Why am I still tired after 8 hours of sleep?

Waking up tired after 8 hours of sleep

There are various reasons you might still be tired after sleeping for 8 hours. It could be due to poor sleep quality, lifestyle factors such as stress, poor diet, lack of exercise or an underlying health condition. It is also possible that you may not be getting enough deep sleep or REM sleep, which can leave you feeling tired even after a full night sleep. Before we look at the improvements you can make, let’s look at how much sleep you need.

How much sleep do we really need?

It has been scientifically proven that sleep is essential; it restores and powers the mind. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. However, the amount of sleep an individual needs can vary depending on their age, genetics, lifestyle, and health. Getting the right amount of sleep is important for overall health and well-being, so it is important to figure out what is right for you.

The National Sleep Foundation provides general guidelines for recommended sleep durations based on age groups. The last update was in September 2021, and they published the following guidelines:

  • Young adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours of sleep per day.
  • Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours of sleep per day.
  • Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours of sleep per day.

Why is sleeping important?

Sleep is where our body and mind recharge; it keeps the body more immune to diseases and illnesses. When we sleep, our body goes through a four-stage sleep cycle, which will repeat throughout the night. Disturbing your sleep cycle causes your natural circadian rhythm to be thrown off, negatively affecting your brain functions. 

The four stages of sleep:

  • Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage 1 – Your breathing slows down, and your body relaxes, lasting between 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage 2 – You become less aware of your surroundings, eye movement stops, and your breathing regulates. On average, this stage lasts around 20 minutes. 
  • Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage 3 – Also known as delta sleep, is when you are completely asleep. Stage 3 is essential in getting a refreshed feeling when you wake up; your muscles relax, noises around you don’t disrupt your sleep, and you progress into a deep sleep. 
  • Rapid eye movement (REM sleep) stage 4 (which happens around 90 minutes into your sleep cycle) – Known as your deep sleep, where your body immobilises and breathing is faster, your eyes rapidly move, and you begin to dream. REM sleep plays a huge part in your memory, emotional processing and brain development. 

The sleep cycle duration is usually between 90-120 minutes, and NREM sleep accounts for 75% to 80% of the adult sleep cycle.

Changes to promote better sleep patterns

Poor sleep quality can be caused by the development of bad habits and lifestyle choices. To stop feeling tired in the morning, there are several things you can try.

  • Consistent sleep patterns: Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night<.
  • Avoid caffeine or strong alcohol: Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks and alcohol late in the evening, as these can disrupt sleep.
  • Take regular exercise: Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality. It promotes relaxation, helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle, boosts your mood and increases sleep quality and duration.
  • Healthy diet: Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Reduce stress: Try to reduce your stress levels with activities like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Screens: Try to avoid watching television or looking at your phone 30 minutes before going to sleep. Instead, try reading, listening to relaxing music or taking a bath.
  • Environment: Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, quiet, and free from distractions. 

If you regularly wake up tired, this could be remedied by improving your sleep hygiene. To learn more about this, see our article What is sleep hygiene and why is it important?

Waking up and feeling constantly tired can also indicate underlying health conditions, and if you are concerned, you should see your GP or health practitioner.

 

Poor sleep and the impact on our mental health

Poor sleep can cause or contribute to mental health problems. Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining both physical and mental well-being, and a lack of adequate sleep can have significant negative effects on our mental health. Some such mental health problems include:

  • Anxiety: Sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can increase anxiety levels. It can make you feel more on edge, irritable, and less able to cope with stress.
  • Depression: Sleep and mood are closely connected. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to the development or exacerbation of depressive symptoms. Lack of sleep affects the brain’s ability to regulate emotions and may lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Attention and concentration problems: Poor sleep can impair cognitive function, making it difficult to concentrate, remember things, and stay focused. This can impact daily functioning and overall mental well-being.
  • Psychosis: Sleep disturbances, especially in the form of insomnia, have been linked to an increased risk of developing psychotic disorders or worsening symptoms in individuals already diagnosed with such conditions.
  • Stress: Inadequate sleep can increase stress levels, leading to a vicious cycle where stress further disrupts sleep, creating a negative feedback loop.
  • Impaired judgment and decision-making: Sleep deprivation can compromise judgment and lead to poor decision-making, affecting mental health and overall life outcomes.

To learn more, see our article Sleep and your mental health.

 

Health conditions that can leave you feeling tired in the morning

Several health conditions can leave you waking up tired with no energy in the morning. These include anaemia, Hypothyroidism, Sleep Apnoea, Diabetes and Depression. If you are feeling excessively tired in the morning and you have been keeping a good, healthy sleep routine, it is important to speak to your doctor.

Sleep Apnoea is one of the most common reasons for tiredness and fatigue in the morning. More specifically, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition in which a person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. It is caused by partial or complete blockages in the airway, usually due to the collapse of the throat muscles during sleep. These breathing pauses are called apnoea events. OSA can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating, difficulty staying asleep, and daytime sleepiness. Many people are at risk of Sleep Apnoea; being older or overweight can be a major contributing factor.

However, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) can affect individuals regardless of age or gender. Therefore, if you consistently feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, it is important to consider the possibility of having OSA. While fatigue is a common symptom, there are other indicators to be mindful of. These symptoms may include: 

If any or all of these apply to you, you may have OSA. The good news is that there are several different therapy options, and almost all cases are treatable.

 

What are Apnoea Events?

Apnoea events are episodes of complete airway obstruction during sleep. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including obstruction of the airway due to the collapse of the throat muscles, large tonsils, and obesity. Apnoea events commonly lead> to decreased oxygen levels in the blood. These breathing pauses are often unnoticeable to the sufferer. In fact, partners or roommates often observe the signs of Sleep Apnoea first.

If your partner or roommate has noticed you choking or making a loud, exaggerated snoring noise during sleep, that is a clear sign that you may be suffering an apnoea. In many cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), the brain automatically wakes you up when it detects a pause in breathing, opens your airways, and allows you to resume breathing without you being consciously aware of it. This process is known as arousal, and it happens repeatedly throughout the night for individuals with OSA.

The apnoeas that cause these arousals can happen up to 400 times a night (for very severe sufferers) but almost always go unnoticed. The result? Fractured, unrefreshing sleep, leaving you feeling tired during the day – despite seemingly having slept well.

 

Testing for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

It is estimated that 1 in 20 people have OSA, and it is around twice as common in men as it is in women. Often it goes undiagnosed for many years, even when the symptoms and side effects of the condition are quite apparent.

If you feel that your tiredness and other symptoms may be caused by Sleep Apnoea, then you should not delay getting tested. The fastest and most effective way to determine if you have OSA or not is to take a Sleep Study (also known as a Sleep Test or Sleep Apnoea test).

A Sleep Study or Sleep Test monitors your blood oxygen levels, heart rate, body position, body movements, snoring intensity, and, crucially, your Peripheral Arterial Tone – a key physiological signal that can indicate respiratory disturbances during sleep.

 

How do I get a Sleep Test?

Sleep Studies are available both privately and through the NHS. Waiting times for an NHS Sleep Study can be lengthy; In May 2023, 37.7% of patients had already waited more than six weeks for a sleep study – a 5.2% increase from the previous year. At this time, the total number of patients on the waiting list was 25,900. Once a Sleep Study is completed, patients must then wait for the results and a further period for the treatment they require.

It is not unusual for the process to take several months from start to finish, during which time you may be prohibited from driving by the DVLA. If you are falling asleep during the day or the feeling of constantly being tired is affecting your ability to perform routine tasks or work effectively, the NHS waiting times can feel daunting.

The alternative is a private sleep test, which provides an accurate result in as little as ten days.

 

Private Sleep Testing

Private In-Home Sleep Study | SleepTest.co.uk

If you choose to complete a private In-Home Sleep Test you can order one online for as little as £195. There are several advantages to an In-Home Sleep Study.

  • The device is comfortable and simple to use
  • You only need to wear the device for one night
  • You test in your natural environment rather than a sleep clinic.
  • An in-home sleep test is a confidential and reliable alternative to a sleep clinic.
  • You receive your result within two weeks.

Our test is the same as that used in most NHS SleepClinics. The sleep test monitors your blood oxygen levels, body position, heart rate and Peripheral Arterial Tone. The test can also differentiate between different types of Apnoea, such as Obstructive or Central.

If your result is positive, you can take those results to your GP to bypass the waiting list for a Sleep Study to obtain the necessary equipment. You may also choose to get your equipment privately and further shorten the process.

If you have any concerns or would like to know more about the sleep test we offer, please contact us for further advice and support.

Summary

Creating consistency in your sleep patterns is crucial. Having a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, including on the weekend, can contribute to better sleep quality and improve your overall health.

If you struggle with sleep, wake tired after 8 hours of sleep, experience excessive daytime sleepiness, or have other concerns about your sleep patterns, it’s important to understand the root cause. Consult a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist who can help identify any underlying issues. If your sleep problems are accompanied by other symptoms such as snoring, gasping and choking in your sleep or daily headaches, we recommend taking a Sleep Apnoea Test as soon as possible.

 

Article updated 27.07.2023

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