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24 Sept 2022

Why do I wake up feeling groggy and what can I do about it?

Why do I wake up feeling groggy and what can I do about it?

Do you wake up feeling refreshed and revived for the day ahead? Or reach for the snooze button, wishing you could roll over for another hour or two.

Some 62% of UK adults say they struggle with getting up more than twice a week, and 25% feel groggy every day, according to a new survey by smart alarm and sleep tracking app Sleepwave (sleepwave.com).

So, what’s going on?

Being a bit groggy first thing might be normal 

First and foremost, if you’re not leaping out of bed full of beans first thing in the morning, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong.

“Waking is not a switch that happens instantly, but rather a gradual process that can last up to four hours,” explains
Dr Guy Meadows from Sleep School (sleepschool.org). “The process of waking starts a couple of hours before you actually wake and then continues until you become fully alert.


“Waking up could be likened to switching on a computer: you can’t fully use it until the processor has loaded up the operating system and started all the programmes,” Meadows adds. “Once awake, most of us experience a period of sleep inertia – that feeling of grogginess and mental slowness that gradually gives way to full alertness.”

Timing matters

With the above explanation in mind, when you wake up could be a factor in how groggy or awake you feel first thing.

“You are more likely to experience grogginess when you don’t get enough sleep. Perhaps you have started setting the alarm earlier than usual, or woken up from a deep sleep abruptly,” says Dr Nisa Aslam, a GP and sleep expert working with Puressentiel.

“Your mattress may be to blame, the bedroom may be too hot or too cold, maybe your partner snores or you have had too much screen time before bed or you suffer from aches and pains.”

What does waking up naturally mean?

To feel as refreshed as possible, we ideally want to wake up when we’re naturally meant to. Obviously this isn’t always practical in real life, but it might be useful to know, so we can understand our sleep cycles more.

Meadows explains that “the best way to wake up is naturally, without the use of an alarm clock. If you’re able to do it, it’s very likely that you are getting the right amount of sleep for your biological need. This means you’ll wake up at the end of your sleep cycle and feel most refreshed.”

An alarm clock “not only increases the chance of being woken up mid-cycle, but does so with a ‘fight or flight’ activating alarm, causing you to wake up stressed and tired”.

Light up your morning

Sunlight can be important for fighting grogginess. As Meadows explains: “Humans are solar powered, waking up with sunrise and sleeping with sunset. Light triggers the release of the waking hormone cortisol, instructing your brain and body to wake up and be active.

“Once out of bed, switching on the lights, opening the curtains and avoiding wearing dark glasses on your way to work will all help boost your morning alertness and energy levels.”

Eat breakfast

The first meal of the day could also help you shake off sleepiness and get energised for the day.

“Eating breakfast is an essential ingredient for the perfect wake up recipe. Food is fuel, providing your brain and body with the energy it needs to begin the day,” says Meadows. “Digestion also acts as a messenger to your internal body clock, helping it to stick to its 24 hour circadian rhythm.”

Environment matters

It might help to think about your bedroom environment too. “If waking up in the morning is a struggle, make your bedroom environment as inviting as possible,” suggests Meadows. “For example, if the thought of getting out of a warm bed is too much to handle, lay out your dressing gown and slippers ready for the morning and set the heating to come on 30 minutes before the time you wake up.

“If you can’t function until you’ve had your morning coffee, then get a coffee maker with a timer, so that you can literally wake up and smell the coffee. If you prefer to wake up to music or the news, then get an alarm with a built-in radio.”

Get moving

Another tip? A workout may be the last thing you feel like if mornings are a struggle, but this could actually charge up your energy levels.

“Exercising in the morning can provide you with a powerful shot of energy, waking you up for the day. Like digestion, it also works as a timekeeper instructing your master clock that the day has begun,” says Meadows. “Aim to do activities you enjoy and ideally with friends as this will motivate you to get out of bed.”

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