Will I Ever Stop Feeling Like I Can't Wake Up?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated October 12, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

We’ve all had mornings where it’s difficult to pull ourselves out of bed for our morning awakening as the natural light pours in the window. For some, however, this issue is an everyday experience—which can be tough, since a good night's sleep is a crucial component of good health. This difficulty may be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Individuals who have difficulty waking up or who wake up tired, may be experiencing sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness. Knowing the cause of poor sleep quality is usually the first step toward getting better quality sleep so you can have better mornings.

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Are You Struggling To Get Out Of Bed In The Morning?

Will I Ever Stop Feeling Like I Can’t Wake Up?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, sleep deprivation is a national issue. One in three adults in the U.S. report not getting enough sleep every day. If you’re used to waking up feeling sleepy or exhausted every morning, it can be hard to imagine a life in which you wake up feeling rested. However, it is possible to make changes that can turn your sleep patterns and habits around. Oftentimes, feeling like you can’t wake up in the mornings or hitting snooze repeatedly is due to some root cause you may not be aware of. It could be a physical health problem, a mental health condition, an issue with your internal body clock and circadian rhythms, or simply a result of certain habits or lifestyle choices. Once you discover the reason for your lack of quality sleep, you can take action to get the resources, support, and help you need to move forward.

Why Is Good Sleep So Important?

Sleep homeostasis is the process by which our body regulates our nighttime sleep patterns and wake up time. Broadly speaking, there are two types of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement sleep. Non-rapid eye movement sleep is deep recovery sleep that removes sleep debt while REM sleep is a lighter sleep that happens as we hit snooze in the morning. Getting quality non-REM sleep can contribute to both physical and mental health. As a fact sheet from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains, consistently poor sleep has been linked to:

  • Trouble learning, focusing, and reacting
  • Difficulty interpreting the emotions and reactions of others
  • Loss of productivity
  • Increased risk of physical health problems including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity
  • Increased risk of mental health disorders like depression
  • Increased risk of accidents and injuries (falls, car crashes, etc.)

In other words, feeling like you can’t fully wake up in the mornings could only be one side effect of the type of sleep you’re getting. Over time, you may be at risk for additional problems if the issue persists.

Common Causes Of Sleep Issues

Investigating the potential causes of your sleep issues is generally the best place to start if you’re having trouble waking up in the morning.

Here are a few of the most common. 

Lifestyle Choices

One of the most common reasons a person may feel they can’t wake up is that they just don’t get quality sleep. This could be due to trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or experiencing restless sleep. Parents of infants often experience interrupted sleep, as the American Academy of Pediatrics points out that the nature of babies is to wake every 2-3 hours to eat throughout the night. Jet lag can cause a person to struggle to sleep as they adjust to a new time zone. Any of these sleep and wake cycle problems can cause a person to feel exhausted in the morning, resulting in trouble pulling themselves out of bed. According to the CDC, practicing good sleep hygiene for maximum rest and to lessen sleep inertia includes things like:

  • Sleeping in a dark, quiet room 
  • Building a consistent sleep-wake schedule where you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day
  • Getting regular exercise during the day
  • Avoiding screen time an hour or two before bed
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evenings

Sleep Paralysis

Many people experience episodes where they think they are awake, yet they can’t move or speak. This phenomenon is called sleep paralysis, and it’s fairly common. When you experience sleep paralysis, your body moves through the sleep cycle less efficiently. It may feel like you’re awake, and you may even be partially aware of sights or sounds near you—which may or may not be real. Essentially, it’s a state in between sleep and wakefulness.

Sleep paralysis is not necessarily a sign of any mental health problem, and most people who experience it have no medical cause for these episodes, either. So even though it’s generally harmless, it can still be scary—which can interrupt your sleep even further. If you have frequent episodes of sleep paralysis, try taking a closer look at your habits. Alcohol, nicotine, sleep medicine, and other drugs may trigger or exacerbate it.

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Sleep Phase Disorder

Having a sleep phase disorder means that your body may have trouble following the same sleeping and waking patterns that the majority of people follow. Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), for example, means that night owls with DSPS have the natural urge to fall asleep between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., as opposed to the “normal” range of about 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, DSPS is more common in teens and young adults, with 16% of that population experiencing the condition.

You can talk to a sleep professional about ways to mitigate this problem so you can function better during the day, since there are some experimental treatments available. That being said, for many people with DSPS, the most effective strategy may be to find a schedule that allows you to follow your natural sleeping and waking patterns.

Other Clinical Sleep Problems

50 to 70 million Americans have chronic health conditions that disrupt their sleep. Along with sleep paralysis and sleep phase disorder, there are several other sleep disorders or diagnosable health problems that may be interfering with your ability to get good sleep and feel rested in the morning. Narcolepsy, insomnia, shift-work sleep disorder, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea are all examples of these. The American Academy Of Sleep Medicine outlines diagnostic and treatment criteria for several of these health conditions on their website. If you suspect you may have a condition like this, speaking with a medical professional is usually a wise next step.

Depression

Certain mental health conditions like depression can also impact sleep and energy levels. Feeling like you are asleep on the inside while continuing to go through the motions of living could be a symptom of depression. This disorder can also make it hard to wake up and get out of bed in the morning—and even when you do, you might still have low energy, feel fatigued, or have trouble feeling true interest in activities you once enjoyed. 

Finally, some medicine—including certain antidepressants—can impact your normal sleeping patterns. If you suspect this may be the cause of feeling like you can’t wake up in the morning, talk to your doctor or psychiatrist.

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Are You Struggling To Get Out Of Bed In The Morning?

What To Do About Sleep Problems

There are a few things you can try at home to help improve your sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Problems suggests keeping a journal to track your sleep schedule. This helps you note information about your sleep patterns and identify activities that might be disrupting your sleep. You may also opt for a light snack before bed and stop drinking caffeine early in the afternoon.

If you’ve tried building healthier sleep habits but still feel like you can’t wake up in the morning or if you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, it may be time to seek professional help. You can start by speaking with your doctor, who may decide to run some tests to rule out certain conditions or disorders. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine provides a directory of accredited professional and specialist sleep centers. You may also find it useful to speak with a mental health professional. If stress, rumination, anxiety, or depression are keeping you up at night, they may be able to help you sort through these issues. A trained therapist can provide you with a safe space to work through any emotions that may be troubling you, and they can also help you come up with strategies for managing stress or symptoms of a mental health disorder.

You can meet with a therapist in person or online. The choice comes down to your personal comfort level and availability options. If you’re interested in connecting with a mental health professional virtually, you can use an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. You’ll simply fill out a questionnaire about your needs and preferences, and you’ll be matched with a therapist who you can speak with via phone, video call, and/or online chat. Since research suggests that virtual therapy offers similar benefits to in-person treatment, you’ll have the opportunity to get the support you need and deserve this way. Continue reading for reviews of BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

“Dr. Broz had made a significant impact on my life. After just one session with her I was able to get more sleep and handle issues with my husband and young kids better. She’s empathic and very easy to talk to. I would recommend her to anyone looking for help with stress, sleep issues, anger or relationship advice. Thanks Sandra for everything you do for me and all your patients.”

“I tried a few counselors and almost gave up until I found Colleen. I love her! She’s easy to talk to, really gets me and best of all she makes me feel like I’m talking to a friend. She’s given me some great tips and I’m sleeping better already most nights.”

Takeaway

If you have trouble falling asleep, wake often during the night, or generally don’t feel rested, it’s worth looking into the cause of your sleep issues. Not feeling well-rested when you wake up can be frustrating and may require more than an afternoon nap to fix. It may also have far-reaching impacts on your life in both the short- and long-term. If you’re having trouble related to sleep, speaking with your doctor and/or a mental health professional may be helpful.

Learn the impacts of sleep deprivation

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