Health

Reasons for Morning Fatigue And What Can Be Done About It

When you’re going to bed on time each evening and getting the required 7-9 hours’ sleep your body needs, you’d expect to wake up every morning… Simi - June 7, 2018

When you’re going to bed on time each evening and getting the required 7-9 hours’ sleep your body needs, you’d expect to wake up every morning refreshed, invigorated and ready to go. However, that is not always the case. Many people report getting enough sleep but still feeling exhausted all the time and barely able to get through the day. Sleep is critical to the survival of the human body. The body just cannot continue to function if it does not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is often self-imposed by people who do not judge it necessary to get sufficient sleep. So, they get 4-5 hours’ sleep a night. Eventually, their bodies cannot go on anymore, and they are likely to fall ill.

During sleep, the body is healing any tissues, muscles and blood vessels. This includes the heart muscles and the blood vessels that supply it and muscles that were strained during the day’s activities or exercises. It is also critical to the maintenance of the body’s immune system which prevents us from being susceptible to opportunistic infections. The body is much like the battery of your cell phone. It cannot run indefinitely and needs to recharge. Whilst electricity charges your phone, sleep charges your body. A lack of sleep can occur even though you get enough sleep. If you don’t get sufficient deep sleep or you wake several times during the night, you will always feel tired. Sleep deprivation leaves you irritable, depressed and drowsy all the time. It makes decision-making difficult. Your body also begins to crave starchy, unhealthy foods to give you a short-term energy boost to overcome your fatigue. Here are some reasons enough sleep still leaves you tired.

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1. Tech addiction

Many people think that browsing the internet, looking at their social media accounts, or playing games on a cellphone, tablet or computer is the perfect way to relax and prepare their bodies for sleep. Others believe that the best way to fall asleep is watching TV shows. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. At the University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska Academy 4,100 young people’s use of technology was studied to determine how it affected their sleep and mental health. Many reported problems with sleep together with symptoms of stress and depression.

Studies show that computers, tablets, and cellphones disrupt the body’s ability to sleep. Their high-resolution screens prevent the body from producing a sleep hormone called melatonin. Darkness is required to produce melatonin. A lack of melatonin causes a raised level of alertness which makes sleep difficult. Even though you may fall asleep easily enough, the quality of your sleep is affected by the melatonin in your body.

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Experts believe that passive technology use such as watching television, listening to music, or reading an e-book doesn’t have as big an impact on the body’s sleep patterns as interactive applications such as playing games, surfing the web and posting on social media. So, it is advisable to cease all interactive technology use at least one hour prior to going to bed. Passive technology use can be used closer prior to turning off the lights.

Whilst the use of technology is inevitable in today’s world, it is preferable to put cellphones, computers, and tablets away in the evening well before bedtime. And if you’re going to bed on time and still waking up tired, don’t use any passive technology too close to bedtime either to see if it has an appreciable effect.

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2. Your diet

A diet should be finely tuned to ensure a quality night’s sleep. Too much or too little food can have an impact on how well you sleep and how rested you feel in the morning. The timing of your eating habits in relation to your bedtime is also an influencing factor.

Surprisingly, even what you eat for breakfast will affect how well you sleep that night. If you start your day carbo-loading with unhealthy carbohydrates such as doughnuts, you’ll feel an energy boost. However, this will be short-term only, and before long you’ll be feeling sluggish and sleepy, and you’ll start looking for your next fix of carbohydrates. So, it’s better to eat a healthy breakfast that contains protein and complex carbohydrates to keep your body running efficiently. Consider eating foods such as eggs and wholegrain bread or cereals.

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At lunchtime and throughout the day, stick to healthy food options such as fruits, vegetables, and protein snacks. They’ll sustain your energy without the negative side effects of unhealthy carbohydrates. If you go to the opposite end of the spectrum and you don’t eat enough food, you’ll be kept awake at night by your growling stomach and your brain sending emergency messages to your body that it needs more food.

The timing of your evening meal is crucial. If you eat too close to bedtime, you could get indigestion which will affect your ability to sleep. But if you eat too early, you could go to bed hungry which also has a negative impact as stated above. Try to eat your main meal at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. If you feel hungry before going to bed, consider a light snack such as yogurt or non-acidic fruits.

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3. Your exercise patterns

People who take exercise every day report better sleep quality. Exercise is a proven stress reliever and tires the body’s muscles out leaving it in need of sleep. As few as 10 minutes of vigorous exercise is enough to get you some quality sleep, although it is advisable to aim for the standard minimum of 30 minutes.

Some people prefer to exercise early in the morning, whereas others prefer going to the gym or for a walk after work in the evening. There are even those who prefer to do both. A lot of people believe that exercising in the evening can have a negative impact on your sleep patterns. This is not necessarily true as it depends on the individual.

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The case for evening exercise is that it stimulates an increase in the body’s temperature. After a few hours, when the temperature has regulated itself, the body is left feeling tired which can give you a good night’s sleep. The case against evening exercise is that it releases feel-good endorphins into the system leaving you feeling revved up and alert. If you exercise too close to bedtime, these endorphins will render you incapable of getting quality sleep.

When you exercise and how it will affect your sleep cannot be predetermined. It will depend on you, your body, and your existing sleep patterns. It is suggested, however, that if you are waking up after having enough sleep feeling exhausted that you might want to change up the timing of your exercise program to see if it has an effect. But, as scientists note, Vitamin D can also affect your body’s quality of sleep, so try and take some of your exercises outdoors during the daytime in the sun.

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4. Your caffeine consumption

If your caffeine intake is too high or is not timed correctly, it can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. This will leave you feeling lethargic and listless, yet unable to sleep deeply or sleep at all. The short-term benefits of caffeine as a short-lived ‘pick me up’ are far outweighed by the longer-term sleep interruptions it can cause.

That’s not to say you must abandon your morning cup of coffee. It merely means that you must regulate how much caffeine you consume and when you consume it. Caffeine is not a dietary requirement although moderate use will have no appreciable long-term effects. As a stimulant, caffeine gives us an energy boost as it creates a raised level of alertness because it blocks the chemicals in the brain that induce sleep.

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The problem with caffeine is that while it produces a short-term heightened functioning of the body and brain, this does not last long. But caffeine remains behind in your bloodstream for hours. In fact, after 6 hours, only half the caffeine you have consumed will have left your body. This residual caffeine can continue to have a stimulating effect on the body and prevent you from falling asleep or going into a deep sleep.

Consider getting into the habit of moderate caffeine intake during the day, stopping well in advance of bedtime. Don’t associate caffeine only with coffee. It is present in many other substances such as tea, chocolate, cocoa, soft drinks, and certain drugs. Make sure that you avoid all such foods and beverages in the hours leading up to turning your lights off to see if it makes a difference in how well you sleep.

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5. The light in your bedroom

When your bedroom is light, it prevents the body from producing sufficient quantities of melatonin which are hormones the body releases to induce sleep. While you might be able to fall asleep in front of the television or in a well-lit bedroom, you are not going to get quality sleep as you won’t go into a deep sleep state.

Many people prefer to go to sleep with a light or the television on, particularly when they must sleep alone. This can be caused by a subconscious fear of the dark. This is a real fear that can be perpetuated by a traumatic experience as far back as childhood or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is prevalent among victims of abuse and servicemen and women. However, if over time, the sufferer can spend more time in the dark and lessen his/her fear of it, the better the quality of sleep they will get. They can lessen their anxiety about the dark by leaving a bathroom light on so that if they wake up, it’s not to pitch darkness.

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The reason it is so important to sleep in a darkened room is that the body’s sleep-wake pattern is dominated by light. Too much bright light can push the body’s sleep cycle back, meaning that you’ll fall asleep later. But it’s doubtful you’ll have the luxury of sleeping in later the next day because you must go to work.

The reason night shift workers often struggle to sleep during the day is that the body is programmed to be awake in the light and asleep in the dark. The room they sleep in must be as dark as possible, and they should use blackout curtains to help them sleep.

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6. The temperature of your room

Whether too hot or too cold, the temperature of your room will affect how well you sleep. Human beings are thermo-regulators. This means that the body can control its own temperature. There are two types of body temperature in the human body. The core temperature relates to the brain and organs deep inside the body. The shell temperature is related to the skin.

The body regulates the shell temperature through the blood vessels at the skin surface. When it is too warm, the blood vessels dilate to cool the body’s temperature. The body may even perspire so that it can cool down further. When it is too warm, the blood vessels constrict, retaining the heat in the body. To fall asleep, your body temperature needs to decrease. If your room is too warm, it will be difficult for your body to regulate its temperature to the right levels for sleep.

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That’s not to say that you should set the thermostat right down in your room. If the room is too cold, the body cannot settle down to sleep because it is constantly trying to warm itself to prevent the core temperature from decreasing and you will doze rather than getting into a state of deep sleep.

It is generally agreed that the temperature in a bedroom conducive to good sleep is 60-67 degree F. That means that in winter your bedroom thermostat setting may be different from other areas such as the living room and kitchen. It is worthwhile setting the temperature in your bedroom at the correct levels to see if it induces a better night’s sleep and leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning.

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7. The state of cleanliness of your bed linens

A lot of people tend to put washing their sheets and bed linen off as less important than other cleaning tasks. Stripping the bed and washing everything, then putting it or a different set back onto the bed can be a time-consuming task, especially if you’re working alone on a big bed. However, clean bedding really can contribute to a better night’s sleep.

The millions of skin cells you shed daily are not visible to the naked eye, but they are nevertheless there. Given the amount of time you spend in bed, it is reasonable to expect that they are there in huge numbers. Unfortunately, the presence of those skin cells is not as benign as we’d like to think. They attract dust mites, who find your discarded skin cells a delicacy, and with enough time, they’ll get themselves comfortably set up inside your mattress and pillows.

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Traces of your perspiration and oils from your body (mostly the face) are also present on your bedsheets. These areas are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria that can make you ill. The crumbs you leave behind from breakfast in bed, or a late-night snack attracts insects such as ants and cockroaches. If you allow your pets on your bed, they can bring with them fleas and the remains of whatever they rolled on outside… The list is endless.

The upshot of it is that if your bed linen is dirty, it can affect how well you sleep. The mites, fleas, and other bugs that have been attracted to your unclean bed linen are active at night, and when they’re finished with the ‘treats’ on your bedsheets, they may move on to you next!

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8. Your cluttered house

A cluttered, disorganized bedroom can have an impact on how well you sleep at night. When your bed is covered with dirty laundry and plates from this morning’s breakfast, a good night’s sleep can be well-nigh impossible. Not only will it be uncomfortable, but the smell will be unappetizing, to say the least. The sound of insects scurrying about in your room feasting on the dirt will keep you awake.

Not everyone finds keeping their room clean a fun task and may put it low on their to-do list because they have conflicting priorities at work and simply don’t have the time. But the health implications alone should force you to look at it as a more serious task, even if it is a bit of a drag.

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Studies have shown that hoarders have a harder time falling asleep than their neat freak opposites and that they often complain of disturbed sleep. Hoarding is a condition where people feel compelled to keep things that others would consider junk and become anxious when they need to part with them. It could be that some of their decision-making to let go of their possessions is in part affected by the fact that they do not sleep well. Many don’t sleep in their beds for years due to the number of things they are hoarding.

If you’re a bit of a ‘clutter junkie,’ you could become a borderline hoarder. It’s hard to clean between clutter, which is why it should be avoided. Your bedroom is meant to be a sanctuary of peace and serenity, but this is not possible if it is disordered, untidy, and dirty. Keep your bedroom clean to ensure some quality sleep.

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9. Inconsistent sleep patterns

Inconsistency in your sleep pattern can leave you feeling sleep deprived and grouchy. Some people calculate roughly how much sleep they need to get on a weekly basis. Then they sleep very little during the week in the knowledge that they’ll ‘catch up’ on the weekend. This type of inconsistent sleep-wake pattern will leave you exhausted no matter how much you sleep.

It is important to set parameters of time between which you go to bed and get up the following morning. So, you can decide that you’ll go to bed between 21:30 and 22:30, and that you’ll wake up between 06:30 and 07:30. That gives you a bit of time to play with if you must stay up a bit or if you get a chance to lie in. There are going to be times when you cannot stick to your bedtime and wake-up routine. But strive to stick to it as much as possible so that the number of hours you sleep is spread each night evenly.

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When you adopt an inconsistent sleep-wake pattern on a regular basis, you disrupt your body’s clock. Called the circadian rhythm, it works on a roughly 24-hour basis and tells our bodies when to sleep and when to wake up. Unfortunately, most of us have disrupted body clocks because we must go to work or school. But a healthier sleep pattern can help us begin to regain control of our body clocks.

Scientists have linked sustained severe interruptions to the body clock to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and a propensity for glucose intolerance and obesity. That just shows you that enough sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessary requirement for healthy living.

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10. Your pillows and mattress

If you’re not sleeping on the correct mattress and with the correct pillows, your sleep quality will be compromised. Mattresses and pillows don’t last forever, and they need to be replaced from time to time. You wouldn’t exercise on a rundown broken treadmill, so why would you sleep on a mattress and pillows that should have been replaced ages ago?

The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll in 2011 and determined that 92% of people feel that a comfortable mattress is a large contributor to a good night’s sleep. While it may mean incurring some expense to replace these items, it will be worth it in the long-run as you’ll get better quality sleep which is critical to your long-term health. When you sleep on a mattress and pillows that are ‘past their sell-by date,’ it causes your body discomfort. This will make you restless during your sleep, as your body tries to find a comfortable position to lie in. You’ll wake up in pain and most likely go back to bed again that night in pain.

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Your mattress and pillows will also be full of dust mites if you’ve had them for a long time regardless of your best efforts. These dust mites cause allergic reactions such as hay fever, allergic rhinitis, and asthma. So, you could say with confidence that you’re sick of your mattress (since it’s making you sick).

When you realize that it’s time to bid your old mattress and pillows a fond farewell, take your time shopping for replacements so that you get the right ones for you. What feels hard to you may feel soft to someone else. It depends on factors such as your weight and your perception of firmness.

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11. Depression

Depression goes far beyond feeling a little sad sometimes. It is the persistent feelings of hopelessness, disinterest, and sadness that characterize clinical depression. In addition to the emotional symptoms a depressed person presents, there are physical symptoms associated with the condition as well. These include changes in appetite, headaches, and changes in sleep patterns. When they go into a depression, some people sleep more, while others sleep a lot less. You can go from someone who always slept well to being someone who struggles with sleep.

Due to the emotional factors related to depression and the fact that so many sufferers also experience high levels of anxiety, a person with depression can sleep for an extended period and still wake up tired. During the initial stages, when treatment has not started, a person with depression may become sleep deprived even though they go to bed on time. They are listless and lethargic and tired all the time. The reason for this is that they do not get quality deep sleep because of the nature of the condition.

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Depression is not a temporary condition, and it won’t go away. A person with depression must be treated as soon as possible before their symptoms worsen. Often, however, it is difficult bordering on impossible for them to do this on their own. A support network is necessary.

Once in treatment with a mental healthcare professional, sleep patterns can be determined, and treatments for insomnia (not able to sleep) and hypersomnia (sleeping too much) can be incorporated into the process of addressing the depression. Treatment usually involves psychotherapy and medications such as anti-depressants. If deemed necessary, sleeping medication may be prescribed. Once a depressed person is being treated successfully, they can get adequate sleep which in turn helps them to feel better.

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12. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This condition is characterized by persistent fatigue that lasts for six months or longer. A person with the condition may also experience problems remembering things, trouble concentrating, and unexplained headaches muscle pains. The quality of life of the patient is affected because they are too tired to perform their daily activities. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is also known as myalgic encephalopathy (ME). Despite the high levels of exhaustion, many CFS sufferers struggle with sleep and wake up each day feeling tired.

The condition is hard to diagnose as there is no test for it. Often it is diagnosed after a process of elimination and the correlation of a set of symptoms that indicate CFS. The causes of CFS are not clear, but it has in recent years become more prevalent.

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CFS sufferers have interrupted sleep. They have what is referred to as non-restorative sleep (sleep that leaves them feeling tired), and often find it difficult to stay asleep, frequently waking during the night. As a result, they are sleepy during the day. They may also experience bouts of insomnia.

One theory about the struggles CFS sufferers have with sleep is the amount of pain they’re in. It is sometimes obstructive to sleep because the pain is so severe that the person cannot sleep deeply and get quality sleep. There is no quick fix for CFS, and many patients develop depression symptoms as they reach a state of hopelessness about their condition. Treatment for CFS and its accompanying pain symptoms is quite complicated, but sufferers are advised to change their daily routines, take gentle exercise whenever possible, and learn better sleep habits to ensure they do everything they can to get a good night’s sleep.

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13. Anemia

Anemia is caused by a lack of red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body. The most common forms of anemia are associated with a lack of iron in the body. A simple blood test can determine if a person has enough iron in their system or not. A person with anemia will feel exhausted and run-down all the time, no matter how much sleep they get. They will also lack the energy to exercise and feel dizzy.

Iron-deficiency anemia is fairly common as people do not get enough iron in their diets. It is prevalent amongst women and girls according to studies conducted. Red meat is rich in iron as is broccoli, among others. If a person does not get enough iron in their diet, the levels become depleted to the point that there is a deficiency. A doctor prescribes an iron-rich diet and iron supplements. It is better not to self-medicate for iron-deficiency anemia as you can overdose on iron.

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A person with anemia can experience heart palpitations, headaches, sores on the tongue or in the mouth, and shortness of breath among others. All of these may affect their ability to sleep. So, a person with anemia may have trouble going to sleep, trouble staying asleep, or trouble getting quality sleep. Whichever way the anemia sufferer is affected, the lack of sleep will contribute to their tiredness.

As soon as iron-deficient anemia is diagnosed and treated, the sufferer will start to see the symptoms lessen in their severity. This means that they should be able to return to their normal sleeping pattern, and with enough iron in their systems, they will no longer wake up feeling so tired anymore.

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14. Sleep apnea

While sleep apnea is quite common, it is not a sleep disorder that is often discussed. It is a potentially serious condition. When a person has sleep apnea, they briefly stop breathing several times in the night. They experience choking as well. This happens because the muscles in their upper airway relax or because tissue in the back of the throat collapses. Because of gravity, the tongue falls back against the throat which stops the breathing or limits the amount of oxygen getting into the body. It happens when the person is sleeping on their back.

Each time the breathing is interrupted by sleep apnea the oxygen supply to the body. It can lead to stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, and diabetes. What makes sleep apnea have an impact on your sleep quality is that each time you have a breathing interruption you are woken from a deep sleep even though you may not be aware of it. This constant disruption prevents you from getting enough deep sleep which will make you wake up tired even though you’ve slept for a sufficient time.

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Symptoms of sleep apnea include fatigue, daytime sleepiness, unrefreshing sleep, and waking frequently during the night. One of the key factors that can cause sleep apnea is obesity.

Once sleep apnea is diagnosed, the patient is advised to lose weight if they are obese. They may be prescribed a device for their mouth to prevent the obstruction. This works in most cases of sleep apnea. More severe cases require further medical intervention. When there has been an intervention for a person with sleep apnea, their sleep quality improves and that allows them to wake up from a good night’s sleep refreshed and invigorated.

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15. Stress

Stress is a reality of everyday life. There is good stress and bad stress. Good stress motivates you, whereas bad stress brings you down. Conflict, the pressure in the workplace, and problems in personal relationships are only some of the causes of stress. It is inevitable that we experience stress at times, but the way in which we cope with it can have a huge impact on our health.

One of the first functions to suffer when you’re experiencing stress is sleep. You’re so focused on the issues that are causing your stress that you cannot get your brain to shut down at night. You’ll lie in bed anticipating the next day at work, replaying an argument with a friend over again, or wondering how you’re going to pay all your bills at the end of the month. While your mind is racing, so is your pulse. Your heart rate needs to slow down if you want to get some sleep, but your stress is preventing this.

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When you finally fall asleep, the things that are stressing you out remain in your subconscious mind, and you tend to dream very vividly about them. Often these dreams will wake you up sweating with your heart racing. Then the cycle of lying awake and thinking about your problems starts all over again. Consequently, you are not getting the quality deep sleep you need to wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.

There is no medical treatment for day-to-day stress. It is important that you learn to manage your stress so that it doesn’t affect your sleep and overall health. You can learn relaxation techniques, meditation and yoga to help you process the feelings of stress. You can also go for therapy to help you manage your relationships better so that they don’t result in stress and sleeplessness.

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