Most people wake up tired now and then, and waking up tired occasionally 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.

a woman waking up tiredShare on Pinterest
Sleep inertia is a possible cause of waking up tired.

There are several possible causes of tiredness on waking. They range from lifestyle factors to medical conditions, and some are listed below.

Sleep inertia

Sleep inertia refers to the cognitive and sensory-motor impairments that take place immediately when waking up. It occurs when a person wakes suddenly from a deep sleep. They may experience:

  • drowsiness or disorientation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • poor decision making
  • difficulty performing fine motor tasks

Research shows it takes around 15–30 minutes for alertness to reach pre-sleep levels.

The cause of sleep inertia is not entirely understood. The same report indicates that the prefrontal cortex can take longer than other areas of the brain to become fully active after waking. (The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain involved in decision making and self-control.) This may contribute to sleep inertia.

Sleep hygiene practices

Sleep hygiene refers to habits that help a person have restful sleep.

Poor sleep hygiene can result in poor quality sleep. Examples of poor sleep hygiene practices include:

  • not having a regular bedtime routine, which includes consistent sleep and wake times
  • taking long daytime naps
  • looking at phone or computer screens before going to bed
  • having a sleeping environment that is too hot, too bright, or too loud
  • having an uncomfortable mattress or pillow

Lifestyle and dietary factors

Aside from sleep hygiene, several lifestyle and dietary factors can impact sleep and cause a person to wake up tired. These include:

  • Not getting enough exercise: Getting regular exercise can help promote restful sleep. However, people should avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime, as this may increase alertness and delay sleep.
  • Experiencing excessive nighttime urination or nocturia: Waking to go to the bathroom throughout the night 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. This may affect both the quantity and quality of a person’s sleep.
  • Having caffeine before bed: Caffeine can stimulate a person’s central nervous system. As a result, those who eat chocolate or drink caffeinated drinks close to bedtime may have difficulty falling asleep.
  • Drinking alcohol before bedtime: Alcohol is a sedative and may cause a person to fall asleep more quickly. However, it may also increase sleep apnea and contribute to poor sleep quality.

Sleep disorders

Some people find they continue to wake up tired despite addressing their sleep practices and lifestyle factors. This could indicate an underlying sleep disorder.

Those who suspect they may have a sleep disorder should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

The sections below outline some common sleep disorders.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes periodic pauses in breathing. Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

Individuals who think they may have sleep apnea should see a doctor. Medical treatment can help prevent heart problems and other potential complications.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person has difficulty falling or staying asleep. People who have insomnia may experience:

  • constantly waking up
  • waking too early and having difficulty going back to sleep
  • tiredness on waking
  • periods of 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 feelings in the feet, calves, or thighs.

This can disrupt a person’s sleep, making them feel tired during the day.

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 and jerking movements. These repetitive limb movements occur around every 15–40 seconds.

PLMD disrupts sleep and leads to morning tiredness that may persist throughout the day.

Bruxism

Bruxism is the medical term for grinding or clenching the teeth. It can occur during sleep.

A person who grinds their teeth while sleeping may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • headaches
  • tooth damage
  • jaw disorders
  • earache
  • sleep disruptions

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.

Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia can cause people to feel run down and tired during the day. People may also feel excessively tired when they wake up.

Symptoms of anemia also include:

Anxiety

Anxiety can affect a person’s ability to fall asleep. Feeling anxious throughout the day can also cause daytime fatigue.

Other symptoms of anxiety include:

  • gastrointestinal problems
  • an increased heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling nervous, restless, or afraid

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition characterized by extreme tiredness that may prevent people from getting out of bed. The fatigue does not improve with sleep. Another name for CFS is myalgic encephalomyelitis.

Symptoms of CFS include:

  • an inability to perform regular daily activities
  • headaches
  • a lack of concentration
  • dizziness
  • memory loss
  • muscle or joint pain
  • a sore throat
  • difficulty sleeping

Depression

Depression is a type of mood disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in things a person once enjoyed.

People who have depression typically feel fatigued or lacking in energy. These symptoms could contribute to feelings of tiredness on waking.

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

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:

Underactive thyroid

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 thyroid hormone. 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 less than 20 minutes and taking them before 2 p.m.
  • 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 during the hour before going to bed
  • keeping to the same sleep and wake times each day, where possible

Blue light and sleeping environment

Devices with screens emit blue light, which impacts the body’s sleep-wake cycle and leads to difficulties falling asleep.

To help with sleep, avoid looking at screens before bed, including:

  • phones
  • tablets
  • computers
  • television

Some research also suggests that using amber-tinted blue-light-blocking lenses before bed may improve sleep in people with insomnia.

Lifestyle and dietary changes

Making changes to exercise and dietary habits can significantly affect sleep quality.

People can try the following tips to help alleviate tiredness when waking up:

Limiting caffeine intake

It is good to avoid caffeine and other stimulants close to bedtime and limit caffeine intake during the day. Caffeine can act as a diuretic, resulting in a need to urinate more frequently.

If essential medications contain caffeine, a person should talk with a doctor about the best time to take them.

Avoiding alcohol in the evenings

Alcohol can also act as a diuretic. If a person drinks alcohol, they should avoid drinking it in the evenings and have no more than one or two drinks per day.

Avoiding drinking before bedtime

If nighttime urination is a concern, a person should avoid drinking large amounts of liquids between dinner and bedtime.

Managing digestive issues

Nighttime digestive issues can prevent a person from getting to sleep. They may also interrupt a person’s sleep.

People should try to avoid foods and beverages that can cause heartburn and other digestive issues.

Exercising regularly

People should try to exercise on most days of the week to achieve good quality sleep.

However, they should avoid performing strenuous exercise immediately before bedtime. While research on the effects of evening exercise on sleep is mixed, studies indicate that exercising within an hour before bedtime may make it take longer to fall asleep.

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 their sleep improves once they treat it. Treatment will depend on the type of condition the person has.

Even with good habits, it is natural to have trouble waking up sometimes. These tips may help make it easier to wake up:

  • getting up at the same time each day (avoid hitting the snooze button)
  • face washing
  • using bright lights in the bedroom in the morning
  • taking a short walk
  • drinking water

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 for several weeks despite making 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 better quality and quantity of sleep.

However, some people may continue to wake up tired despite making these changes. They need to see a doctor, especially if other symptoms are present.

Tiredness on waking can be a symptom of an underlying health condition that requires treatment. To discover more evidence-based information and resources for sleep, visit our dedicated hub.