Why you’re waking up tired and how to fight morning grogginess

morning routine

Maybe the term “time to rise and shine,” is not exactly how you feel when the morning alarm goes off. Maybe waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is simply not you.  Maybe not feeling refreshed and rejuvenated first thing in the morning has turned into waking up tired and groggy.  What’s happened and how can you fight morning grogginess?

First, do you know how many hours of sleep you are averaging each night?  Are you falling asleep easily (within 5-10 minutes) or does it take much longer before sleep arrives? Once asleep, do you stay asleep the majority of the time spent in bed or do you wake up several times tossing and turning throughout the night?

For some individuals, waking up tired and groggy may only happen occasionally for various reasons. But if it’s become commonplace to wake up tired each morning, talk to your doctor first. It could be an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as chronic obstructive sleep apnea that has treatment available for it. Otherwise, here are other possibilities for why you could be tired in the morning:

    · You may be caffeine-dependent

It may seem counterintuitive, but caffeine can cause some to feel more tired instead of alert. Regular caffeine use over the course of a day can disrupt sleep causing a vicious cycle. That’s because caffeine use causes sleep deprivation (it’s a stimulate keeping you awake) and sleep deprivation causes sleepiness the next day. That in turn causes an increased to need to consume more caffeine in order to cope with the sleepiness. Even with the increased caffeine consumption, sleep deprivation catches up. Morning sleepiness can also be a symptom of abstinence from caffeine which is why regular caffeine users may feel overly sleepy in the morning when they have gone all night without caffeine.

  • Hormones changes may be to blame

This is especially true for women during their monthly menstrual cycle. When you have estrogen levels fluctuating, this can affect how well you sleep and how restful you feel the next morning. Women may notice that during the second half of their menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels peak and then quickly drop, they feel more groggy and tired. Also to blame could be an iron deficiency paired with blood loss during the menstrual cycle leading to fatigue. There’s one other hormonal possibility – having either an under or overactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism (underactive) will cause tiredness, while hyperthyroidism (overactive) can make it more difficult to get to sleep causing morning grogginess.

  • Not eating a healthy breakfast

Choose wisely when eating breakfast. Feasting on donuts or a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal may give you a quick jolt of energy but within about 30 to 60 minutes, that energy disappears causing you to crash feeling super tired. Choose instead a breakfast leaving you energized and sufficiently full. Consider an egg omelet with veggies, avocados, and olive oil, steel-cut oatmeal with peanut butter and berries or avocado toast with an egg on top.

  • Sleep inertia

Few of us jump out of bed each morning bursting with energy.  Probably the last time you felt like that was at the age of 6! Most of us do have some grogginess possibly related to what is called sleep inertia. When you sleep, your brain is busy flushing out adenosine, a chemical that builds up during waking hours and eventually causes feelings of sleepiness and the desire to crawl into bed. It’s during the night when the body clears out the buildup of adenosine.

But from the time you open your eyes in the morning until you actually feel energized is called sleep inertia. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes up to 90 minutes for the chemical residue of adenosine to wear off helping you transition from sleepiness to becoming more wide awake. If you have sleepiness for up to an hour or so but then are more awake soon after, you may have slower sleep inertia.  If feeling tired and groggy lasts all day, discuss it with your doctor.

How to fight morning grogginess

Here are some ideas on how to avoid morning tiredness and feeling groggy:

  • Stay hydrated: Upon awakening, your body is usually slightly dehydrated. Drink a glass of water within 10 minutes of waking to help you focus and think more clearly.
  • Get some sunlight: Let the sunshine in by opening up the curtains of your bedroom after waking. Early morning sunlight calibrates your body’s internal clock, signaling the end of the sleep phase and the beginning of a new day. Sun exposure also increases your body’s production of serotonin, a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin.
  • Do a morning workout: Mornings are perfect for taking advantage of energy-boosting exercise endorphins helping your body and brain shift to wake mode more quickly. A consistent morning workout is a good way to make regular exercise a part of your daily routine and can help you sleep better at night too.
  • Caffeine in moderation: A morning cup (or two) of coffee or tea can be a ritual with energetic benefits. Just don’t overdo it by consuming caffeinated beverages throughout the entire day compromising sleep inertia. But when taken in moderation (1-2, 8-ounce cups daily), caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in the brain reducing grogginess and shaking off sleep inertia sooner.
Why you’re waking up tired and how to fight morning grogginess
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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi