Feeling a little sleepy right as you open your eyes and stretch your body in the morning is quite normal. It’s called sleep inertia and happens as the body transitions from sleep to wakefulness. Unfortunately, what is not normal (but so common) is waking up, feeling unrested, and ready to lay back down by 10 am. If you’ve been dragging yourself around with chronic fatigue before lunch and asking, “why am I so tired in the morning?!”— I’m so happy you’re here.
In this article, I’m sharing the top 5 reasons you may feel exhausted in the morning. I was once in your shoes (a few times, actually), and I want you to know that life doesn’t have to be like this. You can have your energy back, naturally and consistently. By the end of this article, you’ll have a place to start your healing journey.
“Why Am I So Tired in the Morning?!”
1 – You’re Going to Bed Too Late
I hate to start with the obvious, but it’s often the obvious thing that gets put on the back burner. If you feel tired in the morning, you are probably going to bed too late. I’m not talking about 2 or 3 in the morning—too late can be 10:30-11. I know you may not want to keep reading after hearing that, but it’s important that you do.
For starters, if you are going to bed too late (see: later than your sweet spot), odds are you’re not getting enough sleep—it’s as simple as that. As a mom, I know how hard it can be to stay on track with bedtime. When I first had kids, nighttime was my only opportunity for alone time. Going to bed soon after my kids felt like I was missing that sacred alone time. So I would stay up until past 11 some nights and miss what a lot of people call the “angel train” or that sweet spot of the perfect bedtime.
Oftentimes when we miss the angel train, we miss our opportunity for a deep, full night’s rest because we become wired. I know you’ve felt this before. Suddenly you feel like you could clean the house, meal prep for a week, and start that creative project you’ve been holding off on.
Trust me when I say that going to bed early will be better for your energy, productivity, and creativity in the long run. If you are going to bed past 10, I invite you to try something different this week. For most people, 10pm is a sweet spot. Start your wind-down routine a few hours before (no artificial light, take a bath, self-massage, journal), and then cozy up in bed at 10. This will up your odds of falling asleep and staying asleep so that you wake up refreshed.
2 – You Experience Restless Sleep
If you have restless sleep, you have low sleep efficiency and are probably waking up multiple times throughout the night. One of the reasons for this is going to bed too late, and other reasons include a poor diet, inflammation, physical pain, hormone imbalances, adrenal fatigue, and environment.
Let’s focus on diet here. Say that you experienced an afternoon slump, and to make it through the day, you drink another coffee. After 12pm, caffeine can linger in your system for 12 hours plus, causing restless thoughts and body parts. Switching to a caffeine alternative will decrease your risk of a night of insomnia!
Another important point about diet and morning fatigue is blood sugar balance. If you wake up and only drink black coffee, your blood sugar levels will spike and then crash. The same goes for eating a breakfast high in sugar and carbs. If you miss out on the opportunity to consume a balanced breakfast like avocado, turkey sausage, and some sweet potato, you’re setting yourself up for a short but wild ride on the blood sugar roller coaster. Consuming processed foods all day long will also impact your sleep quality—especially if you eat too close to bedtime.
When you sleep, the only thing you want your body to be doing is detoxing. That’s its main job during sleep. Detoxification is necessary to flush out accumulated toxins in your brain and organs to have full body rejuvenation. If you miss this during sleep, you’ll feel completely exhausted and experience daytime sleepiness.
Eat your last meal at least 2-3 hours before you hit the hay. This way, your body will already have had an opportunity to digest so that when you hit the sheets, your body only has one job and one job only.
Eating healthy, whole, and balanced meals is one of the best ways to support a solid night’s sleep without restlessness. Other ways to reduce restless sleep is by going to bed early and on time, exercising during the day, self-massage at night or an Epsom salt bath, and diffusing relaxing essential oils.
3 – You May Have a Disrupted Circadian Rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is your natural 24-hour sleep and wake cycle. When on track, your body functions like a well-oiled machine. It produces all the right hormones and chemicals at the right time, regulating appetite, blood pressure, metabolism, reproduction, sleeping, waking, energy, bowel movements etc. When your circadian rhythm is out of whack, you’ll wake up in the morning feeling tired, have poor digestion, mood issues, and more.
The circadian rhythm can be negatively impacted by: staying up too late, jet lag, artificial light, eating habits, caffeine, medication, pregnancy, and night shift work. An abnormal circadian rhythm can also negatively affect your mental health. If your morning grogginess is paired with irritability, anger, sadness, or numbness, I encourage you to work to get your circadian rhythm back on track.
Getting your circadian rhythm healthy and back on track can be done! We go into depth in this guide, but here are the basics:
- When you wake up in the morning, get real sunlight on your eyes!
- At bedtime, keep your room pitch black
- Eat balanced meals and don’t eat too close to bedtime (if you must, make it a healthy fat like a spoonful of nut butter)
- Stick to the same bedtime every night – the earlier the better.
- Exercise! Get some movement early in the morning or during mid day.
4 – You May Have a Cortisol Imbalance
I see it time and time again with my adrenal fatigue clients. Waking up feeling groggy and fatigued is one of the hallmark signs of adrenal fatigue, and it’s all thanks to cortisol imbalance. When you struggle with adrenal fatigue, your cortisol levels are reversed. Cortisol levels are supposed to spike in the morning to help give you energy. But what we see in people with adrenal fatigue is that cortisol spikes at night and is at its lowest in the morning. This may sound familiar to those of you who suddenly get a second (or first!) wind after dinner and suddenly feel energized and alert.
Too low cortisol levels in the morning may be one of the reasons you wake up feeling so lethargic. Reversing adrenal fatigue and healing at the root, will give you your mornings back!
To learn more about how you can do this with support, check out our Coaching Program.
5 – Disrupted Sleep Environment
If your bedroom isn’t a sleep sanctuary, get ready to turn it into one. The bedroom should only be for sleeping and sex. When you get into bed at night, you want your brain to associate it with sleep time, not work or TV time. You should have minimal distractions on your side table and things in your bedroom. I love a candle and my essential oils on my side table, but really nothing else. Work stuff is put away in my office, and my phone is in the kitchen.
Blue light exposure should be 0. That means no alarm clocks, night lights, and cell phones. If you live in a city and don’t have black-out shades, I highly recommend getting a good-quality eye pillow. This is the same for noise pollution. Unless you have a sound machine that is playing natural sounds or a fan, your room should be in complete silence. If that’s not possible, try to find a good pair of earplugs.
The goal here is to get back to nature so that you can reset your circadian rhythm and have a deep sleep sans tossing and turning. We want you to get so close to nature that your room should be like a cave! Which means cool and dark. When your room is too hot, it can lead to tossing and turning and restless sleep. According to sleep experts, the optimal temperature for deep sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees fahrenheit. You can read more about optimal sleeping conditions here.
Here’s your perfect sleep environment checklist:
- Complete darkness
- No noise pollution (Silence or white/nature noises)
- No distractions (keep the cell phone out of the bedroom)
- 60-70 degrees
In this article, we covered sleep hygiene, dietary guidelines for optimal sleep and energy, and how to reset your circadian rhythm for high-energy mornings. I hope this read has helped you understand what needs to be addressed for you to take your mornings back. Let me know in the comments below where you plan on starting.