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Why am I not waking up refreshed?

Waking up feeling refreshed and restored is crucial for having a productive day. However, many people struggle to get restful sleep and wake up feeling groggy and fatigued. There are several potential reasons why you may not be waking up refreshed.

You’re not getting enough sleep

The most obvious reason you may not feel refreshed in the morning is that you’re simply not sleeping long enough. Adults typically need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you regularly get fewer than 7 hours, you may accumulate a “sleep debt” that leaves you fatigued no matter how long you sleep on a given night. Try getting to bed earlier and setting an alarm to ensure you get at least 7 hours.

Your sleep is disrupted

It’s not just the length of sleep that matters – the quality is important too. If your sleep is frequently disrupted, you may not get enough of the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. Things that can interfere with sleep quality include:

  • Noises, light, or other distractions
  • A bed partner who snores, moves around, or has a different sleep schedule
  • Pets in the bed
  • Needing to get up to urinate frequently
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea

Try making your bedroom as dark, quiet, and distraction-free as possible. Deal with any medical issues or sleep disorders. And consider a white noise machine or earplugs if you have a snoring partner.

You have poor sleep habits

Your evening and morning routines can impact how restful your sleep is. Poor sleep habits like these can leave you feeling groggy:

  • Consuming caffeine, alcohol, heavy foods, or spicy foods too close to bedtime
  • Exercising intensely in the evening – dogentle yoga/stretching instead
  • Using electronic devices in bed
  • Going to bed and waking up at inconsistent times
  • Hitting snooze rather than getting up right away

Follow principles of good “sleep hygiene” like sticking to a schedule, limiting evening screen time, and creating a relaxing pre-bed routine.

You have a health condition

Certain medical issues can interfere with the quality and length of sleep. If you consistently have unrefreshing sleep, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any potential underlying causes such as:

  • Sleep apnea – Disordered breathing during sleep that causes frequent awakenings
  • Restless leg syndrome – Uncomfortable leg sensations that disrupt sleep
  • Chronic pain – Conditions like arthritis or nerve pain that prevent sleeping
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – Acid reflux that causes nighttime heartburn
  • Neurologic diseases – Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia
  • Mental health disorders – Depression, anxiety

Treatment of medical issues may improve your ability to get restorative sleep.

You’re going through a stressful period

Stress can interfere with falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleep quality. Major life stressors such as:

  • Work or financial strain
  • Family demands
  • Illness
  • Losing a loved one

Can all impact your ability to unwind at night. If you’re going through a stressful period, be disciplined about self-care. Prioritize sleep and take time to relax before bed with yoga, reading, meditation, or baths.

Your mattress or pillows are uncomfortable

If your mattress sags, doesn’t provide enough support, or is just plain uncomfortable, it can interfere with quality slumber. The same applies to flat, thin pillows that don’t properly cradle your head and neck. Most mattresses should be replaced every 7-10 years, but do so sooner if yours is impairing your sleep comfort. Invest in comfortable, supportive bedding.

You use sleep medication incorrectly

Some people turn to prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids when they have trouble sleeping. However, these can often impair sleep quality if used incorrectly. Sleep medication should be used on a limited, short-term basis to avoid dependence. Work with your doctor if you think medication may be interfering with refreshing sleep.

You have a circadian rhythm disorder

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock that regulates sleep/wake cycles. If this clock is off, you may struggle with unrefreshing sleep. Circadian rhythm disorders include:

  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome – A night owl schedule where you struggle to fall asleep early.
  • Advanced sleep phase syndrome – Falling asleep very early in the evening.
  • Irregular sleep-wake rhythm – Unpredictable sleep patterns.
  • Shift work disorder – Trouble sleeping during daylight after working overnights.

See a sleep specialist if you think you may have one of these conditions – they may recommend chronotherapy to reset your body clock.

You have vitamin deficiencies

Certain vitamin deficiencies can disrupt sleep. Deficiencies in the following nutrients may make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep:

  • Vitamin D – Important for circadian rhythms. Get more sunshine and foods like fatty fish.
  • Magnesium – Helps relax muscles for sleep. Eat magnesium-rich foods like spinach, almonds, avocados.
  • Vitamin B complex – B vitamins help manage stress. Get more from meat, eggs, leafy greens.
  • Calcium – Calcium deficiencies can cause nighttime leg cramps that disrupt sleep.
  • Iron – Iron deficiency is linked to restless leg syndrome. Eat more red meat, beans, spinach.

Ask your doctor to test your levels if you think you may be deficient in key nutrients for sleep.

You’re not getting enough natural light

Sunlight exposure helps regulate melatonin and circadian rhythms. If you don’t get sufficient natural light, your body may not produce enough sleep-inducing melatonin at night. Try to get outdoor light exposure within 1-2 hours of waking. Open blinds as soon as you wake up and sit near windows while working.

You consume too many stimulating substances

Consuming stimulating substances too close to bed makes it hard to wind down for sleep. Avoid:

  • Caffeine – Avoid caffeine 6+ hours before bed.
  • Nicotine – Smoking before bed can disrupt sleep.
  • Alcohol – While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it impairs sleep quality later.
  • Heavy meals – Eat dinner 2-3 hours pre-bedtime.

You have an overactive mind

Anxiety, rumination, and worrying in bed is a recipe for poor sleep. Overactive minds lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Implement relaxation techniques before bed like:

  • Mindful breathing exercises
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Calming visualization
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Listening to soothing music

Jotting thoughts in a worry journal earlier in the evening can help clear your mind before sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps treat intrusive thoughts.

You’re not consistent with your sleep routine

Going to bed and waking up at inconsistent times disrupts your body’s circadian rhythms and can impair sleep. Even weekend “catch up” sleep throws off your schedule. Try to:

  • Wake up within 1 hour of the same time daily, even weekends
  • Follow a relaxing bedtime routine each evening
  • Only nap 15-20 minutes in early afternoon
  • Avoid sleeping in more than 1 hour on weekends

You sleep in an uncomfortable temperature

Ambient bedroom temperature impacts sleep quality. Being too hot or cold leads to restlessness. Per experts, ideal sleep temperature is approximately:

  • 65°F (18°C) or less for optimal sleep.
  • 70°F (21°C) or below for most sleepers.
  • 75°F (24°C) or below to still allow sleep.

Adjust your thermostat, use breathable blankets, open windows or use a fan to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Your bedroom isn’t dark enough

Melatonin release is impaired if your bedroom is too bright, disrupting restfulness. Ensure your room is pitch-dark or sleep with an eye mask. Solutions include:

  • Blackout curtains or blinds
  • Covering all light-emitting electronics
  • Moving alarm clocks outside the room
  • A comfortable eye mask
  • Dim nightlights if needed


There are many reasons you may not feel refreshed upon waking up. From poor sleep habits to health conditions to environmental factors, many influences can disrupt your sleep. Work through all potential reasons methodically. Keep a sleep diary to help identify issues. Talk to your doctor if problems persist despite your best efforts to improve your sleep situation.