As parents, we’re constantly sleep-deprived raising our babies. Then the kids get a little older, we finally get that sweet eight hours of sleep, yet we still wake up tired.
You expect to wake up refreshed, ready to seize the day. Instead, you wake up feeling heavy, lethargic, and drowsier than you were last night. Why is this? Is it some kind of cruel parental punishment that dictates we will never get to feel fresh again, even after sleeping?!
Let’s explore some of these reasons, as detailed by Gary L. Wenk, Ph.D., author of The Brain: What Everyone Needs to Know and Your Brain on Food.
5 Reasons why you wake up tired
1. You go to bed hungry
The food you eat before you go to sleep affects your sleep time. A recent study suggests that eating something sweet — or carbohydrates — can induce drowsiness.
Elevated blood sugar levels have been shown to increase the activity of neurons that promote sleep. This can explain why we feel drowsy after a heavy meal, particularly when we eat food that is rich in carbohydrates and other sugars.
2. You share the bed with someone
An important study that investigated the sleep quality of couples sleeping together reveals that, for women, sharing a bed with a man mostly has a negative effect on sleep quality.
There are factors that affect a woman’s sleep quality, like when a man snores, grinds their teeth, or makes any sudden movements. However, sex before sleep made the women’s negative opinion of their sleep quality less severe.
By comparison, the presence of a female partner in bed did not reduce men’s sleep efficiency, regardless of whether they had sex or not. The men’s opinion of sleep quality was lower when sleeping alone.
Therefore, men benefit from sleeping with women but women do not benefit from sleeping with men, though sexual contact before sleep makes it a little easier.
3. You have relationship problems
The study adds that sleep problems and relationship problems tend to occur at around the same time. This happens during times of significant life events or transitions – an illness, the birth of the first child, or times when a relationship is about to dissolve.
In a healthy relationship, a partners serve as a successful stress-buffer. On the other hand, stressful relationships lead to increased physiological and emotional arousal, poor health behaviour, and a higher risk of sleep disturbance and disorders.
4. You go to bed late at night
This one’s a no-brainer. People who sleep late will get up late (and wake up tired), too. They perform best, both mentally and physically, in the late afternoon or evening. They’re what you call night persons. These types of people are significantly more likely to suffer from poor sleep quality compared to morning persons.
5. Your brain chemicals
Before you wake up, you spend most of your time in REM sleep, dreaming. You may not know it but your brain is highly active in this dream state. In this state, your brain consumes large quantities of the energy molecule ATP.
The “A” in ATP stands for adenosine. There is a direct link between high levels of adenosine and high levels of drowsiness. This is because adenosine essentially turns off the activity of neurons responsible for making you aroused and attentive.
So if you wake up tired and drowsy, it’s because there’s still some leftover adenosine in your brain from when you were dreaming.
Steps to help you sleep better when you wake up tired
If you’re having trouble sleeping with your partner, it’s best to talk about it and find out how you can solve the problem. Of course, there are steps you can take on your own to help you fall asleep better.
1. Deep breathing techniques
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where your baby is already asleep and you’re the one who’s struggling to fall asleep. It can be caused by anxiety or overthinking.
Lisa Artis, from the British Sleep Council, advises parents to do deep breathing techniques to help them calm down. “If your mind doesn’t stop buzzing, write your thoughts down,” she says.
2. Fix your room
Artis says we need the right environment — a cool, quiet, and dark bedroom — to sleep better and longer.
“It may be worth considering investing in dimmer light to avoid bright light waking you up. Make sure the room is gadget-free and your bed is comfortable. It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on one that’s too soft, too hard, too small or too old,” she explains.
3. Don’t pressure yourself
It’s natural for babies to wake up at night. You’re not doing anything wrong. Putting undue pressure on yourself makes you more anxious and unable to sleep.
4. Have “me” time
Artis recommends helping yourself relax with a warm bath, a good book, or listening to music and making it your routine. Regularity is sleep’s best friend, after all. So whether you’re about to sleep or go out, get yourself some “me” time.
5. Eat properly
We know cooking proper meals for yourself when you’re already tired can be difficult. Putting in the extra effort to make a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal can help your body get the right energy levels it needs.
6. Make the most out of your baby’s nap time
Artis suggests that a 20-minute “power nap” can give you “as much energy as two cups of strong coffee, but the effects are longer lasting.” She also suggests trying to take naps when your baby’s asleep. If you can’t sleep, make the most of the time your baby’s asleep: relax and have a bath, or Netflix and snack.
7. Take help when it’s offered
Don’t do it all by yourself. If your partner or a trusted friend offers to help you look after the baby, let them. Get some rest. You’ll be able to cope much more easily once you get some rest.
8. Go outside
Artis says going outside your house to get some fresh air and natural daylight can make you more alert and pleasantly distracted. She says, “Expose yourself to natural daylight. Your body’s internal clock (its circadian rhythms) is regulated by your exposure to sunlight. This means you can trick your body into believing it should be awake even when it feels tired.”
A change in temperature can help you stay alert as the temperature change affects your whole body. Once you’ve gotten used to being alert in the day time, your body will be more able to fix its rhythm and help you fall asleep naturally at night.
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