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Why Do I Wake up Tired? Causes and Fixes

Discover common reasons and solutions for waking up tired. Start sleeping better today.

Vicki Chen
Writer at Motion
Mar 25, 2024
Table of contents

“Is it time to get up already?”

This question floats through your mind as you hit the snooze button. And you’re not alone — you’re part of the one in five adults worldwide who experience tiredness lasting up to six months.

So, how can you break this cycle and wake up refreshed? Read on to find out the causes and discover practical fixes to improve your sleep quality.

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Why do I need good sleep?

With busy schedules and never-ending demands, it’s often easy to let sleep slip to the bottom of our priority list. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that 13.5% of adults aged 18 and older feel exhausted most days or even every day.

But good sleep is important as it:

Enhances cognitive functions

Getting adequate rest can sharpen your cognitive abilities. Sleep significantly improves your memory, focus, and alertness.

A well-rested brain is able to process information more efficiently, which means you can understand new concepts quicker and solve complex problems more effectively. This improved cognitive state can help you stay productive at work and boost your job performance.

Promotes better physical health

Sleep plays an incredibly important part in the body’s restoration process. As you slumber, your body takes care of muscle repair and growth, tissue repair, hormone regulation, and immune system functioning.

Without enough sleep, your physical health suffers. Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. Prioritizing sleep can help prevent or reduce your risk of developing these health issues.

Regulates mood and well-being

Seven in 10 young Americans say sleep has a direct impact on their mood.

7 out of 10 people wake up moody

High-quality sleep strengthens your emotional resilience and stress-coping mechanisms, which help you regulate mood swings. This can lead to lower rates of depression, anxiety, and emotional distress.

Why do I wake up tired?

Regardless of the number of hours you sleep, you may still wake up tired. But why?

Let’s crack the code and figure out why tiredness may be clinging to you like a bad dream.

1. Sleep inertia

Do you wake up feeling groggy? Well, that’s sleep inertia — temporary disorientation and sluggishness experienced right after waking up. It can last from 15 to 60 minutes or even longer, disrupting your morning routine and impacting your work performance.

If you have an irregular sleep schedule or do shift work, you are more likely to experience sleep inertia because an inconsistent sleep schedule throws off your internal clock. Your brain doesn’t have enough time to prepare to wake up, so you end up waking up during a sleep cycle. This interrupts your natural progression from deep sleep to lighter stages, which leaves you feeling foggy and “out of it.”

2. Blue light exposure

Many of us relax and decompress at the end of the day by scrolling through social media or binge-watching Netflix. In fact, 58% of Americans say they look at screens within an hour before bedtime.

However, sleep research suggests that light exposure affects your production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep and regulates sleep patterns. Melatonin production naturally increases as night falls, but blue light exposure tricks your body into thinking it's still daytime and suppresses your production of this hormone.

3. Disrupted circadian cycle

The circadian cycle or sleep-wake cycle is your body’s internal clock that regulates your feelings of sleepiness and alertness over a 24-hour period.

Circadian cycle details

‎If you sleep at irregular hours or make drastic changes to your sleep schedule, your circadian rhythm gets thrown off balance. This makes it hard to fall and stay asleep because your body's internal clock is confused about what time it is.

Think of your circadian rhythm as a dimmer switch. Normally, melatonin production decreases in the morning so that you feel awake and ramps up in the evening to prepare you for sleep. When your sleep schedule is erratic, that switch gets flipped on and off at random times. Your body is then confused by sleep-wake cues, making it hard to fall asleep when you want to and sleep through the night.

4. Anxiety or depression

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you might also struggle with sleeping, as both conditions keep your mind in a hyperactive state. Research shows that 75% of people with depression have trouble falling or staying asleep.

Imagine the struggle of trying to sleep with a racing mind full of worries or negative thoughts. It becomes nearly impossible to slow down or switch off your mind, even if you’re exhausted. This leads to fragmented sleep or multiple middle-of-the-night wakeups that leave you feeling tired in the morning.

5. Bad sleep environment

It turns out that noise, light, room temperature, and even your bedding can mess with your sleep quality.

Noise can prevent you from falling into deep sleep, while uncomfortable temperatures can prevent your body from relaxing. A worn-out mattress or unsupportive pillows can also cause discomfort that disrupts your sleep throughout the night. All of this can leave you feeling tired day after day.

Your bedroom should be your sleep sanctuary. To create a sleep-friendly environment, keep your room cool, dark, and quiet. No television in the background, and cover your windows with opaque curtains or blinds. If your mattress is worn out, it might be time to invest in a new one.

6. Too much caffeine or alcohol

Many rely on coffee for a morning boost, but that evening cup might not be the best idea. Consuming too much caffeine near bedtime can interfere with your sleep.

Caffeine blocks a sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine and delays when you actually fall asleep. One study even found that caffeine delays the onset of REM sleep, the most restorative sleep stage.

Too much alcohol consumption before bed can also affect your sleep quality. Although it may seem easier to fall asleep after drinking, alcohol is actually a sedative that prevents you from getting the deep, restful sleep that your body needs.

As Dr. John Saito, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Public Awareness Advisory Committee, explains, “Sedation is not sleep. Alcohol consumption prior to sleep significantly disrupts normal restorative sleep.”

7. Not enough exercise

Lack of exercise can be a surprising culprit behind morning fatigue. Research shows that more physical activity is linked to better sleep. This is because regular exercise is a natural stress reliever. It helps you fall asleep faster and deeper.

Physical activity also tires your muscles out, making it easier to drift off to sleep. So, the next time you're thinking about skipping out on your workout, remember: a good sweat session could be your key to waking up feeling refreshed and energized.

8. Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, can make it hard to get a good night’s rest and wake up refreshed.

Person struggling to fall asleep

‎Unsure if you have a sleep disorder? If you answer yes to most of the following questions, you might want to consult a doctor or sleep specialist:

  • Do you take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep most nights?
  • Do you wake up frequently during the night and have trouble falling back asleep?
  • Do you wake up in the morning feeling tired and groggy, even if you slept for 7 to 8 hours?
  • Do you often find yourself feeling excessively sleepy during the day?

How do I stop waking up tired?

If you wake up tired, you’re part of the 1 in 3 adults who regularly don’t get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need.

But how can you break the cycle and maintain your sleep quality? Let’s take a look:

1. Set a consistent bedtime and wakeup time

Setting a sleep schedule helps regulate your body's internal clock — but consistency is key. Your body thrives on routine. Going to sleep and waking up at around the same time each day trains your body to wind down and feel alert at the proper times.

Build a regular routine by scheduling the same sleep and wakeup times on a smart calendar. Consciously scheduling your sleep and wake cycles helps you maintain a consistent sleep pattern, improving your overall quality of sleep.

Schedule recurring bedtime and wakeup times

‎2. Limit your screen time before bed

Scrolling through social media before bed might seem relaxing, but is looking at that latest viral trend really worth an hour of sleep? Studies show that 30 minutes of smartphone use before bed can cause you to lose an hour of sleep each night.

Limiting your screen time at least an hour before your bedtime can help prevent sleep disruptions. If you must use your phone to set an alarm or check tomorrow’s schedule, set it to sleep mode. This reduces the amount of blue light emitted and creates a more sleep-friendly screen tone.

3. Develop a pre-sleep routine

A relaxing bedtime routine acts like a cue to your body. It signals that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. In fact, 76% of adults who follow a bedtime routine report having higher sleep quality.

Calming activities, such as taking warm baths, reading, and meditating, can help you relax and prepare your body for sleep. Commit to your pre-sleep routine by intentionally blocking out time in Motion. That way, you'll have a time slot allocated to doing nothing but your wind-down activities every night.

Block time for pre-sleep activities

‎4. Practice good sleep hygiene

Create a comfortable sleeping environment for yourself. After all, humans spend a third of their lives sleeping.

Make sure you keep the room temperature on the cooler side and have comfortable bedding. You can also minimize noise with a white noise machine.

A calming environment will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. As a result, you’ll be more likely to wake up refreshed and ready to start the day.

5. Stop hitting “snooze”

Many of us are so used to reaching for our phones and hitting that snooze button. But this can actually disrupt your sleep cycle and lead to sleep inertia. So, instead, set your alarm for the latest possible wakeup time and resist that urge to snooze.

Ilene Rosen, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, explains, “For most of us, that alarm is going off at a time when we are likely having REM sleep, one of the most restorative stages of sleep.” But when REM is interrupted, you don’t return to the same stage. So, that extra nine minutes of snoozing isn’t, in fact, helpful.

6. Exercise regularly

People who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day sleep an average of 15 minutes longer than those who don’t.

However, avoid doing any high-intensity workouts close to bed, as that sort of exercise can release endorphins and energize your body instead of preparing it for rest. Morning or afternoon workouts are ideal.

That said, we know that life throws curveballs. Fortunately, whether it’s a work meeting that runs late, unexpected errands, or last-minute social plans, Motion can reschedule your day to ensure you can get a workout in and reap the sleep benefits.

Motion reschedules your day

‎7. Mind your diet

Studies show that diet influences our sleeping habits more than previously thought. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Consume mineral-rich foods for a more restorative sleep
  • Stay away from heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime
  • Limit your caffeine, alcohol, and sugar intake
  • Opt for foods that are rich in magnesium and melatonin, such as spinach, avocados, bananas, almonds, and even dark chocolate

8. Learn to manage stress and anxiety

While this point is easier said than done, there are a variety of techniques you can try. Mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises have been proven to help manage stress levels and promote relaxation.

Motion can also help. By optimizing your daily schedule and prioritizing your most important tasks, you can tackle that evening stress and anxiety. No more scrambling to figure out what to do first thing tomorrow.

This sense of control puts your mind at ease, allowing you to drift off to sleep without a worry.

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‎Build a consistent sleep schedule with Motion

Let Motion help you schedule sleep routines, minimize distractions, and optimize your day to ensure you get restful sleep. Give us a try today, and wake up tomorrow feeling refreshed.

Vicki Chen
Vicki Chen is a content writer and marketer using proven storytelling methods to create high-quality copy and content for SaaS companies. When she's not writing, she's spending time with Taco, her rescue dog.
Written by Vicki Chen