Why Do I Wake Up Tired And How Can I Fix It?

Tired Young Woman Sitting on Bed

I’m sure we’ve all had nights like this: You get yourself ready for bed, doze off quickly, and despite sleeping through the night, you still wake up feeling tired in the morning. It’s frustrating to know that you’re getting your full night’s rest, and still feel awful.

Excessive daytime sleepiness can have serious consequences on your health including but not limited to obesity, cognitive decline, and increased risk of car accidents or accidents at work. 

Daytime sleepiness isn’t the same as normal fatigue though— while fatigue can be a part of inadequate sleep, it generally refers to a lack of energy that can also come from stress or boredom.

Signs of daytime sleepiness include:

  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Decreased alertness
  • Risky behavior

Daytime sleepiness isn’t something you should have to live with. Let’s take a look at what may cause daytime sleepiness, and what we can do to make sure you get a good night’s sleep each night.

What Causes Us to Wake Up Tired— Even After 8 Hours of Sleep?

There are certain lifestyle factors that could be disrupting your sleep, such as:

  • Going to bed at the wrong time, or having an inconsistent sleep schedule. Knowing your personal chronotype can help determine the best time for you to sleep.
  • Your bedroom environment may not be ideal for sleep
  • Your bed partner may be disrupting your sleep
  • Eating/Drinking certain things too soon before bed
  • Underlying Sleep Disorders

Certain sleep disorders can contribute to excessive sleepiness as well, including:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Irregular Sleep Cycles
  • Narcolepsy
  • Hypersomnia

The Connection Between Certain Lifestyle Factors and Waking Up Tired

I mentioned above that eating or drinking some things before bed can disrupt sleep. Two of the most common culprits here are caffeine and alcohol.

I think we’re all familiar with caffeine’s stimulant effect on our systems— many of us probably reach for the coffee first thing in the morning, and when we’re feeling sleepy in the afternoon. But you may want to watch when you drink your last cup of joe. A recent study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that consuming caffeine within six hours of bedtime can reduce total sleep time by up to 41 minutes.

Drinking alcohol before bed can really mess with your sleep quality too. Alcohol is often associated with sleep disorders like insomnia, circadian rhythm abnormalities, and short sleep duration. Consuming alcohol too close to bedtime can also cause snoring by relaxing the tissues in your throat.

Drowsiness is a side effect of many prescription drugs, but a number of medications can interfere with your sleep. Some of these ironically include prescription sleep aids, which can become less effective over time and interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Other medications, such as steroids, allergy medications, and antidepressants, may contain stimulants. Others may also wake you during the night with their side effects.

Blue light emitted by our electronic devices is harmful to our sleep as well. Blue light inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which can prevent you from falling asleep quickly, or staying asleep.

To learn how to keep these factors from affecting your sleep, read on.

Strategies to Not Wake Up Tired

There are holistic, healthy, and easy steps you can take towards improving your sleep quality. Check out these tips to help you feel great when you wake up in the morning.

1: Fall Asleep According to Your Chronotype

Your chronotype is a major factor in whether or not your sleep schedule will work for you. In fact, you can still wake up feeling terrible even after a full night’s sleep if you’re fighting your biological rhythms. Your Chronotype can help you determine when you tend to be most productive, as well as your ideal sleep schedule to encourage that productivity.

For more information about finding your Chronotype, check out my Chronotype Quiz.

2: Don’t Stay in Bed for Too Long

It’s really tempting to keep hitting the snooze button in the morning to catch some extra zzz’s, but it’s best to resist that temptation. Instead of getting more refreshing deep sleep, you’re getting fragmented sleep.

Make sure you set your alarm for right when you need to get up in the morning, or limit yourself to only one press of the snooze button.

3: Adjust Your Bedroom Environment

If your bedroom isn’t an ideal sleep environment, there are easy ways to fix that.

If you’re sensitive to light, remember to switch off all lights that can keep you up at night. Installing blackout curtains on your windows is helpful for reducing ambient light from outside as well.

If you’re sensitive to noise or if your sleep partner snores, earplugs are a widely accessible and affordable option. If you prefer some peaceful ambient noise, a white noise sound machine is a great option. You can also get the best features of the earplugs and the sound machine with the Bose Sleepbuds II, which block background noise while playing soothing sounds from Bose’s Sleep app.

Also, remember to stop using your electronic devices at least an hour before bed. This ensures that your body is able to produce melatonin and help you fall asleep on time.

4: Be Mindful of Caffeine, Alcohol, and Prescription Drugs

We went over the effects that caffeine, alcohol, and prescription drugs can have on your sleep above. Thankfully, there are easy ways to ensure they can’t wreak havoc on your sleep.

If you enjoy caffeinated beverages, try to stop consuming caffeine after 2:00 PM, or consider the non-caffeinated versions of your favorite beverages. Similarly, you want to stop drinking any alcoholic beverages about three hours before bed.

When it comes to your prescription drugs, it’s vital to talk to your doctor if you’re considering any changes in dosage, or when you take each medication. Work with your doctor to come up with a plan that allows you to maintain proper medication and get the rest you need. 

5: Get Tested for Sleep Disorders

If making other positive changes to your lifestyle doesn’t help you wake up feeling refreshed, then that may be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

As well as poor sleep quality, symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Loud snoring, or gasping/choking sounds during sleep
  • Struggles with memory, focus, or concentration
  • Fragmented sleep
  • Sleep paralysis

If you suspect that you or your sleep partner may have a sleep disorder, it’s important to get tested and potentially seek treatment right away. To find accredited sleep specialists and sleep centers in your area, check out the tool provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

A good night’s sleep isn’t just dependent on the number of hours you sleep— you can still wake up tired after a full night’s rest if your sleep quality is poor. Waking up tired can really ruin your day, and even be dangerous if it happens often. Thankfully though, there are easy lifestyle changes we can make to ensure we get the sleep quality we need, as well as the quantity.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD, FAASM

The Sleep Doctor