4 Reasons Why You're Waking Up Tired (+ Tips on How to Maximize REM Sleep
Waking up feeling tired and sluggish is super frustrating. It’s even more aggravating if you think you slept all night. Shouldn’t a full night’s sleep mean you feel rested? And is there a way you can fix the heavy feeling around your eyes and slow thinking that plagues you during the first few hours of the day?
Here’s the short answer: Yes, a full night’s sleep should result in feeling rested and energetic. So if you’re waking up and experiencing low energy levels and sustained drowsiness, then it’s in your best interest to figure out why so you can start sleeping better.
In this post, we cover why people often feel tired and drowsy in the morning (called sleep inertia) and what changes they can make to start getting better sleep tonight.
Are you looking to sleep more comfortably? A new mattress can offer better comfort and support, which helps you get a more restful sleep. Visit one of our Slumberland locations to get a personalized recommendation from the sleep experts on our team.
What is Sleep Inertia? (And Is It Normal?)
Sleep inertia is just a fancy way of saying “feeling groggy in the morning.” You’re not waking up, jumping out of bed, ready to seize the day. Instead, you’re pulling the covers up, hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock, and wondering how long you can stall before you’re officially late for work.
To some degree, sleep inertia is normal. Waking up is a process, just like going to bed.
There are five stages of sleep that we go through each night. One of those stages – REM sleep (rapid eye movement) – is our deepest and more restorative stage. It’s what lets us make memories and where we rest our cognitive functions. It’s also the last of the 5 stages – so you have to go through the first 4 non-REM stages to get to REM.
The amount of time you’re asleep matters, but so does the type of sleep you experience during that time. Ideally, you’d go through 3-4 REM cycles each night (roughly 20-25% of your sleep time should be spent in REM), then end on one of the light sleep stages when you wake up in the morning.
If you're waking up from REM sleep or one of the middle stages, you're going to feel tired and groggy. Plus, in REM sleep your body is actually paralyzed, so your muscles will feel sluggish as you try to move. (Sleep paralysis is the sleep disorder where your mind wakes up from REM sleep before your body does.)
So while sleep inertia is normal (it’s not always guaranteed that you can wake up in one of the lighter stages of sleep each morning), it’s also not ideal and it’s a sign that your sleep quality could be improved.
Editor's Note: Consistent sleep inertia is different than feeling groggy a few days out of the week. If you’re waking up feeling tired day after day, we recommend you visit a medical professional who can diagnose any potential medical condition (such as depression, low blood sugar, sleep apnea, and more).
How to Track (and Improve) Your Quality of Sleep – Tempur-Pedic’s Sleep Tracker
One of the ways to figure out if you’re waking up at the wrong time in your sleep cycle is to track your sleep patterns. You can download apps, but these require that you keep your phone in your bed (or wear a smartwatch all night).
Instead, we recommend the Tempur-Pedic Sleep Tracker. (You can purchase the Sleep Tracker individually, but it’s also included with any Tempur-Pedic Ergo Smart Base.)
The Sleep Tracker works by being placed beneath your mattress, which means you don’t have to wear a tracking device on your wrist throughout the night. The Sleep Tracker can sense the slightest movement, so it knows when you’re snoring and can even track your heart rate.
This makes it a great tool for identifying poor sleep and improving your sleep schedule. It collects data about when you fall asleep, what stages you’re in throughout the night, and when you wake up. If you notice your alarm usually coincides with REM sleep, then you can adjust your bedtime or wake-up time. The Sleep Tracker app also provides you with access to a smart alarm and daily sleep tips When using the Tempur-Pedic Sleep Tracker we recommend getting at least a solid week’s worth of data before making any changes to your routine.
4 Reasons You’re Waking Up Tired (and How to Feel Better by Maximizing Your REM Sleep)
To recap, if you’re waking up tired every morning, you aren’t getting the best sleep. Even if you have no memory of waking up throughout the night, you are, and that’s a problem.
What is happening is some form of discomfort (a bad bed, a musty room with no fan) or disturbance (an active bladder, your partner moving) is keeping you from getting the REM sleep you need.
Below, we cover 4 reasons why you might be waking up tired and offer tips on how to fix each one, so you can maximize your REM sleep.
1. You're Sleeping on a Bad Mattress
At Slumberland, we help customers every day find better sleep by pairing them with a mattress that will support them throughout the night.
If you’re sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t support you correctly, then you’re not setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep.
For example, if your mattress gives in too much, then your hips may sink below your thighs, which leads to pressure on your lower back. If your mattress is too firm, then you might trigger pressure points (this is a major concern for side sleepers who are sleeping on their shoulders and hips).
If your bed is too warm, then you’re going to sleep poorly as you kick the covers off and then pull them back on throughout the night when the air conditioning turns on. (Speaking of. . . if you do sleep hot, check out our guide on how to sleep cool through the night.
How to Find the Best Mattress
Buying a mattress is a significant investment, but we often forget that. Most of us will have our mattress longer than our car (and we will also spend more time on our mattress, too), but will spend a lot longer hunting for the right vehicle.
To help with your online mattress buying journey, we put together a comprehensive mattress buying guide, where we cover different types of mattresses, which mattress size you need, and what to look for when choosing a mattress brand.
You can also get guidance in person, while trying out different types of mattresses. We have Slumberland locations throughout the Midwest that you can visit to try the newest products in person. Plus, our sleep experts can help narrow down your search.
2. You Don't Have a Good Bedtime Routine
A bad bedtime routine is the lack of routine – it’s falling asleep long after you’re tired with no going to bed rituals, such as washing your face, changing into pajamas, turning off blue lights, and turning your phone off. It’s going to bed at 9 pm one night, and 3 am the next. It’s panic-setting multiple alarms as you drift off because you’re afraid you won’t wake up on time for work.
When it comes to a sleep schedule, experts recommend a consistent and habitual bedtime. This means you should go to bed at roughly the same time every day, whether it’s a weeknight or weekend. (We are serious about sticking to a schedule – your sleep schedule is something you should take with you even when you go on vacation.)
The good news is your body can develop a healthy circadian rhythm fairly quickly: Think about how when you go camping, you fall asleep early in the night (after the sun sets and it’s pitch black except for the fire) and wake up with the sunrise.
By getting into a bedtime routine, you let your body know that you’re going to bed. So when you finally get into your comfy bed, you’re not still thinking about work or whatever you discussed at dinner or the movie you just finished watching. Instead, you’ve set your internal clock via good sleep habits so that you’re relaxed, feeling tired, and ready to drift off into the first stages of sleep.
3. Your Sleep Enviroment is Too Loud (or Too Bright!)
As you progress through the stages of sleep, any sort of disturbance can briefly wake you up (and you may not even remember it fully the next day), which stops you from getting as much REM sleep as possible.
For example, you may have street lights glaring at you from the blinds. If you fall asleep with your back to them, but roll over during the night so that the light hits your eyes, it could wake you up.
Similarly, you may live next to a congested street or have a dog who barks at all hours when he hears a car pass or the sprinklers turn on.
These small disturbances can add up to a night of nearly no REM sleep. So while you did sleep most of the night, you never got the deep sleep that you need to wake up not feeling groggy.
Tips for Making the Best Sleeping Environment
- Make sure there are no unnecessary lights on. If you have bright lights coming in through your blinds, then consider getting black-out curtains. If you have any electronics in your room, use electric tape to block the LED lights (like an on-indicator). If there are lights you can’t control, consider getting a sleep mask.
- Reduce noise as much as possible. White noise machines are often used to help mask noises you can’t control (such as a busy street or loud neighbors). You can also try wearing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Are you dealing with a snoring partner? If so, check out our article on how to stop your partner’s snoring from waking you up.
4. Your Diet Isn't Helping You Sleep
The things we consume can adversely affect our nighttime sleep. Let’s look at the big three: caffeine, alcohol, and late evening meals.
- Caffeine- We should all know that caffeine wakes us up (plenty of us rely on it). But keep in mind that caffeine has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours. That means it can take up to 5 hours for your body to reduce caffeine’s effects by half. So while you may not feel hyper, your mind and body are still on alert. The later you drink coffee, the later you are dealing with caffeine’s effects, which inhibit sleep. Note: We usually think of caffeine as something in coffee, but there’s also caffeine in sodas, energy drinks, chocolates, and more.
- Alcohol- Some people think alcohol causes sleepiness, thereby winning them a good night’s sleep. And they are kind of right, but not where it counts. Research shows that while alcohol may help you fall asleep quickly, it also greatly reduces the amount of REM sleep you get. So while you may be logging more hours of sleep, you’re not waking up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day.
- Late evening meals and snacks-Finally, try to avoid eating close to bedtime. You don’t want your body working to digest steak and potatoes when it should be working on getting enough sleep. If you eat or drink too close to bed (think within two hours as a good benchmark), then you’re running the risk of heartburn, stomach pain, poor REM sleep, and more.
Final Thoughts: Maximizing Your REM Sleep So You Can Wake Up Refreshed
Sleep is a complicated process that we don’t think about all that much (and there’s a good deal we still don't understand). The good news is we can make small but significant changes starting now that will increase the amount of quality sleep we get each night.
There will always be mornings where you wake up in the middle of a REM sleep cycle (thanks to a poorly timed alarm or an early morning phone call) and experience some grogginess. That’s natural.
But it doesn’t have to be the norm.
By following the tips above, you can maximize your REM sleep – get more rejuvenating, restful sleep. And start your day by putting your best foot forward.
Editor's note: If you’ve tried the above tips and are still experiencing significant sleep problems and tiredness in the morning, we recommend getting medical advice from a healthcare professional who can recommend next steps.
Are you looking to sleep more deeply through the night? A new mattress can offer better comfort and support, which helps you get a more restful sleep. Visit one of our Slumberland locations to get a personalized recommendations from the sleep experts on our team.