Why am I tired but can't sleep? (2023)

Why am I tired but can't sleep? (1)

Clinically evaluated byAlana Biggers, MD, MPH

- Written byKaty Wallis

Updated October 30, 2022

Common causes of feeling tired but not being able to sleep include lifestyle factors, mental illness, or physiological conditions.Lifestyle factors include how much caffeine you consume or changes in your circadian rhythm. Mental illnesses can include depression, while physiological illnesses can include sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.

This article explains more about the circadian rhythm and other causes of fatigue but insomnia. There will also be sleeping tips.

circadian rhythm explained

Why am I tired but can't sleep? (2)

Circadian rhythms are the mental, physical, and social changes that occur over a 24-hour period as time progresses. This mainly has to do with light-dark changes, for example sleeping at night and staying awake during the day. Most living organisms are influenced by circadian rhythms.

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What Can Disrupt Your Circadian Rhythm?

The following factors often cause disruptions or changes in your circadian rhythm:

  • genetic changes
  • Jet lag
  • some shift work
  • Light from electronic devices at night, especially blue light

Discover whyEnergy deficiency.

reasons to be tired

Below are some other reasons why you might be feeling tired.

caffeine consumption

According to a 2018 review, approx90%of American adults drink caffeinated beverages most days. Caffeine can affect sleep in several ways:

  • If you drink caffeine most days, you will experience a period of caffeine withdrawal while you sleep, making you feel more tired the next day.
  • Caffeine also decreases the quality of your sleep, even long before you go to sleep, by reducing a chemical in your bloodstream called 6-sulfatoxymelatonin.
  • Consuming caffeine too early before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle, disrupting your sleep.circadian rhythm.

Try to limit your consumption of the following caffeinated beverages, or opt for low-caffeine versions:

  • Café
  • Energy-Drinks
  • certain soft drinks such as cola

Learn more about caffeine withdrawal.

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Mental health

There is a clear and well-known link between poor mental health and sleep.

LikeStudy 2017points out that lack of sleep can be both a cause and a consequence of certain mental illnesses. study in oneRevision 2021found that in certain groups of people, the risk of insufficient sleep is higher if a person suffers from depression orAngst.

Depressioncan doYou feel tired even after a good night's sleep. It could mean that you have trouble falling asleep or that you often wake up at night even though you feel tired.


  • often feel sad or anxious
  • Quit activities you used to enjoy
  • feel irritated or upset easily
  • changes in appetite
  • pain in the bodyor abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Difficulty remembering things or making decisions
  • feel guilty
  • feel useless
  • thinking about harming or killing yourself

If someone you know is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others, or is at risk of suicide:

  • Ask the question, "Are you considering committing suicide?" even if it's hard.
  • Listen without judging.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Stay with them until emergency services arrive.
  • Try to remove weapons, medicines or other potentially dangerous objects.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact usNational Suicide Prevention Hotline:

  • Call 988.
  • Chatwith the lifeline.

This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you think you may be suffering from depression or anxiety, there are many systems that will provide you with comprehensive and confidential support. Talk to your doctor about which treatment option is right for you.

Find out about treatment options for depression and anxiety.

sleep apnea

People with sleep apnea find they have itlabored breathingduring bedtime. Sometimes their breathing can become completely blocked, causing them to wake up.

sleep apneaIt can occur in people who are overweight, which can cause upper airway obstruction, or in people with certain facial features, which can make them more prone to obstruction.

According to a 2017 reviewabout 25%of people diagnosed with sleep apnea experience drowsiness during the day, but many others find their sleep “restless” or feel tired.

People with sleep apnea or those sleeping next to them can come forwardsnoring,suffocatingor panting during bedtime.

If you think you have sleep apnea, see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. They may recommend lifestyle measures, medications, or sometimes surgery to treat the condition. A CPAP machinecan also helpKeep airway open.

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Learn more about how to aSleep apnea doctor.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), sometimes referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a chronic sensorimotor disorder that worsens over time and can cause severe sleep disturbances leading to waking fatigue.

One15%of the world's population suffers from RLS, according to a 2020 report. It causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, especially during sleep. This urge is uncomfortable but usually not painful, although it can mean the person is very tired.

If you think you may have RLS, speak to a doctor right away and describe your symptoms and when they occur. Although treating RLS can be challenging, there are many options you can try. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner your doctor can identify an underlying cause, if one exists, and determine the best course of treatment for you.

learn oursSleep tips for rls.

Chronic insomnia

The estimated short-term prevalenceinsomniais 9.5% in the United States, and 20% of these cases progress to chronic insomnia, according to aSummary 2020. This happens when a person finds difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as reduced sleep quality. This leads to health problems during waking hours.

For a diagnosis of chronic insomnia is the conditionhe must:

  • have a significant impact on your daily life,
  • be noticeable on at least 3 nights a week for at least 3 months
  • not the result of other sleep disorders, medical or mental illnesses

If you think you have chronic insomnia, seek medical help. It can lead to health complications and potentially dangerous situations during waking hours.

A doctor will advise you on treatment, which may include medication, lifestyle changes, or speech therapy.

Learninsomnia treatment.

how to sleep

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In accordance withCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following tips can improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Consistency:Make sure you go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time.
  • Surroundings:Your bedroom should be as quiet and dark as possible. A cool temperature can be more relaxing, but find what works best for you. Electronic devices such as televisions, computers and smartphones should not be in your bedroom.
  • Essen:Don't eat large meals, drink caffeine or alcohol within a few hours of bedtime.
  • A practice:Aiming to be physically active during your waking hours to a manageable extent can help you sleep better.

If you think your fatigue could be the result of an underlying medical condition, seek the help of a licensed healthcare professional.

Feeling tired versus sleepy

There is no medical distinction between fatigue and sleepiness. There can be a lot of overlap between the two terms.

However, you can describe yourself as tired if you feel consistently tired throughout the day. Drowsiness can affect you more suddenly. For example, you may feel sleepy after meals when your blood sugar levels rise and then fall, causing a change in your alertness.

There is more medical distinction between the terms "fatigue" and "fatigue".

Fatigue vs Fatigue

It is typical to feel tired or sleepy from time to time.fatigueit's a different feeling, and it doesn't resolve with regular, good quality sleep or, in some cases, exercise.

signs of fatiguecontain:

  • Physical Symptoms:These include strong and constant tiredness, headaches,dizziness, MuscleInsect, appetite changes and frequent nausea.
  • mental symptoms:These include changes in reflex and reaction times, differences in decision-making, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Emotional Symptoms:These include mood swings,irritability, low energy and bad mood.

learn whensee a doctor for tiredness.

Complications of fatigue

Changes in your circadian rhythm can affect important processes in your body,if:

  • release of hormones
  • eating habits and digestion
  • body temperature


Common causes of you feeling tired or drowsy but not falling asleep or being able to sleep well include lifestyle factors, mental illness, and physiological conditions.

For example,Caffeineconsumption, changes in your circadian rhythm,Depression, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome can make you feel tired but have trouble getting a good night's sleep.

If you think you have a condition that is preventing you from getting a good night's sleep, talk to a doctor.

(Video) Here's Why You Can't Sleep & Waking Up Tired | Dr. Mandell

Other sleep tips include working on sleep hygiene, such as: B. Consistency with bedtime, avoiding electronic devices before bed, and avoiding heavy meals before bed.


What to do when your body is tired but your mind is awake? ›

What to Do When You Can't Fall Asleep
  1. Ditch the Devices.
  2. Schedule Some “Worry Time”
  3. Create a Routine to Power Down Your Brain.
  4. Keep a Gratitude List.
  5. Practice 4-7-8 Breathing.
  6. Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
  7. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule.
  8. Get Out of Bed.
Dec 2, 2021

Why wont my body let me sleep? ›

Common psychological and medical causes of insomnia

Chronic insomnia is usually tied to an underlying mental or physical issue. Anxiety, stress, and depression are some of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. Having difficulty sleeping can also make anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms worse.

What are symptoms of sleep anxiety? ›

Nighttime (nocturnal) panic attacks can occur with no obvious trigger and awaken you from sleep. As with a daytime panic attack, you may experience sweating, rapid heart rate, trembling, shortness of breath, heavy breathing (hyperventilation), flushing or chills, and a sense of impending doom.

What is the 15 minute rule sleep? ›

The 15 minute rule

This helps with associating your bed with sleep and has been found to be one of the most effective strategies to address long-term sleep difficulties. If, after 15 minutes, you find that you are not asleep, don't stay in bed. if you're still awake after another 15 minutes, get up again and repeat.

What food makes you sleepy? ›

Here are the 9 best foods and drinks you can have before bed to enhance your quality of sleep.
  • Almonds. Almonds are a type of tree nut with many health benefits. ...
  • Turkey. Turkey is delicious and nutritious. ...
  • Chamomile tea. ...
  • Kiwi. ...
  • Tart cherry juice. ...
  • Fatty fish. ...
  • Walnuts. ...
  • Passionflower tea.

What is the disease that won't let you sleep? ›

Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is a rare genetic degenerative brain disorder. It is characterized by an inability to sleep (insomnia) that may be initially mild, but progressively worsens, leading to significant physical and mental deterioration.

What medication helps with sleep and anxiety? ›

Sedative hypnotics include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and various hypnotics. Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Librium, Valium, and Xanax are anti-anxiety medications. They also increase drowsiness and help people sleep.

How do I stop overthinking at night? ›

7 ways to stop overthinking at night
  1. Meditate before bed. Perhaps the best way to decompress is to try a bit of meditation. ...
  2. Have a wind down routine. ...
  3. Invoke more positive thoughts and thinking. ...
  4. Talk about your feelings. ...
  5. Distract your brain. ...
  6. Be more physically active. ...
  7. Seek professional medical advice.

What is the best antidepressant for sleep anxiety? ›

Sedating antidepressants that can help you sleep include: Doxepin (Silenor) Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
Mar 7, 2022

What is the best time limit for sleeping? ›

You can figure out the best bedtime for your schedule based on when you have to wake up in the morning and counting backward by 7 hours (the recommended minimum per night for adults). For example, if you need to be up by 6 a.m., you should consider winding down before 11 p.m.

What is the time limit to sleep? ›

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. Older adults (ages 65 and older) need 7-8 hours of sleep each day.

What time is reasonable to sleep? ›

When Is the Best Time To Go to Sleep? Research suggests the ideal time to go to sleep is 10 p.m. But you should focus more on having a consistent schedule and routine when it comes to hitting the hay.

Which vitamins help with sleep? ›

Magnesium. Magnesium was the featured nutrient in a study published in the Journal of Research of Medical Science, which found that adding a supplement in elderly participants improved the symptoms of insomnia and sleep quality. Nuts, beans, seeds, tofu, bananas and whole grains are all good sources of magnesium.

What can I take in place of melatonin? ›

Melatonin alternatives include magnesium, GABA, valerian root, and tart cherry. If you regularly struggle to fall or stay asleep, speak with your physician, who can determine if underlying issues are causing your sleep problems.
The Best Melatonin Alternatives
  • Magnesium. ...
  • GABA. ...
  • L-theanine. ...
  • Valerian root.
May 16, 2022

Is it OK to take melatonin every night? ›

Regardless of whether it truly helps with sleep or not, Dr. Ramkissoon doesn't recommend taking melatonin long-term. "Namely, because if you think you need to take melatonin every night to get to sleep, we need to understand why that's the case," explains Dr. Ramkissoon.

What should I eat if I have no sleep? ›

Here are the dietitian-recommended foods to eat and drink when you don't get enough sleep.
  • Water. Water is far and away the most important drink when you are short on sleep. ...
  • Coffee and Tea. ...
  • Nuts and Seeds. ...
  • Fiber-Rich Foods. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Calcium-Rich Foods. ...
  • Iron-Rich Foods. ...
  • Bottom Line.
Jul 15, 2021

What fruit is highest in melatonin? ›


Cherries (especially sour cherries like the Montmorency variety) are one of the only (and highest) natural food sources of melatonin.

What not to eat before bed? ›

Five worst foods for sleep
  • Chocolate. High levels of caffeine in chocolate make it a poor choice for late-night snacking. ...
  • Cheese. While cheese is generally considered a comfort food, it is actually one of the worst foods to eat before bed. ...
  • Curry. ...
  • Ice cream. ...
  • Crisps. ...
  • Cherries. ...
  • Raw honey. ...
  • Bananas.

How do you get rid of brain fog when tired? ›

Treatment – ways to end brain fog
  1. Spend less time on computer and mobile phone – remind yourself to take a break.
  2. Positive thinking, reduce stress.
  3. Change your diet.
  4. Get enough sleep – 7-8 hours a day, go to bed at 10pm or no later than midnight.
  5. Regular exercise.
  6. Avoid alcohol, smoking, and drinking coffee in the afternoon.

How do you activate your brain when you're tired? ›

Studies show exercise temporarily boosts alertness, in part because of the accompanying rise in body temperature and the boost of blood to the brain. One study found that a mix of caffeine, bright light and face washing with cold water helped jump-start alertness after a short nap.

What am I lacking if I have brain fog? ›

A deficiency in several nutrients could potentially contribute to brain fog, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of magnesium, vitamin C, and choline may also cause brain fog, but more research is needed.

What does anxiety brain fog feel like? ›

Brain fog, foggy head anxiety symptoms description:

It feels like you have a foggy head, foggy mind. You have difficulty thinking, concentrating, and/or forming thoughts. Your thinking feels like it is muddled and impaired. Some people describe this symptom as being “foggy-headed” or having a “foggy head.”

What does mental exhaustion feel like? ›

Mental exhaustion is a feeling of extreme tiredness, characterized by other feelings including apathy, cynicism, and irritability. You may be mentally exhausted if you've recently undergone long-term stress, find it hard to focus on tasks, or lack interest in activities you usually enjoy.

How do you know if your brain is overworked? ›

Brain fog occurs when the brain is overworked or under strain. The most common symptoms are feeling dazed and confused, headaches, thinking more slowly than usual, an inability to remember things or even tasks just completed, mental fatigue, and mood swings.

How do I reset myself mentally? ›

These strategies can help restore your serenity and keep you emotionally grounded:
  1. Start with a stabilizing routine. ...
  2. Reach out to others. ...
  3. Have phone conversations or video chats. ...
  4. Practice mindfulness and meditation. ...
  5. Try out a mental health app. ...
  6. Declutter your relationship. ...
  7. Enjoy fun, creative activities. ...
  8. Eat healthily.
Jun 13, 2022


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