Waking up Exhausted? What you Need to Know About Restless Sleep

Posted by Tyler Britton on Nov 19, 2021 3:25:00 PM


Do you ever find yourself waking up exhausted? You felt like you slept through the night, yet you don't have that rejuvenated feeling and you know it's going to be a long day before your feet even hit the floor? The first thing you should know is that this isn't normal. After 8-10 hours of sleep, your body has had time to repair tissues, digest food, and rest your brain for another day. But if this isn't happening, and your body can't complete these tasks, you may find yourself wondering what's going on at night? Let's see if we can figure it out! 

The stages of normal sleep

Normal sleep patterns involve several stages. The first stage of sleep is when your eyes are closed, and you're resting, but you can still hear and carry on a conversation. You enter the second stage of sleep when you start to doze off into a light sleep, but you can still be easily awakened. The third and fourth stages of sleep are deep sleep which is essential for you to feel rested. This is when your brain is in delta sleep and your body is paralyzed. Your body uses this time to make it's repairs and adjustments for the next day. As you come out of those stages of sleep, you will enter REM sleep, or rapid eye movement. This is when dreams happen and your mind is active, although you are still asleep. 

If you wake up feeling rejuvenated, then you entered all sleep cycles and cycled through four or five times, each cycle lasting about 90 minutes. However, if you're not waking up feeling rejuvenated, then something is wrong, and you may not have cycled through all the cycles, or may not have completed enough cycles in your sleep. Without that feeling of rejuvenation you may find your days being less enjoyable and you experiencing the following issues: 

  • Mood swings
  • Poor task performance
  • Less motivation to accomplish goals
  • Struggling social life
  • Reduced sex drive

If you find yourself having many days of the above symptoms, then it is definitely time to try and find the root of your sleeplessness, especially if you feel as if you are sleeping for at least 7 hours a night, but still don't feel like it. The stem of your restless sleep may be due to:

  • Medical causes or chronic tiredness 
  • Sleep disorders
  • Lifestyle or behavior causes
  • Poor sleeping environment

Medical Causes of Chronic Tiredness

There are common medical diagnoses that can make sleeping restfully difficult. These include:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hormone fluctuations
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Heart Disease
  • Chronic illness

These medical conditions involve the imbalance of important nutrients and cells in your body, which can negatively impact your energy levels. So regardless of how long you sleep, you still feel tired because your levels are off. If you have been diagnosed with any of these, or suspect that you could, it's essential to see your doctor to determine how to better manage these conditions so they don't impact your sleep. 

Sleep Disorders That Cause Chronic Fatigue

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder and medical condition that causes you to repeatedly stop breathing throughout the night, anywhere from 40 to 100 times or more per night. There are two types, obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea means there is something blocking your airways, making it difficult for you to continue breathing. Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea are obesity, large neck circumference, tobacco use, age and gender, to name a few. 

Central sleep apnea means there is an issue in your brain with signals that instruct your body to breathe. It will be necessary to find a sleep clinic to test if you have sleep apnea, and if so, what kind.

However, sleep apnea can cause restless sleep by causing the following events throughout the night: 

  • Being awakened by your bed partner who hears you repeatedly stop breathing
  • Loud, chronic snoring that wakes you up
  • Being awakened by choking or gasping 

These events can cause you to: 

  • Wake up exhausted in the morning
  • Wake up with headaches
  • Experience mood disruptions, such as constant irritability, brain fog, etc.


During sleep stages three and four, when you are supposed to be getting your best rest, your body should go into paralysis. However, sometimes, this doesn't happen and we experience parasomnias. Parasomnias are disruptive sleep behaviors that involve movement and other abnormal phenomena throughout the night that can interfere with your circadian rhythm, thus leading you to feel unrested. Parasomnias are often not recalled the next morning, leaving individuals exhausted with no idea why. They include the following behaviors:

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleepwalking
  • Night terrors
  • Chronic nightmares

If you have been told you do any of the above behaviors, and you wake up feeling unrested, it may be time to find a sleep clinic and start working towards a solution to help you. 

Lifestyle causes of restless sleep

Finally, there are numerous lifestyle and emotion-related causes of sleep deprivation from lack of sleep quality. Here are a few examples: 

  • Drinking alcohol, although helping you sleep, interrupts regular sleep cycles so you don't experience all of them required for rejuvenation. 
  • Poor diet/malnutrition
  • Allergies 
  • Clinical depression/anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Shift Work

Poor sleep environment 

Sleeping is very much a mental activity that sometimes takes coaching and conditioning to achieve. That is why it is so important that you only use your bed for sleep and sex so your body associates the bed with time to do one of those activities. If you work in your bed, or just hang out without intentions on going to sleep, this can cause confusion and associations with the bed and wakefulness. The below is a great starting place for how to create an optimal environment for sleep. 


Sleep deprivation despite good length of sleeping isn’t always the product of a sleeping disorder. Your sleep quality might also be impacted by:

  • Lack of ideal sleeping environment: quiet, dark, peaceful, and comfortable room
  • Adjust to shift work that interferes with natural nighttime sleeping patterns. 
  • Stress/anxiety from work, marriage/divorce, moving, etc.
  • Too much “screen time” with laptops/TV/cell phones before bed, as the blue light can delay the onset of restorative stages of sleep

Any of the above can cause lower quality sleep, regardless of the quantity of sleep. 

If you are living in Anchorage and struggle with chronic fatigue or tiredness during the daytime, contact us. We can help.

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