You go to bed at a reasonable hour, so why do you wake up feeling exhausted? There are many reasons for waking up feeling tired despite seeming to get enough sleep. Here are eight reasons you may not have considered, and what you can do about it.
See also: How to combat insomnia as you get older
See also: Your feet could be the secret to a good night's sleep
1. You have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
If you frequently wake up tired with a bad taste in your mouth, it could be a sign that acid reflux is causing you to have a fitful night's sleep.
Even if you don't notice classic heartburn symptoms, it can help to modify your diet. Try not to eat anything for two hours before bedtime and avoid acid-causing foods, such as alcohol, chocolate, fatty meats, spicy foods, citrus fruits, and tomatoes.
Losing a few pounds if you're overweight and sleeping on your left side may also help, according to experts. Taking an over-the-counter antacid is also an option.
2. You're dehydrated
Even mild dehydration can significantly reduce your energy levels. Researchers from Loughborough University found that dehydrated drivers make the same amount of mistakes as those over the drink limit. As we perspire at night, particularly in hot weather, it's important to keep your fluid levels topped up during the day.
Thirst is a sign that your body is already dehydrated, so don't wait until you need a drink. Sipping water throughout the day, rather than just before bed, will help cut down night-time trips to the toilet – another cause of poor sleep.
3. You're a smoker
Need another reason to give nicotine patches a try? According to researchers in Germany, smokers sleep less well than non-smokers. Experts believe it may be due to the stimulating effects of nicotine. Patches contain far less nicotine than cigarettes, but if you find that wearing one interrupts your sleep, take it off before bed and apply a fresh one in the morning.
4. You could suffer from sleep apnoea
If you wake up with a dry mouth, a morning headache, and feel exhausted during the day, you could be suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea. Your partner may complain that you snore and stop breathing for a few seconds then gasp for air. But if you sleep alone you may not be aware of the problem.
The condition (where your throat narrows during sleep preventing you from getting enough oxygen), can cause you to wake frequently during the night, even if you're not aware of it. This results in fitful, unproductive sleep. Worryingly, left untreated, sleep apnoea can significantly increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, and having a stroke or heart attack.
Smokers, the overweight, and those aged 30 to 60 years old are most at risk. Lifestyle changes and wearing a mask that delivers oxygen during the night - a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, can help. See your doctor for more advice.
5. You grind your teeth
If your jaw clicks, pops, or feels sore, or you wake up with pain or stiffness in the neck, you could be grinding your teeth at night. Bruxism, as it's called, is usually only diagnosed after a partner notices the sound, or a dentist sees that your teeth are wearing down. Tensing and grinding the jaw muscles affects your body's ability to relax enough for deep sleep.
Visit your dentist, who can check for a problem with your bite alignment and may suggest using a mouth-guard-type device such as a dental splint. Some experts believe that people who chew gum during the day continue the habitual motion at night, so it's best to give up.
6. You need a new mattress
When was the last time you bought a new mattress? If you've had your bed for seven years or more, it could be time to buy a new one. The Sleep Council recommends you start to think about replacing your bed after seven years.
"Even after seven years, your bed may look okay but it may not be giving you the support or comfort you need for a healthy, refreshing night's sleep," according to The Sleep Council. According to a study by The Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), a bed may deteriorate by as much as 70% from its new state after 10 years.
6. You're not getting enough daylight
It's tempting to stay indoors when the weather's bad, but going for a walk and getting some fresh air will do you the world of good. Lack of exposure to daylight, especially during the dark days of winter, causes your body to produce more of the sleep hormone, melatonin. The result? You feel sleepy even after a good eight hours shut-eye. Staying indoors can also mean you don't get enough vitamin D. As well as sapping your bone strength, lack of vitamin D has been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. Take a vitamin D supplement if you're concerned.
7. You're not active enough
Sitting down for prolonged periods of time can drain your energy. Even though your brain is active, you need to move about to get your circulation going. Try to stand and stretch for every 20-30 minutes spent in a chair. Too much sitting can also lead to poor posture – which can mean that you're not breathing properly. Take a few deep breaths while you stretch and you may find that you sleep better and feel less groggy during the day.
8. You're not getting enough iron
Anaemia, caused by a lack of iron, is one of the most common medical reasons for tiredness. Eat more dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, beans, nuts and seeds or take a supplement. According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, taking iron tablets can reduce feelings of tiredness in women by 50%.
Many medical conditions can cause tiredness, from Coeliac disease and diabetes to depression, so be sure to see your doctor if you feel persistently tired.