You sleep for seven to eight hours almost every night, only to feel groggy in the morning or even for the majority of the day. How can you be following a golden rule of sleep and feel so off?
According to a 2015 study, this disparity is frequently caused by a heightened state of sleep inertia, a circadian process that modulates memory, mood, reaction time, and alertness upon waking. After turning off the alarm, some people experience impaired performance and grogginess. The effects of sleep inertia usually wear off after 15 to 60 minutes, but they can last for several hours.
Sleep inertia impairs more sophisticated cognitive skills like evaluative thinking, decision-making, creativity, and rule application, and it worsens with sleep deprivation.
Even if your job does not require you to save lives or drive a truck overnight, sleep inertia can have a negative impact on your quality of life.
To address this, pulmonary and sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, recommends evaluating your sleep using the “two Qs.” “If you’re getting enough sleep, the next question is, ‘Am I getting enough good sleep?'”
Dasgupta recommended seeing a sleep specialist to rule out an underlying or primary sleep disorder. However, there are other more easily modifiable factors that could be interfering with the restoration and recovery processes that must occur during sleep, such as memory consolidation, hormone regulation, and emotional regulation or processing.
“There are a lot of conditions that cause fatigue, but they don’t necessarily make people feel ready to fall asleep,” said Jennifer Martin, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles’ David Geffen School of Medicine and president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Chronic pain conditions, metabolic or thyroid disorders, anemia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are examples.
If you’re experiencing unexplained fatigue, “an important first step might simply be a routine physical with your family doctor,” according to Martin.
Furthermore, the National Sleep Foundation states that healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night, so you may require more than eight hours of sleep to feel energized. You could experiment with going to bed an hour earlier or waking up an hour later than usual to see if it makes a difference, according to Christopher Barnes, a management professor at the University of Washington who studies the relationship between sleep and work.
If you’re sedentary, your body may become accustomed to only having to expend low levels of energy, causing you to feel tired when performing basic daily tasks, according to Martin.
Adults should get at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, while pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic and strengthening exercises per week.
Depression or anxiety
Anxiety and depression can be physically and mentally taxing, according to Dasgupta. These factors can also have an impact on the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, as well as whether (and how often) you wake up during the night, he adds.
Furthermore, medications used to treat depression or anxiety can have side effects such as insomnia or blocking deeper stages of sleep, according to Dasgupta.
Barnes explained that our schedules sometimes differ between weekdays and weekends. Schedules can also change for people who work in shifts.
“It’s a very common practice to say, ‘OK, well, it’s Friday night.’ ‘Because I don’t have to work tomorrow morning, I can stay up a little later,'” Barnes stated. Maybe you stay up later Saturday night because you don’t have to work Sunday, and then go to bed earlier on Sunday to prepare for the work week.
However, you’ve already shifted your sleep schedule back a couple of hours in a short period of time. “This is very similar to jet lag,” Barnes said. “That quick reset isn’t very effective.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, water makes up more than half of your body and is required for a variety of functions such as digestion, hormone and neurotransmitter production, and oxygen delivery throughout your body. Dehydration has been linked to reduced alertness, as well as increased sleepiness and fatigue.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of fluids per day, while men consume 3.7 liters (125 ounces) per day. This includes all fluids and water-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and soups. Because the average fluid-to-food ratio is around 80:20, a daily amount of 9 cups for women and 12 12 cups for men is recommended.
Inadequate sleeping environment or routine
Sleep hygiene entails keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and cold at night — and only using it for sleep and sex.
Caffeinated drinks should be avoided less than six hours before bedtime, and alcohol and heavy or spicy foods should be avoided at least two hours before bedtime. Deeper stages of sleep can be hampered by alcohol, and such foods can cause digestive issues that interfere with restorative sleep.
Sleep partner problems
“The person (or pet) with whom you share a bed has a significant impact on your sleep,” said Martin.
Perhaps your bed partner suffers from a sleep disorder and snores or tosses and turns. Or perhaps they have a different schedule that interferes with your sleep. Pets can also interfere with your sleep schedule because they do not have the same sleep patterns as humans, she says.
“The most important thing if your bed partner snores is to get them to see a sleep specialist and have them evaluated for sleep apnea,” Martin said. Snorers are more likely to have sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and restarts while they sleep.
On that note, Barnes mentioned that sleep disorders are another factor that can significantly reduce sleep quality.
He added that someone with sleep apnea may wake up 50, 100, or even more times during the night.
“Once you’re awake, you’re no longer in deep sleep, and you don’t usually get to drop into the deepest sleep right away,” Barnes explained. “Bringing people out of that deep sleep by waking them up will result in less time spent in the deepest stage of sleep in general.”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other sleep disorders that can affect daily energy levels include narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome.
According to Barnes, undergoing polysomnography at a sleep clinic is the best way to track sleep quality and quantity, especially if you suspect you may have a sleep disorder.
Apps and electronic wearables that measure sleep, such as watches or rings, aren’t as accurate as clinic tests, but they still provide enough information for healthy adults, according to Barnes. “I’d like to know if it was created and then validated against a more accurate device.”