It can be so frustrating to go to bed and feel like you slept all night, but in spite of that you feel tired. You find yourself nodding off in the car, or at your desk, or in meetings. .  While you may be waking up tired because you are sleep deprived, there may be another less obvious reason for your grogginess.  Here are 5 reasons you may be waking up tired, no matter how many hours you sleep.

1.       Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you snore, chances are that you have obstructive sleep apnea. This occurs when your breathing passageway gets closed, causing you to not be able to breathe for a second or two which wakes you up. This can happen hundreds of times per night which causes your body to not going into the deep, restorative REM sleep that it needs. So if you snore, go see a board-certified sleep doctor and get to the bottom of the matter right away.

2.      Acid Reflux

If you have the unfortunate luck to suffer from acid reflux, you know that the sharp, burning pain is enough to wake even the soundest sleepers.  If you have pain, it is obvious that waking up to reach for the antacids would impact the amount of sleep you get.  However, you might also be suffering from silent reflux, which interrupts your sleep without actually waking you up.  To combat this silent symptom, follow all the steps for acid reflux and heartburn relief.  Make sure you stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime and avoid spicy, acidic, and high-fat foods at your evening meal.  Avoid taking medication like aspirin or other painkillers that can upset your stomach at bedtime, and try sleeping on your left side which seems to alleviate symptoms.

3.      Clenching your jaws and grinding your teeth

If you clench your jaws and grind your teeth while you sleep, you may be suffering from a condition called Bruxism.  This can be a difficult condition to uncover because you are not aware it is happening while you are asleep.  If your partner complains that you grind or gnash your teeth or you frequently wake up with a stiff neck or unexplained neck pain, make an appointment with your dentist.  The signs of teeth grinding will be evident during an examination and the dentist can provide a dental appliance that will help alleviate whichever problem you are experiencing.

4.      The feeling like you have to go to the bathroom

As we get older, hormonal changes make our bladder less able to let you sleep through the night without having to get up and take a trip to the bathroom to urinate.  As with acid reflux pain, when you actually have to get up and go, it is an obvious sign that your sleep is being disrupted.  However, the messages between brain and bladder indicating you need to use the bathroom may go back and forth without actually waking you up.  They do still disrupt your sleep however, leading to the same tired feeling as if you had gotten up several times throughout the night.  To combat this, don’t drink liquids or eat food with high liquid content for 3 hours before bedtime.

Decrease the amount of coffee and tea you drink and avoid alcohol.   Make sure the last thing you do before you get into bed is use the bathroom and it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure there are no underlying problems.

5.      Restless Legs

If you wake up tangled in your blankets or get complaints from your partner that you are moving all night long, you may need to visit your doctor to see if you have restless leg syndrome (RLS) or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).   Both of these conditions can significantly disrupt your sleep.

Although doctors do not know what causes restless legs, the effects on your quality of sleep and the amount of REM sleep you don’t get when you have restless legs is well known.  Start with the doctor visit and a diagnosis.  It is also important to talk to your doctor about potential underlying conditions like diabetes, thyroid conditions, anemia, and arthritis.  Discuss any medications or supplements you are taking at your doctor visit, since some medications can cause or worsen these conditions.  At home, increase your intake of leafy greens like spinach to get more vitamin B and folic acid into your diet.

If you are struggling with any of the above conditions that are impacting your sleep, don’t wait; schedule an appointment with a board-certified sleep doctor who can order a sleep test and diagnose your sleep problems.  Most insurance plans do cover sleep testing and treatment, but check with your specific provider for details.