What is ‘morning fatigue’?
In simple terms, morning fatigue is a tired feeling and lack of energy early in the day. It is an “umbrella symptom” that encompasses many other symptoms. It is not a disease or illness, per se.
That said, constant morning fatigue – defined as fatigue lasting at least two weeks – is cause for concern. Fatigue during the morning hours is a symptom of certain diseases and is something that should be discussed with your doctor.
Further, morning fatigue impacts your personal and professional life, as a lack of energy makes it difficult to fulfill your obligations.
Constant morning fatigue is usually a sign of some underlying illness, condition, or disease. If you struggle with morning fatigue, you likely experience the following symptoms:
– Dizziness when arising from bed
– Dry mouth
– Dryness in the eyes
– Extreme tiredness, which usually improves as the day goes on
– Gastrointestinal discomfort
– Incapable of “getting going”
– Low blood pressure (hypotension)
– Subtle muscular pain
What causes morning fatigue?
As a reminder, morning fatigue is not a medical condition in itself, but a defined set of symptoms that something is wrong – it may be a defective organ or gland, a psychological condition, or something else.
Here are five common reasons for morning fatigue:
1. Problems breathing during sleep
Breathing difficulties may stem from nasal congestion, sinusitis, and allergies, to obstructive pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema.
One commonly ignored symptom is sleep apnea, a condition that causes a person to stop breathing for a short period during sleep. The effects of sleep apnea often wake the person, who may or may not remember being woken. Nonetheless, sleep apnea impairs the quality of sleep.
2. Nighttime hunger
An evening meal void of nutrition takes its toll on the body. Your body – although operating at a lower metabolic rate – still requires fuel when you are sleeping.
Try eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. This is a perfect time window, as its not (or shouldn’t be) long enough to make you feel hungry. You can also try drinking a glass of water, wait 15-30 minutes, and reevaluate your hunger level.
3. Using alcohol or stimulants before bed
A glass of wine or a beer, when accompanied with nutritious food, shouldn’t be enough to disturb your sleep cycle. However, alcohol does nothing to aid your sleep. (You may fall asleep quicker, but alcohol disrupts the brain’s natural circadian rhythm.)
Stimulants, such as caffeine or nicotine, rev up the nervous system. The brain and body must be in a relaxed state to ensure quality sleep. Stimulants produce the opposite effects.
Sedatives and drugs (prescription or illicit) may also adversely affect sleep.
Snoring can impact your sleep in subtle ways that may not be noticeable at first. Your partner’ sleep quality may also be negatively affected without realizing it.
Relating to breathing disorders, snorers account for a disproportionate number of sleep apnea sufferers. It is a good idea, therefore, to consult with a physician to rule out the condition.
Try losing some weight if you’re heavy. 10 pounds may be the difference between high quality and poor quality sleep. Also try sleeping on your side, as sleeping on your back makes you more prone to snore.
5. Acid Reflux
When stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus, it can produce acid reflux. If this occurs often, it’s possible that you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which is a prevalent condition.
GERD can interrupt sleep because stomach acid production increases during the nighttime. Further, lying flat eases the passage for acid to travel into the esophagus, producing heartburn. Alcohol, overeating, sleeping before your scheduled bedtime (aside from short naps) and nighttime snacking can worsen GERD, as can certain foods, e.g. spicy or salty foods.
Other medical conditions
As mentioned, it is possible that a serious illness may cause morning fatigue. Per the UK’s National Health Service, several medical conditions may contribute to morning fatigue:
– Coeliac disease: “a type of food intolerance where your body reacts badly when you eat gluten.”
– Anemia: “one of the most common medical reasons for feeling constantly run down is iron deficiency anemia.”
– Chronic fatigue syndrome): “a severe and disabling tiredness that goes on for at least six months.”
– Underactive thyroid: “when you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired.”
– Diabetes: “a long-term condition caused by too much sugar in the blood.”
– Depression: “It can stop you falling asleep or cause you to wake early in the morning, which makes you feel more tired during the day.”
– Restless legs: “(When) you get uncomfortable sensations in your legs, which keeps you awake at night.”
– Anxiety (specifically, GAD): “generalized anxiety disorder (affects) around 1 to 20 people in the UK. As well as feeling worried and irritable, people with GAD often feel tired.”
– Glandular fever: “a common viral infection that causes fatigue, along with fever, sore throat and swollen glands.”
Possible solutions for morning fatigue
As a general rule of thumb, here are some changes that can be made to promote quality sleep:
– Do not use alcohol/stimulants
– Sleep in a comfortable environment
– Eat a well-balanced diet
– Maintain a healthy weight
– Establish and stick to a regular sleeping schedule
If morning fatigue is a recurring problem, a consultation with a licensed physician may be necessary.