10 reasons why you might be waking up tired

waking up tired

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Are you frequently waking up tired?

Do you keep fighting yourself over the snooze button in the morning, inept of making a decision before finally giving in and going for it? And when you finally wake up, does it seem like you weren’t even asleep? You feel like a zombie- not asleep yet somehow not fully awake and alert.

You feel groggy and need a lot of motivation to pull yourself out from the bed. Your sunken eyes are peering through the thickets of blankets yearning for the first magical sip of coffee.

If you find yourself frequently waking up tired, you have fallen victim to a common paradox spawned by our technology-driven age – ‘waking up tired’.

Waking up tired: A common complaint

It is not uncommon to see people feeling extensively fatigued, even after subjecting their bodies and minds to sleep. And this condition is increasingly being observed among the urban class. They are the ones who work long shifts and also among high-school and college attending students.

In the early 40s, people slept for an average of 8 hours per day but today this figure has fallen down to only 6.8 hours. Many countries report less than 6 hours of sleep every day, on an average. The percentage of students pulling an all-nighter is as high as 66%.

Almost 70% of the entire American population feels sleep deprived and complains of waking up tired.

The effects of inadequate or disturbed sleep are catastrophic.

These adversely affect our overall cognitive and other bodily functions. Waking up with an exhausted body and mind can wreak havoc on the body. So why do we actually wake up feeling tired?

The answer lies in our circadian rhythm.

circadian clock

Circadian literally means “around the day”.

Circadian rhythm refers to the 24-hour biological clock our body internally adheres to for initiating different biological processes.

It is mostly dependant on external stimuli such as light. It is a result of millions of years of evolution.

Circadian rhythm and sleep are deeply intertwined. Human beings feel sleepy because of melatonin secretion.

Melatonin production is regulated in our body according to the circadian rhythms.

That is why we are naturally predisposed to feel sleepy at night.

If you look closely, you will observe that melatonin secretion is initiated in our body around 9 pm (natural darkness) while it stops at somewhere close to 7 am (natural daylight).

You naturally get the deepest phase of sleep between the hours of 2 am to 4 am.

If your sleep schedule follows this pattern you are unlikely to feel tired upon waking up. But, if due any reason, this cycle is disturbed, you will experience fatigue in spite of sleeping for solid 7-8 hours.

So what are the factors that interfere with our body’s natural cycle?

There are many reasons why our natural cycle gets thrown out of whack. Many of these pertain to our own body’s biology and medical conditions. Many are rooted in unhealthy lifestyle choices. Have look at these and understand why you might be waking up tired.

Medical reasons

1. Restless leg syndrome

restless leg syndrome

This is a peculiar condition is observed in almost 10% of the population of the USA.

In RLS, a person experiences pain or twitching in the legs and an uncontrollable need to move them.

While the exact cause of this condition is still unknown, experts believe that certain chronic ailments, medications, or pregnancy might be the cause.

Either way, RLS is a huge obstacle in getting a full night’s sleep since the symptoms appear more pronounced during sleeping hours.

Many scientists believe that sleepless deprivation can trigger RLS which further causes disturbances in sleep, making this entire situation a vicious sleepless cycle.


GERD stands for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease or in simple terms, acid reflux.

Nearly 25% of individuals who experience interrupted sleep suffer from nocturnal heartburn. This occurs when the digestive acids from the stomach get pushed into the esophagus.

This causes a severe burning sensation in the chest cavity and throat, and sometimes even mouth. Under normal conditions, the contents of the stomach remain in there because of gravity.

As one lies down to sleep, sometimes, the contents may gush out of the stomach into the chest cavity. Such tendency observed in almost 60% of the adult population worldwide.

It is one of the major reasons why a large proportion of the population is waking up tired, especially within the age group of 45-65.

3. Nocturia

Do you usually have to wake up from deep sleep to visit the loo?

Does it happen more than once during the night? If yes, then you are not alone.

Nearly 1/3rd of the population aged between 55 and 84 suffer from this condition of excessive night-time urination called as Nocturia.

Normally, our bladder capacity increases during the sleeping hours so that we don’t have to put our sleep on hold to go visit the loo. But due to many reasons, such as pregnancy, diabetes, or excessive consumption of fluids around bedtime can cause you to wake up with a full bladder mid-sleep.

Frequent night-time urination can interrupt your REM and N-REM sleep cycle patterns, leaving you gasping for more sleep as you wake up.

4. Thyroid disorders


Thyroid disorders – both when the gland is underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism) are closely related to disturbed sleep patterns.

In the former case, decreased breathing capacity or shallow breathing may result in sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea leads to light and frequently interrupted sleep cycles.

Decreased adrenal production in case of hypothyroidism is also a major factor making you feel weary after waking up.

On the other hand, hyperthyroidism keeps one over-stimulated throughout the day.

Such individuals usually experience insomnia, RLS, anxiety, and wakefulness during night time. In short, having any kind of thyroid disorder can cause disturbed sleep and result in you waking up tired.

5. Teeth grinding


Or in medical terms, bruxism is a common condition prevalent among almost 40 million Americans.

Nocturnal teeth grinding or clenching falls under the broad category of sleep-related movement disorders.

During teeth-grinding episodes, one experiences increased muscular activity along the jawline which results in gnashing of the teeth.

Experts link teeth-grinding to several other conditions such as misaligned teeth, stress, anxiety, and even sleep apnea.

This is an involuntary movement which occurs mostly during sleep and puts a lot of strain on your jaw muscles.

That’s why teeth-grinders are usually waking up tired, with a sensation of pain along their jaw muscles.

Lifestyle habits

6. Caffeine-intake

If someone were to ask you- which is the most popular drug in the world– what would your answer be?

Marijuana, heroin, or cocaine?

To answer this correctly, you needn’t go any further than your own kitchen, since the answer is caffeine.

This substance is a natural stimulant- keeping us awake and alert throughout the day. Caffeine operates by blocking the sleep-inducing signals in our body and increasing the production of adrenaline.

It takes only 15 minutes for the ingested caffeine to mix with our bloodstream and alert our internal mind while it takes almost 6 hours to eliminate 50% of the consumed caffeine.

When you consume caffeine (through coffee, sodas, or chocolates) during the daytime, it is still a safe bet.

But as your circadian clock approaches melatonin-production time (past 6 pm), any form of caffeine consumption can disrupt your sleeping cycle.

It can either keep you awake till late in the night or cause frequent breaks in your sleep. Excessive or untimely consumption of caffeinated products can hence make you feel tired due to disturbed sleep.

7. Alcohol before bed

The next time to head for a glass of wine to get a nice buzz before you fall asleep, think again.

While on the surface, it might help you feel intoxicated and fall asleep faster, but that doesn’t guarantee that the quality of sleep you get would be any good.

In fact, alcohol is one of the biggest disrupters of REM state sleep. REM sleep is when our long-term memories are formed.

This phase of sleep is supposed to have restorative effects on our brain. Alcohol consumption frequently interferes with our REM state sleep.

That’s why people who regularly resort to night-caps are found to have poor memory and cognitive skills. A disturbed REM state spoils the overall sleep cycle. That’s why you usually end up waking up tired with a “hangover”.

8. Stress and anxiety

stress and sleep

ADAA (Anxiety Disorders Association of America) revealed some very baffling statistics about how closely linked stress, anxiety, and sleep-disorders are.

Stress – be it emotional, behavioral, or physical- is an unfortunate by-product of our modern lifestyle.

It is one of the leading reasons behind your sleepless nights.

More than 80% of the entire adult population reports on facing sleep-related issue due to stress.

As high as 60% people wake up feeling unenergetic and exhausted.

Stress results in the production of the hormone cortisol which follows the complete opposite pattern of melatonin. As more and more stress builds up, cortisol production increases, weakening the effect of melatonin. Stress and sleep-loss together form a vicious cycle, one causing the other in an endless chain.

9. Irregular sleeping pattern

sleep and technology

Sleep is a critical element of our survival mechanism.

One should follow a regular sleep schedule. This schedule should be in-sync with the body’s circadian rhythm.

People, who have erratic sleeping schedules because of their jobs, ailments, or socializing habits, often wake up tired.

Studies reveal that new parents lose upto 400-700 hours of sleep during the first year of their child.

Other conditions such as people having shift jobs or spending the wee-hours surfing the net can also seriously deteriorate the quality of sleep. Sleeping at a different time every day confuses the body’s internal clock which results in people waking up tired.

10. Electronic stimulations

Who amongst us isn’t guilty of using their laptops, tablets, or smartphones till late in the night, sometimes till the crack of the dawn?

High chances are that you are currently reading this article in a similar manner.

Sleeping with laptops, tabs, and a phone is a common sight. We are continuously “wired-in” to the internet.

Remaining plugged in- be it to send important work emails or just to binge on Netflix shows- is an inevitable part of our lives.

The problem is that such electronic stimulations delay melatonin secretion.They keep us alert and awake at a time when we should be ideally trying to sleep. Such spikes in brain activity keep us awake beyond the permissible limits. The net effect is that we wake up barely rested and mostly worn-out.

So, now you know what might be keeping you from getting the full-blown 8-hour beauty sleep routine. How many of these are you guilty of? And how do you plan on falling back into healthy sleeping habits?



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