You think you’re doing everything right – you go to bed, you get 8 hours of sleep but still tired when you wake.
Basically, it feels like you’ve slept for 4 or 5 hours instead of the desirable 8 that are considered healthy for most adults. So why am I still tired after sleeping 8 hours?
Well, unfortunately, focusing solely on the 8 hours of sleep won’t make your sleep any better. Quality and quantity in sleep don’t aren’t directly proportional. Sure, sleep quality depends on those 7-9 hours of required sleep per night, but there are many more factors that fall into the equation when we’re looking for a good night’s sleep.
Feeling well-rested after sleeping depends on several factors, including your age, your unique circadian rhythm, your health, whether you’re pregnant or not, your hormone levels, your bedtime habits, and even your diet.
If poor-quality sleep becomes the norm, it becomes a nuisance that affects your quality of life, your health, your work, and your relationships.
In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of the issue and look at some potential causes as to why you still feel tired even after getting enough hours of sleep.
Why Do I Still Feel Tired After Sleeping for 8 Hours?
So, what could be meddling with your sleep so much that even 8 hours wouldn’t suffice? Let’s see some of the most common culprits behind low-quality sleep.
You Have an Irregular Sleep Pattern
Having a regular sleep pattern means you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. It means you allow your circadian rhythm, your internal biological clock for sleeping and waking, to regulate itself.
In order to keep the circadian rhythm well-balanced and working properly, you need to listen to your body. Each of us has our own internal clock and what might work for one person, may not work for another.
For example, if you’re a night owl, your body finds it easier and more natural to feel sleepy later in the night.
Consequently, it means that it also prefers to wake up a tad later in the morning (if we follow the 7-8 hours rule). So, if you, let’s say, go to bed at 10 p.m., and wake up at 6 a.m. for work, you may still feel tired. This is because your brain might prefer to go to bed at midnight and wake up at 8 in the morning.
When you wake up at 6 a.m. as a night owl, your brain might still produce melatonin and still be sleepy, which is why you would feel tired even after getting enough sleep.
Or maybe you’re a shift worker, and your job requires a lot of changes in your sleep schedule. This can definitely wreak havoc on your sleep pattern and leave you tired even after 8 hours of sleep.
You Hit Snooze Too Much
Nobody likes the alarm clock and the snooze button was probably invented to make it a more merciful machine. However, the snooze button actually does us more damage than good.
Why, though? Well consider this – the average length of the snooze is about 8 minutes, 10 minutes tops. This amount of time is not enough for your brain to be able to slip into a sleep cycle that will refresh the body and make you more rested when you wake up.
And if you do this in the course of an hour – if you keep pressing the snooze button, then you’re not actually getting any quality sleep whatsoever – you’re getting broken sleep. Your brain can’t get into the deep sleep phase, which is responsible for making your body rested and energized.
So a word of advice would be – if you really need to press snooze, press it only once, or just accept your fate and get up when the alarm rings.
You Need a Better Mattress
People sometimes underestimate the importance of a good mattress for a good night’s sleep.
A mattress that is old, too firm, or too soft, can cause body aches, stiff back and spine, neck pain, and sometimes even headaches, all of which can make you feel drained and fatigued in the morning because they contributed to you sleeping poorly.
You Have a Poor Bedtime Routine
Your bedtime routine and bedtime environment are important factors that prepare you for a good night’s sleep. So if your bedroom is an inadequate place for sleepers, how do you expect not to feel sleepless in the morning, even after a decent amount of shut-eye of about 8 hours?
Good quality sleep is also influenced by what you do before going to bed. For instance, staring at your smartphone screen or your laptop is a big no-no if you want restful sleep since it delays the production of melatonin.
The blue light emitted by these screens acts as the blue light of the sky in the daytime, which means it makes our body more awake, and you definitely don’t need that just before you go to bed.
Another thing is your room temperature. Ask yourself – are you sleeping in a bedroom that’s too warm? Research shows that generally speaking, people sleep better in colder environments, with inside temperatures ranging from 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, or from 15.5 to 20 degrees Celsius.
You’ve Overdone It With Caffeine or Alcohol
Simply said, caffeine and alcohol are enemies of sleep. For caffeine, it’s pretty obvious, but when it comes to alcohol people often think that it might actually help them fall asleep.
Sure, alcohol can make you sleepy, and even make you fall asleep, but it doesn’t mean you get much out of that sleep when you wake up tired and dehydrated in the morning, with a pounding headache.
That famous nightcap can actually prevent your body from slipping into the restorative sleep stage, and it can also reduce the amount of REM sleep you get, which is super important for memory and learning processes.
If you’re drinking too much coffee, as in more than 600mg a day, then you’re also risking getting good quality sleep at night. Even if you took your last sip of coffee 5 or 6 hours before bed, caffeine can stay in the system for up to 10 hours in some individuals, until it is completely cleared.
And even if you manage to fall asleep at the desired time, caffeine can make your sleep lighter, and it can make you wake up more often during the night. This may leave you drowsy in the morning, and may also result in daytime sleepiness and sleep deprivation, turning into a vicious cycle. You take more coffee to feel energized, and consequently, disturb your sleep cycle even more.
You’re Exercising Too Hard at Night
Exercise is good for better sleep, but when it is too vigorous, especially in the evening or night, it can interfere with your sleep.
Exercising affects a variety of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which are also considered “stress hormones.” They elevate your blood pressure, raise your heart rate, and increase your body temperature.
All of these temporary bodily changes may prevent you from falling asleep or may leave you with light sleep, insufficient for restoring your energy levels in the morning.
You Have Too Much Sleep Debt
Sleep debt is a real thing, and it can have serious consequences for our health and wellbeing. It’s not just about how much sleep we get on any given night; it’s also about the cumulative amount of sleep we’ve gotten over the past week or two.
If you’re consistently falling short of your individual sleep need, then you’re already burdened with sleep debt.
For example, let’s say that your individual sleep need is eight hours per night. If you manage to get eight hours of sleep last night but averaged 6-7 hours in the past week, then you’ve still fallen short of your biological requirements.
This means that you’re already carrying a certain amount of sleep debt from previous nights. This can lead to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion even if you got “enough” sleep last night.
Medical Conditions That Might Make You Tired All the Time
Okay, so you’re quite sure your low sleep quality has nothing to do with the reasons noted above. You’ve tried it all, you’ve improved your routines, and nothing seems to work. If anything, it’s getting worse.
Well, in this case, your tiredness and low quality of sleep may have to do with an underlying sleep disorder or another medical condition you might be suffering from.
Next, I want us to go through the most common sleep disorders and medical conditions that might be behind chronic tiredness and lack of quality sleep, even after getting 8 hours of shut-eye.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder that seems to affect more men than women. Generally speaking, it affects “25% of men and nearly 10% of women,” and it can affect people of all ages, including babies and children.” It particularly affects people who are over 50 years old, as well as overweight people.
Sleep apnea can cause obstructions in your airways, temporarily preventing oxygen to flow to the brain, which can make you wake up several times throughout the night. The worst thing is you won’t even realize this in the morning.
Oftentimes, people with sleep apnea get diagnosed because of symptoms such as loud snoring, tiredness, grogginess, and noticing they get poor sleep quality even if they sleep a regular amount of time.
If you suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you should definitely see a doctor. To detect sleep apnea, your doctor or a sleep specialist will require you to do a sleep study, also called polysomnography, which records the level of oxygen in your blood, your heart rate and breathing rate, brain waves, eye movements, and leg movements – of course, all of this while you’re asleep.
If you find out that you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, don’t panic! Nowadays there are pretty successful means to deal with it. You will probably need to get a CPAP machine, which is a device equipped with an oxygen mask you will have to wear during sleep for some time until your sleep apnea withdraws.
Narcolepsy is another type of sleep disorder, with neurological origins. If you suffer from narcolepsy, it means that your brain doesn’t have full control over your sleep cycles and this makes you feel very tired and sleepy, and it also makes you fall asleep randomly throughout the day, without being able to control it.
There are also some night-time symptoms related to narcolepsy, like being awake when you should actually be asleep, vivid dreams, and also talking in your sleep.
While narcolepsy is a serious sleep disorder, and it requires long-term therapy, it is still treatable. The most important thing is to look for adequate treatment and support from a sleep specialist.
You might need to take certain stimulants so you can be awake in the daytime, and then for the night, a doctor may prescribe medicine such as antidepressants which are designed to tackle the night-time sleep issues related to narcolepsy.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is another fairly common medical condition related to sleep. According to some estimates, it affects about 5 to 10% of the population, both men and women, regardless of age, although it is more common in older individuals.
It is characterized by an irresistible urge to move one’s legs, and it can be accompanied by uncomfortable, painful, and crawling sensations in the lower limbs. Relief is often achieved when the person moves their legs, but it is only temporary.
The sensations return after a while, and they’re more severe and frequent in nature in the evening and nighttime when the person is likely sitting, resting, or lying in bed preparing for sleep.
As a result of this need for movement, RLS (a common abbreviation for the condition) can significantly affect the individual’s sleep quality and can be a cause of daytime sleepiness.
RLS often goes undiagnosed, which makes it hard to treat. It is considered to be an accompanying condition to another medical issue the person may be battling with, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, and iron deficiency (which results in anemia, also a cause behind daytime fatigue and depleted energy levels).
So, if you suffer from RLS, you may want to look into these other conditions first and seek appropriate treatment if you have one of them. The treatment may also be able to help with your RLS and improve your sleep quality.
Massage and exercise, with a focus on the legs, of course, can also help with RLS and minimize the symptoms.
Hypothyroidism is another common health condition. Although it is not a sleep disorder, it can affect sleep in various ways.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone, which is responsible for a number of functions in the body. It is one of the two main thyroid issues, the other being hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid produces too many hormones.
Hypothyroidism slows the metabolism down and can make you gain weight, feel sluggish, tired, and extra sensitive to cold.
It can also make for an uneasy sleep during the nighttime, and be a precursor for some sleep disorders, such as hypersomnia, or oversleeping (which also result in feeling tired after waking up from more than 8 hours of sleep).
This is why it’s so important to check your thyroid gland if you feel some of these symptoms and get adequate treatment. Underactive thyroid is usually treated with a daily dose of the medicine called levothyroxine which acts as a substitute for the thyroid hormone.
Mental Health Issues
Depression and anxiety are some of the most common mental health conditions that also negatively affect sleep and cause a variety of sleep problems.
In some people, depression manifests as oversleeping, though it can also cause insomnia, and make us feel tired for no apparent reason. But if you’ve been struggling with your mental health recently, and you’ve noticed you’ve been oversleeping a lot, but also still feel tired afterward, it’s worth looking into.
Depression makes us feel exhausted, and it fogs our thinking, even when we think we’ve rested well. This is because our emotional and psychological structures are burdened by overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness, among others, which can significantly deplete our energy levels.
Anxiety also causes low-quality sleep because it makes the body produce more stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (the ones we mentioned in exercise), which can make sleep lighter and more fragmented during the night.
If you suspect you’re suffering from a mental health issue, it is critical that you seek help. It will not only help you sleep better, but it will also improve your quality of life in general.
CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy and other types of psychotherapy, sometimes combined with medicines, have proven to be successful means to treat both anxiety and depression (which often go hand in hand in individuals).
What to Do to Improve Your Sleep Quality
Healthy sleep habits are very important for getting a good night’s sleep. Healthy sleep does not imply only the hours you put into it. It is also influenced by your overall lifestyle and bedtime routines.
Next, I want to show you some of the everyday habits you can implement in your life in order to improve the quality of your sleep.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Oftentimes we don’t really pay attention to our bedrooms – we either use them only to go to bed at night or the other extreme – as an office space.
Well, if you notice you’re still tired after 8 hours of sleep, maybe it’s time to turn your bedroom into a proper sleep oasis.
This means several things.
Set the Right Temperature for Sleeping
You should maintain a temperature appropriate for sleeping, which is usually from 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (or 15.5 to 20 degrees Celsius). If the air is too humid, use a dehumidifier; if it’s too dry, then do the opposite – get yourself a humidifier.
Make Your Bedroom a Visually Relaxing Place
Pick a calming, relaxing color for the bedroom walls, like blue, grey, or even light yellow and pastel green.
Keep It Quiet
Don’t let any outside noise interfere with your sleep. If you live in a busy area, then try using a white noise machine that can neutralize any unwanted sounds and instead give you options to hear calming sounds such as ocean waves or light rain.
Keep the Room Dark
The body needs the dark so it can know when it’s time for bed. If you keep the lights on during the night or if you use any digital devices before bed, you’re confusing your body regarding when it should fall asleep, making it think it’s still daytime.
Instead, refrain from using any kind of screen an hour before bed. If you really want to have lights, to use them for reading, for example, use your bedside lamp, or better yet, a small light that you can attach directly to your book.
Just don’t forget to leave the blinds open so the sun can wake you up naturally in the morning!
Get a Better Mattress
A good mattress is another key element for good quality sleep. Make sure the mattress you get (or the one you already have) is not on either side of the firm-soft extreme.
Also, consider getting a memory mattress that is designed to follow the natural contours of your body and thus tailor the sleep experience to an individual’s unique needs.
Declutter Your Room
A sleep environment shouldn’t be inducing thoughts of chaos when you enter it, and that’s what clutter does. I mean, lots of people think hotel rooms are good for sleeping in, right? But why is that?
It’s mostly because you can adjust the temperature of the room, and especially because they’re free of any clutter. You just go there and get to bed, it’s that easy. You don’t have to take a pile of clothes off the bed or have to wrestle with them while you sleep!
Keep Your Home Office Space Elsewhere
Nowadays, more and more of us are used to working from home, and it’s only natural for some people to swap their business attire for pajamas, stay at home the whole day, and work from their own bedroom. But you should avoid doing this if you can.
The bed is there for sleeping and resting, not for doing your daily job. If you really don’t have any place in the house or apartment to work, set up a separate workstation in your bedroom, just avoid doing it in the bed.
Eat Well and Try Sleep Supplements
A healthy diet is important for the overall optimal functioning of your body and keeping your health in check. When you eat healthily, you reduce the chances of developing body inflammation. It also helps you to mitigate the impact of a potential underlying condition that might meddle with your sleep.
Additionally, you can try taking supplements such as magnesium, B6, and B12 vitamins, as well as melatonin, and maybe even valerian drops or tablets for a more regular sleeping pattern and less waking up during the night.
Supplements shouldn’t be a replacement for a healthy diet, though.
Most of these supplements can also be found in everyday foods, such as:
- Magnesium – fruits like bananas and avocados, but also leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans, fish, whole-grain foods, and dark chocolate.
- Vitamin C – found in berries, especially strawberries, citrus fruits, and kiwi, bell peppers, and leafy greens.
- Selenium – you can find it in sunflower seeds, chicken and beef, and also oysters.
- Tryptophan – this essential nutrient that turns into serotonin and helps relax the body can be found in turkey meat as well as chicken, eggs, leafy greens, bananas, almonds and pumpkin, hemp, and chia seeds.
- Potassium – contributes to a more regular heartbeat, can be found in potatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, bananas, and avocado.
- Vitamin B6 – can be found in almonds, peanuts, eggs, spinach, avocado, and bananas.
Don’t Take Caffeine Before Bed or Alcohol
As was mentioned earlier, caffeine takes a lot of time to leave your body. Make sure that you take your last daily cup of caffeinated beverages by midday or early afternoon, around 1-2 pm max.
Also, don’t count on alcohol to help you fall asleep since it can be a very tricky bedfellow, meddling with your sleep cycle, and leaving you dehydrated in the morning.
Eat only light meals before bedtime and make sure you drink enough water and other fluids, including yogurt, kefir, and kombucha, which are also considered probiotic foods. If you tend to get hungry in the middle of the night, learning how to sleep when hungry is ideal.
A well-balanced diet goes on par with regular exercise.
When you exercise a couple of times a week (you can keep an optimal number of 3 times a week, but can do more if you want), you put your body into work – it produces more oxygen, more food for the cells, and hence you’re also likely to feel more energetic during the day, but at the same time can fall asleep easier when night comes.
Your head is clearer, your mental health is likely to improve, and you’re less likely to wake up at night.
However, if you do vigorous physical activity in the evening, you might achieve the opposite effect. If you really must exercise at night, keep it light and focus more on stretching, a walk around the neighborhood, bedtime yoga, and breathing exercises.
As you were able to see, sleep quality is a bit more complex than people usually think. Quantity doesn’t always equal quality, and there are many more factors when it comes to what constitutes good sleep.
Therefore, it’s not uncommon sleeping 8 hours but still tired in the morning. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right lifestyle habits and the right bedtime routine, you can keep your sleep patterns in order, and wake up rested and energized.
And if a more serious medical issue is the deeper cause behind your morning fatigue, then the right treatment can make a world of difference. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.
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