re going to look at some of them here. We’ll look at the obvious, the conventional, and some newer understanding about sleep from sleep specialists.
There are links in the text taking you to further reading if you feel that this might be your reason for waking up tired.
The most obvious reason for feeling tired when you wake up is because of broken sleep. There are many many reasons for broken sleep – some of them you may be aware of and some you may not realize. These include:
Getting up to go to the bathroom.
In men over age 50 prostate problems become more common and this can lead to the need to get up to pee in the night. See your medical practitioner if you’re experiencing this and it’s affecting the total amount of sleep you’re getting, and your quality of life.
In men and women, an unstable bladder (sometimes called urge incontinence or irritable bladder) can also mean you need to get up to use the bathroom more frequently.
If you’re embarrassed about talking to your doctor about these issues then find some reassuring help here.
How old is your bed?
We spend 1/3 of our lives in our beds so it makes sense to replace them regularly.
The mattress springs, bed fibres and base structure all become worn out over time, making the bed more uncomfortable. Bed ageing and decay is a slow process so you may not even notice it until you look at the bed/mattress. Often people notice a difference if they’ve stayed in a comfortable (newer) hotel bed and then return home.
It is recommended that we buy a new bed every 8-10 years. There is bed buying advice here.
In addition, consider using a good mattress protector and investing in a good quality mattress overlay, sheets and pillow cases etc. All of these things add to your bed comfort, which in turn makes you more likely to sleep better.
Are you tired all the time anyway?
Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you feel tired all the time because you don’t sleep well, or you actually do sleep well but there’s something else that makes you tired all the time.
There is a variety of medical problems that can lead to a feeling of constant tiredness, from anaemia to thyroid problems. Finding and addressing a medical problem can set you straight.
Waking in the night because you’re drenched in sweat, or just generally too hot means that your total sleep time is reduced and there may also be a reduction in the quality of your sleep.
Very often the problem is simply that the room is the wrong temperature, or that the bedding (duvet/sheets/blankets etc) are too thick for your needs.
Restless legs syndrome.
That creepy, crawly feeling, or pins and needles that occurs in the legs, often at night while in bed, can also disturb sleep.
It is thought to affect 10-15% of the population at some time and there is some practical advice for restless leg syndrome here.
Do you (or your bed partner) snore?
While the noise itself is disturbing for the bed partner, if you are the snorer, it could mean something more serious.
If a snorer in the home is disturbing you, there is advice to naturally prevent snoring here. Working on the problem together takes a bit of patience, but is worth it for both of you.
If you snore and your bed partner says you have moments during sleep where you stop breathing, this may be sleep apnea. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but everyone who has sleep apnea snores (usually very loudly).
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that can have serious health consequences, as well as the feeling of tiredness on waking and all through the day.
Stress and anxiety.
Worry that keeps you awake will obviously impact your total sleep time and make you feel tired when you wake in the morning.
Addressing the stress is the only real answer (ie not taking sleep meds – that’s only a temporary fix). This short section on addressing stress does not mean to trivialize it; merely that it is such a large topic to cover.
CBT for sleep may help both with the stress and the lack of sleep it causes.
Meditation is a recommended drug-free stress reliever and is reported to help in every area of health and life.
How well do you really sleep?
We’ve looked at things that can mainly affect the QUANTITY of your sleep. If you don’t get 7-8 hours’ sleep time it’s likely that you will wake feeling unrefreshed and ready for another night’s sleep right away.
Now that science can show us more about what’s actually happening when we sleep, we know that the QUALITY of our sleep is as important as the quantity.
Sleep happens in stages and includes dream sleep (even if you don’t think you dream). Some stages are light sleep and some are deeper and during these different stages, the body gets on with the jobs of repair, rest, memory formation etc. These activities happen because of the various hormones and chemicals it releases and various sleep stages.
If these sleep patterns are altered in their quality and/or order, this can affect how tired or otherwise you feel on waking – even though you’ve had 8 hours of straight sleep.
Different sleep specialists have different theories about how best to treat poor sleep. Some talk about sleep debt and that total sleep time (using naps and catching up on sleep at the weekend if you lose sleep) is important. Others, like Dr Simon Kyle (lecturer in Clinical and Health Psychology University of Manchester, UK), point out that quality of sleep is best when a person has a good sleeping routine.
A good sleeping routine simply means having a regular bedtime, going to sleep time and waking time, each and every day. This routine allows the body to pass through its natural sleep cycles in the right order and for the right length of time.
There are times when life is busier, more stressful or exciting which makes sleep routine difficult to stick to. However, like having a basically good diet, if you stray from the ‘right’ way of doing things, you know how to come back on track.