Most people wake up tired every now and then. Occasionally waking up tired is not usually a cause for concern.
However, frequently waking up tired can be a symptom of an underlying sleep habit or health condition. This may be especially likely if a person continues to feel tired throughout the day.
This article lists some of the most common reasons for waking up tired. It also outlines some treatments and home remedies that may help alleviate the issue.
There are several possible causes of tiredness upon waking. The following sections will outline some of these.
The term sleep inertia refers to the normal cognitive and sensory-motor impairments that occur immediately after waking.
Sleep inertia occurs when a person wakes suddenly from deep, or slow-wave, sleep. As a result, certain parts of their brain are not fully awake.
The brain stem, which controls basic functions, activates immediately after waking. The prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision making and self-control, can take up to 30 minutes to catch up.
Some symptoms of sleep inertia include:
- drowsiness or disorientation
- difficulty concentrating
- poor decision making
- difficulty performing fine motor tasks
Poor sleep hygiene practices
The National Sleep Foundation define sleep hygiene as a range of “practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”
Poor sleep hygiene can lead to poor quality sleep. Some examples of poor sleep hygiene practices include:
- not having a regular bedtime routine, which includes regular sleep and wake times
- taking daytime naps that exceed 30 minutes
- looking at phone or computer screens within 2 hours of going to bed
- having a sleeping environment that is too hot, too bright, or too loud
- having an uncomfortable mattress or pillow
Unhelpful lifestyle and dietary factors
Aside from poor sleep hygiene, several lifestyle and dietary factors can cause a person to wake up tired. These include:
- Not getting enough exercise: Getting regular daily exercise can promote a restful night’s sleep. However, people should avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime, as this increases alertness and can delay sleep.
- Getting inadequate exposure to natural light: People who do not go outside during the day may lack exposure to natural sunlight. Sun exposure helps regulate a person’s internal body clock.
- Experiencing excessive nighttime urination, or nocturia: Waking throughout the night to go to the bathroom can cause people to wake up tired in the morning. In some cases, nocturia may indicate an underlying health condition. In other cases, it may simply be a sign that a person is consuming too many liquids before bedtime.
- Consuming foods that disrupt sleep: Eating rich, fatty, or spicy foods close to bedtime can cause digestive issues for some people. These issues may affect both the quantity and quality of a person’s sleep.
- Having caffeine before bed: Caffeine is a drug that stimulates a person’s central nervous system. Those who eat chocolate or drink caffeinated drinks close to bedtime may therefore have difficulty falling asleep.
- Drinking alcohol before bedtime: Alcohol is a sedative drug that can cause a person to fall asleep more quickly. However, it also stops a person entering rapid eye movement sleep, resulting in poor sleep quality.
Some people find that they continue to wake up tired despite addressing poor sleep practices and unhelpful lifestyle factors. This could indicate an underlying sleep disorder.
Those who suspect that they may have a sleep disorder should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
The sections below outline some common sleep disorders.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes periodic pauses in breathing during sleep.
Some potential signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- gasping for air during sleep
- waking with a dry mouth
- experiencing headaches in the morning
- feeling tired after a full night’s sleep
Individuals who think that they may have sleep apnea should see their doctor. Medical treatment can help prevent heart problems and other potential complications of the condition.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person has difficulty falling or staying asleep. People who have insomnia may experience:
- waking constantly throughout the night
- waking too early and having difficulty going back to sleep
- tiredness upon waking
- daytime irritability
- depressed mood
- low energy levels
Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is a sleep movement disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. This urge is typically due to uncomfortable crawling or creeping sensations in the feet, calves, or thighs.
Periodic limb movements disorder
Periodic limb movements disorder (PLMD) occurs when a person periodically and involuntarily moves their limbs during sleep.
PLMD mainly affects the lower limbs, causing muscle twitches, jerking movements, or upward flexing of the feet. These repetitive limb movements occur around every 20–40 seconds.
PLMD disrupts sleep and leads to morning tiredness that may persist throughout the day.
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding or clenching the teeth during sleep. It is a type of sleep-related movement disorder.
If bruxism is severe, a person may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- tooth damage
- jaw disorders
Mild cases of bruxism may not cause any noticeable symptoms besides morning tiredness.
Individuals who experience symptoms alongside morning or daytime tiredness may have an underlying health condition that is impacting their sleep.
Treating the underlying condition should improve the quantity and quality of sleep a person gets.
The sections below outline some conditions that can affect sleep and wakefulness.
Iron deficiency anemia can cause people to feel run down and tired during the day. People may also feel excessively tired upon waking up.
Some other symptoms of anemia include:
- an irregular heartbeat
- cold hands and feet
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- pale or yellow skin
- shortness of breath
Anxiety can affect a person’s ability to fall asleep at night. Feeling anxious throughout the day can also cause daytime fatigue.
Other symptoms of anxiety include:
- gastrointestinal problems
- an increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling nervous, restless, or afraid
- panic attacks
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition characterized by extreme tiredness that is not attributable to another medical condition. Another name for CFS is myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Some other symptoms of CFS include:
- a lack of concentration
- memory loss
- muscle or joint pain
- a sore throat
Depression is a type of mood disorder. It is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in things the person once enjoyed.
People who have depression typically feel fatigued or lacking in energy. These symptoms could contribute to feelings of morning tiredness.
Some other symptoms of depression include:
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- slowed thinking, speaking, or movement
- feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, or hopelessness
- thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- changes in appetite and weight
- body aches and pains
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which a person’s blood sugar levels become too high.
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both can cause feelings of excessive tiredness. They may also cause the following symptoms:
- blurred vision
- slow-healing wounds
- extreme hunger
- unexplained weight loss
- increased thirst
- frequent urination, especially at night
- frequent infections
The thyroid gland is a small gland that sits inside the neck. One of its main functions is to produce hormones that regulate metabolic processes inside the body.
An underactive thyroid produces too little of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. This can lead to the following symptoms:
Treatment options for waking up tired depend on the underlying cause. The following sections outline some potential treatment options and remedies.
Good sleep hygiene practices
Good sleep hygiene involves:
- limiting daytime naps to 20–30 minutes
- getting natural sunlight exposure every day to help regulate the body’s internal clock
- establishing a regular bedtime routine, which may include taking a warm bath, drinking an herbal tea, or reading
- creating a comfortable sleep environment, which is dark, cool, and quiet
- sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillow
- not looking at phone and computer screens in the 2 hours before going to bed
- keeping to the same sleep and wake times each day, where possible
Lifestyle and dietary changes
Making changes to exercise and dietary habits can have a significant impact on sleep quality.
People can try the following tips to help alleviate tiredness upon waking:
Limiting caffeine intake
It is a good idea to avoid caffeine and other stimulants close to bedtime, and to limit caffeine intake during the day.
If essential medications do contain caffeine, a person should talk to a doctor about the best time to take them.
Avoiding alcohol in the evenings
For the best sleep, a person should avoid drinking alcohol in the evenings, and they should drink no more than one or two drinks per day.
Avoiding drinking before bedtime
If nighttime urination is an issue, a person should avoid drinking liquids for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
People should also limit their intake of caffeine and alcohol. These substances can act as diuretics, meaning that they encourage greater urine output.
Managing digestive issues
Nighttime digestive issues can prevent a person from getting to sleep, and they may interrupt a person’s sleep throughout the night.
People should therefore try to avoid foods and beverages that can cause heartburn and other digestive issues.
People should try to exercise on most days of the week in order to achieve good quality sleep.
However, they should avoid performing strenuous exercise immediately before bedtime. Such exercise increases alertness, thereby delaying sleep.
People should instead perform light stretches. These relax the muscles and may help a person sleep better.
Addressing any underlying health issues
A person who has an underlying health condition may find that their sleep improves once they treat that condition. The treatment depends on the type of condition the person has.
Some people may frequently wake up tired but have no other symptoms. If this is the case, they should begin practicing good sleep hygiene habits and make any other appropriate lifestyle changes.
If a person continues to wake up tired despite making the above changes, they should see a doctor. This could be a symptom of an underlying health condition that requires treatment.
People who wake up tired and have additional symptoms should see their doctor as soon as possible.
Waking up tired now and then is not uncommon. Good sleep hygiene and making appropriate lifestyle changes can go a long way in ensuring a better quality and quantity of sleep.
However, some people may continue to wake up tired despite making the appropriate changes.
These people should see a doctor, especially if other symptoms are present. Tiredness upon waking can be a symptom of an underlying health condition that requires treatment.