There’s nothing like getting a full night’s sleep—you wake up refreshed, restored and clear-headed. But when you don’t, there aren’t enough espresso shots in the world to make up for it.
What counts as a full night’s sleep? In general, that means seven or more hours per night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (But your body could require more.)
So it’s no surprise you wake up feeling exhausted and crappy on nights where you slept fewer hours than you should have. But what about if you got your solid amount?
Turns out, there are things you do both before you hit the sack and while you’re snoozing that could make you wake up feeling zonked.
Here, 7 reasons you’re waking up completely exhausted.
YOU HAVE SLEEP APNEA
Sleep apnea—a condition often signaled by loud snoring—occurs when you briefly stop breathing in your sleep.
“Sleep apnea is a sneaky condition that basically forces your brain to make a tough decision at night: sleep or breathe,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution.
When you’re sleeping, your airways can become instable, eventually leading to a collapse that causes you to temporarily stop breathing. As the airway closes, you begin to suffocate—your brain jolts awake, so you can take a breath and restore your proper oxygen levels.
That’s a lifesaver, but when it happens time after time, it can really mess with your sleep, since constantly waking up prevents your body from hitting the deep, restorative sleep cycle it needs.
“Usually, the sleeper has no idea this is happening. They just feel dramatically sleepy the following day,” says Dr. Winter.
YOU ENDED THE EVENING WITH A NIGHTCAP
Skip booze if you want to feel rested tomorrow.
“Alcohol can reduce the deep sleep we get at night and dramatically suppress REM (dream) sleep,” says Dr. Winter. “It is also a diuretic, so get ready to get up and go to the bathroom more frequently.”
Alcohol can also increase sleep fragmentation and wake time during the night, says Dr. Winter. To put it simply: You won’t be getting that deep sleep your body needs to do its rebooting.
“Alcohol also triggers heartburn and reflux,” says Rajkumar Dasgupta, M.D., spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Since symptoms like coughing and choking caused by reflux worsen when you are lying down, you’re practically guaranteeing a bad night’s sleep.
YOU CHOSE REGULAR INSTEAD OF DECAF WITH DESSERT
It might be a no-brainer, but caffeine wreaks havoc on your sleep in more ways than one.
“Caffeine in particular can lengthen sleep latency and make it hard to fall asleep, because it is a stimulant,” says Dr. Winter.
And it may have you running to the bathroom more during the night, since it has diuretic effects, says Dr. Dasgupta.
Making multiple trips to the bathroom at night will also leave you more dehydrated in the morning, since you lost electrolytes without replenishing, says Dr. Dasgupta. That can contribute to you waking up feeling crappy.
YOU’RE ON YOUR PHONE RIGHT BEFORE BED
“Electronics and the light they emit can interrupt our brain’s ability to produce the sleep-promoting chemical melatonin,” says Dr. Winter. As a result, you’ll struggle to fall asleep.
That’s why using glasses that filter out that harmful blue and green light or setting your device to a “sleep” setting can help, says Dr. Winter.
According to a Harvard study, the blue light emitted by most electronics suppressed melatonin twice as much.
Or better yet, power these devices down two to three hours before bed and keep them out of your bedroom, suggests Dr. Winter.
YOU GRIND YOUR TEETH
While you may not be aware you’re grinding your teeth, your sleep partner probably does—so you may need their help letting you know you’re doing it.
The medical term for grinding your teeth is called bruxism, and can also have pretty serious dental repercussions like TMJD, or temporomandibular joint disorder, a misaligned jaw bone which causes pain surrounding the muscles and joints that connects your jaw bone to your skull, says Dr. Dasgupta.
Grinding your teeth can mess with sleep quality by blocking your airways and preventing you from getting enough oxygen, leading to waking up during the night.
“Bruxism can also be an indication of another sleep disorder,” says Dr. Winter. “For example, sleep apnea and the awakenings it creates can often lead to bruxism.”
YOU WORKED OUT BEFORE BED
Exercising within two to three hours before bed can mess with your sleep cycle.
“This can increase cortisol (the stress hormone) and reduce melatonin secretion, and can increase the time it takes to fall asleep,” says Dr. Winter.
Plus, it might make you too hot for shuteye, too.
“Working out also raises your body temperature, which may make it harder to fall asleep,” says Dr. Dasgupta.
YOU BINGE-WATCHED NETFLIX IN BED
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that binge-watching TV before bed is linked to poorer sleep and insomnia. The cause?
“Pre-sleep cognitive arousal that disrupted the body’s natural transition to sleep and the down time it takes to fully relax,” says Dr. Dasgupta. Basically, it keys you up, making restful sleep hard to come by.
Even if you think you’re not fully paying attention to the episode—you are. So skip the Law & Order.
By Emily Shiffer