We all have those mornings once in a while when we're just not as energized as we'd like to be. It happens to the best of us, but is it normal? To find out what's really going on when you wake up tired, we spoke with Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a board-certified sleep specialist. Here's what he had to say.
When morning sleepiness is normal.
When asking the question of whether it's normal to wake up tired, it really depends on how long you actually feel tired. As Breus explains, most people shake off the initial morning sleepiness after about five to 10 minutes. And if you're experiencing sleep inertia (grogginess upon waking up) from waking during deep sleep, for example, it can last a bit longer.
But according to Breus, "When you wake up tired and that tiredness lingers for more than about five to 10 minutes, that is an initial sign of inadequate sleep, but it can also be a more serious sign of excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)." The latter is a sleep issue to see a doctor about.
He adds that you'd expect to wake up tired if you only got five hours of sleep, which would be "normal," or at least not a cause for concern. "But if you get seven to nine hours of sleep and still wake up tired, I look for things like a diagnosable sleep problem, prolonged inadequate sleep, or something that affects your sleep quality like alcohol, caffeine, or medications," Breus says.
When it's a sign you need more rest.
According to Breus, if you're consistently waking up tired and it's affecting your day and quality of life, it's worth looking into. "If you can close your eyes and fall back asleep, you need more rest," he notes, adding, "The real question is, what is the quality of that rest?"
According to him, anything from unchecked sleep issues to too much caffeine can affect the quality of your sleep. He recommends getting a sleep test if you have any concerns, definitely slowing down on the caffeine, and seeing if getting more rest helps you.
But long story short: "People should not wait until they fall asleep at a traffic light. If you feel truly sleepy, you need to investigate it," Breus says.
5 tips to wake up feeling more energized:
Figure out your sleep chronotype.
As Breus previously explained to mbg, figuring out your "sleep chronotype" can go a long way in helping you to wake up more energized. There are four types (Bear, Wolf, Lion, and Dolphin), and when you find yours, you can live in tune with your type's preferred circadian rhythms, going to bed and waking up at the time that suits you best.
Have a consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
And speaking of going to bed and waking up, once you know your chronotype, you want to stick to that type's preferred schedule. As Breus notes, "When a person does wake at the specific time allotted to their chronotype, then the melatonin production in their head is already slow, if not stopped." This can help mitigate sleep inertia, so you're wide-awake in no time.
Try a sleep supplement.
If your sleep routine could use an extra hand, you might want to try incorporating a sleep-supporting supplement before bed that can help you fall asleep faster and stay in deep sleep longer.*
In mindbodygreen's sleep support+ formula, there's a combination of highly absorbable (and gentle) magnesium bisglycinate with PharmaGABA®, a neurotransmitter shown in clinical trials to enhance natural sleep quality, and jujube, a fruit used in traditional Chinese medicine for calming, for a supplement that promotes better sleep and more energized mornings.*
Avoid food and alcohol before bed.
Often waking up energized begins the night before, and that means avoiding food and alcohol before bed. Alcohol has been shown in research to affect your body's natural production of melatonin and decrease the amount of time you spend in REM sleep. And as far as food goes, unless you're specifically reaching for a healthy, sleep-inducing bedtime snack, research shows eating late at night can negatively affect sleep quality.
Get some light exposure first thing.
And last but certainly not least, if there's one thing you can do first thing in the morning to get energized, Breus says it's getting light exposure. Yes—it can be artificial! Our circadian rhythm works around light exposure, so Breus explains that you can use that to your advantage in the morning to signal to your body that it's wake-up time.
The bottom line.
The bottom line is, it's not typically normal to wake up tired and have it persist much longer than 10 minutes. If you're consistently running into this issue, your safest bet is to have a specialist look into it. But if you only deal with the occasional morning grogginess, these tips can go a long way in helping you way up ready to go.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.