Sleep is absolutely critical. Make it a priority, because there’s just about nothing you can do to combat the effects of not sleeping deeply enough. Obviously not sleeping enough is a reason to wake up feeling unrested. I’m not talking about that. I’m going to discuss the reasons people may feel unrested even with 7+ hours of sleep. 

1) You’re eating too close to bedtime

If you eat too close to bedtime you may not fully digest that food. When this happens, the food “goes bad” in your body. Fats will go rancid, proteins will putrefy and carbohydrates will ferment. When this occurs, you can get an accumulation of toxic by-products. These toxic by-products will tax your system via the actual energy needed to break them down, in addition to actually damaging your mitochondria (the “powerhouse” that produces energy in your cells). So instead of repairing and regenerating your body overnight, you’re actually having it do more work than it should. The result…feeling unrested. The timing, amount, and type of food one eats late at night will have varying effects on different people. Find your balance.

2) Your bedroom is not dark enough

There’s a gland in your brain called the pineal gland. This gland produces melatonin, a hormone that’s critical in determining and stabilizing your body’s circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). One of the main determinants for the amount of melatonin synthesized and released is how much light hits your retina. Remember, your eyelids are translucent to a degree, and light will get through even if your eyes are closed. So it’s very important to sleep in a room that is as dark as possible for optimal melatonin release.

3) Your cortisol (a “stress” hormone) level is too high at night

Melatonin and cortisol are two hormones that oppose one another. Cortisol should be high in the morning and low at night. And melatonin should be high at night and low in the morning. This is what helps us get out of bed in the morning and get to sleep at night. If your cortisol levels are too high at night, your melatonin production and secretion really don’t have much of a chance to help you get a restful night’s sleep. Many people who have insomnia have elevated cortisol levels at night. The reasons one may have high cortisol at night is a topic for an entire article. Just think, stress! Any stressors can elevate cortisol, e.g.: food sensitivities, (acute or chronic) infections, major nutrient deficiencies, mental/emotional stress, blood sugar fluctuations, toxicity, etc..

4) Your cortisol level is too low in the morning

Again, cortisol should be at it’s most elevated point first thing in the morning. This is essentially what gets you out of bed. If your cortisol level is too low (from chronic, unrelenting stress usually), you’ll feel a bit like a zombie in the morning while you continuously hit the snooze button. This is the type of situation where you need caffeine to get going properly, or simply have to be awake for a few hours before you feel functional. Again, chronic stressors can eventually deplete your cortisol levels.

5) You aren’t getting oxygen during the night

This may sound strange, but this issue can actually be quite common (and sometimes serious). Sleep apnea is essentially a brain-based disorder that either prevents the muscles in the back of your throat from holding your airways open (think snoring to a serious degree); or from your brain not properly transmitting signals to your breathing muscles. The cause(s) for sleep apnea are too complex and individual to discuss in this article. And yes, it can be helped if it’s a functional, as opposed to pathological issue for you. If you suspect sleep apnea may be an issue, I’d recommend a sleep study and/or trying a CPAP machine. It could change your life in ways you’d never imagined.

6) You work the graveyard shift

Look, we are meant to “rise” with the sun and “set” with the sun. If you attempt to change that natural circadian rhythm and expect to feel energized and rested through your day, well, you’re probably kidding yourself. I’ve had several “graveyard shift” patients. They can be helped and they definitely need ongoing treatment. However, you usually can’t expect a complete resolution of symptoms living a lifestyle like this.

7) You’re toxic

Yes, that’s a “thing.” If your body is inundated with toxins, whether from the outside or inside, your mitochondria or “energy-producing” cell structures can become compromised and prevent proper energy production. The result, you don’t feel rested (whether upon rising or through the day). You can be toxic for a number of reasons. The most typical reason is your diet or your job (workplace chemical exposure). For most people it’s their diet. Dietary reasons for toxicity are pretty self-explanatory…just eat whole foods. If it’s your job, do your best…

8) Side effects from your prescription or over-the-counter medication

Speak with the prescribing physician if you suspect this is the issue.

9) Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland and it’s hormones control the metabolic rate of all the cells in the body. An under-functioning thyroid gland (usually the result of autoimmunity in the U.S.) will certainly affect how you feel waking up. And actually, you may be fatigued all day. Strategies to assist the functioning of this gland and its hormones depend on the exact mechanism(s) which are involved.

10) Fibromyalgia

This is a serious brain-based condition that almost always includes a lack of deep, restful sleep. As a result, fatigue normally ensues. Seek a competent, qualified, licensed practitioner if you suspect this is an issue for you.

11) Serotonin abnormalities

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s very important for regulating the circadian rhythm. Problems with the production and/or usage of serotonin can definitely affect your sleep patterns and leave you feeling unrested in the morning. If this is an issue for you, you may also notice depression as a symptom. As with fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism, this generally requires the assistance of a com petent, licensed practitioner.

I hope this helps you! There is little you can do to combat a night of unrestful sleep, so make it a priority!

Dr. Rob D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Diplomate and board-certified teacher of the International College of Applied Kinesiology – Member of the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation – Associates Degree in Homeopathy from the British Institute of Homeopathy

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