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Why am I so tired in the morning?

Are you waking up feeling groggy in the morning? Do you wake up exhausted despite having a full night’s sleep? If this feeling of morning tiredness is a regular occurrence, it’s time to investigate the potential causes. This can be attributed to your lifestyle, physical health or mental health. Let’s take a closer look.

Is your lifestyle be making you tired in the morning?

If you’re feeling tired in the morning, it can be helpful to consider how your lifestyle may be making you feel this way.

What elements of your life leave you feeling tired?

As yourself the questions below honestly to help uncover potential lifestyle factors affecting your sleep.

Do you drink alcohol regularly?

Never mind the hangover after a few drinks the night before. Alcohol has been known to cause insomnia, circadian rhythm abnormalities, short sleep duration and even aggravate breathing-related sleep problems such as sleep apnoea.1

Do you smoke?

Consuming nicotine within 4 hours of bedtime is associated with poor sleep quality.2 In fact, there’s evidence that nicotine is more damaging to sleep than coffee, energy drinks or even cocaine.3

Do you do strenuous exercise close to bedtime?

Exercising in the evening has the potential to disrupt your sleep, particularly if it’s vigorous exercise. This is because exercise raises your temperature, increases your heart rate, and stimulates your nervous system – not a great combination if you want to sleep.4

Do you drink caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime?

Caffeine can help stimulate you in the morning if you’re feeling tired, but it’s not very helpful to have in the evening if you want to get to sleep. Your body takes 6 hours to eliminate half the caffeine in your system which means those evening cups of tea or coffee can be pretty detrimental to sleep.5

Do you drink a lot of fluids in the evening?

Drinking fluids in the evening can cause nocturia (excessive urination at night). Waking up frequently at night for a pee can disrupt your sleep leaving you tired in the morning.6

Do you eat a heavy meal within 3 hours of bedtime?

Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt healthy sleep patterns but also potentially cause weight gain.7

Do you work shifts?

Shift work, in particular night shifts, will have noticeable negative consequences on sleep, performance and fatigue.8 It can even increase the risk of accidents.8

Do you work long hours / work late?

Working late or long hours can make it difficult to fall asleep which can often result in shortened sleeping time, and consequently morning tiredness.9

Do you take long daytime naps?

Napping after 3-4pm in the afternoon and for longer than 30 minutes can leave you feeling groggy and impact your ability to fall asleep later at night.

Do you go to bed and wake up at different times each day?

A lack of routine, such as an irregular bedtime / waking schedule, can result in you getting less sleep as well as poor quality sleep. This can cause you to feel tired in the morning.

Do you binge-watch TV late into the night?

Watching TV late at night can often result in shorter sleep duration. This can be down to a number of reasons. Going to bed later than planned will impact sleep, while the light emitted from your TV can affect sleep hormones. Research shows that people who binge-watch TV are 98% more likely to have poor sleep quality and daytime fatigue.11

Do you use a smartphone, tablet, or computer close to bedtime?

The blue light emitted from portable electronic devices confuse the brain into thinking it’s daytime, this affects the hormones that controls sleep.12 This often results in shorter sleep duration leading to morning fatigue.12

Does your partner snore?

A person’s partner was identified as the 3rd most common factor affecting sleep in 20,000 UK people.13 If your partner snores, it could be affecting your quality and quantity of sleep leaving you feeling moody and tired in the morning.

Do you have young children that wake you in the night?

Any parent will tell you to say goodbye to sleep when you have children. Young children regularly wake up regularly in the middle of the night needing attention, this can be a big drain on the amount of quality sleep you get.

Do you hit the snooze button?

Hitting the snooze button confuses your ‘body clock’, leaving you more likely to feel tired in the morning.14

If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, it may be worth exploring changes you could make to your lifestyle that could improve your sleep and help you to feel more refreshed and energised in the morning.

Is your physical health be making you tired?

Tiredness in the morning can be a common experience. However, tiredness that persists for a long time isn’t normal and it may be time to see your doctor. There are several physical health conditions that can make you feel tired, some of these include:

  • Anaemia15 – anaemia is caused by lack of iron, often because of blood loss or pregnancy
  • Sleep apnoea15 – when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep
  • Underactive thyroid15 – where your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones
  • Coeliac disease15 – a lifelong disease caused by the immune system reacting to gluten
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome15 – is a severe and disabling fatigue that goes on for at least 4 months
  • Diabetes15 – is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. One of the main symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is feeling very tired
  • Glandular fever15 – is a common viral infection that causes fatigue, along with fever, sore throat and swollen glands
  • Restless legs15 – is when you get an overwhelming urge to move your legs, which can keep you awake at night, potentially leading to feeling tired in the morning
  • Pregnancy16 – the first trimester in pregnancy is associated with tiredness

If you have been feeling constantly tired for more than 4 weeks, it’s worth seeing your GP so they can confirm or rule out a medical condition that could be causing your tiredness.

Is your mental health be making you tired in the morning?

There’s a close link between poor mental health and sleep disturbances which can potentially lead to feeling exhausted in the morning. Psychological causes of tiredness are much more common than physical causes.16

Some common mental health issues associated with poor sleep and tiredness include:

  • Depression15 – a mood disorder that affects a person’s daily life of which tiredness is a key symptom as well as sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety15 – a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Anxiety can cause sleep disturbances which can lead to daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Stress16 – some people feel tired and fatigued when stressed, others may struggle to sleep due to a racing mind
  • Emotional shock16 – distressing events like bereavement, break-up, divorce, and redundancy can impact sleep and leave you feeling tired

There is a complicated relationship between sleep and mental health. Poor mental health can cause sleep disturbances, and sleep disturbances can lead to poor mental health.

If you suspect your tiredness is down to poor mental health you may want to visit your GP or get practical tips from the NHS website “Every Mind Matters”.

Tips to tackle morning tiredness

If you’re waking up exhausted on a regular basis, it’s worth investigating potential causes of your morning fatigue, whether it could be due to your lifestyle, physical health or mental health. A sleep diary may be a helpful tool to support you in identifying if your sleep is affecting your energy levels in the morning. You can find a free printable sleep diary template from the NHS here.

If you need more support or advice on tiredness or sleeping problems and you’re not sure if it is time to see your GP, you can visit your local pharmacist who can guide you on some self-care tips and remedies available to help your get better sleep and more energy.