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Unrefreshing Sleep: Why We Can Feel Tired the Next Day


Picture this, you go through a big bout of insomnia, multiple nights when you would give your right arm to sleep! Then, miracle of miracles, sleep finally happens! You expect to wake up feeling fully reborn and full of energy but instead you are exhausted! What went wrong?

If you have ever woken up feeling like your sleep was not refreshing or restorative, then this blog post is for you.

Hi, my name is Sherry and I help people reduce stress and improve their sleep.

What is Unrefreshing Sleep?


So, what exactly is unrefreshing sleep? To me, unrefreshing sleep is when you have slept objectively well the night before and you expect to awaken feeling rested, restored, and refreshed but instead you end up dragging yourself through the day, everything feels like a chore and (if you didn’t know better) you would swear you hadn’t slept at all!!

 This begs the question, where does unrefreshing sleep come from? One factor could be sleep disruption. Sleep disruption is when you have choppy, poor sleep, for reasons that are circumstantial and you don't have any real direct control over, or at least not at this point in time. Many things can cause sleep disruptions including stress, new environmental surroundings, food (for example eating too close to bed), temperature changes, sleep apnea, snoring, frequent urination etc.

It is very common for life events and changes to temporarily disrupt our sleep and, even if we are sleeping 7 hours or more, if that sleep is restless or disturbed, then this can prevent the body from fully repairing and restoring overnight the way it needs to, which can lead to feeling tired the next day.

If, however, you truly did experience deep, restorative, next level sleep and you are still exhausted there could be a few different factors at play.

Why You Could Feel Tired After a Good Night of Sleep 


First, it’s important to realize that we can have something I like to call sleep jetlag. Put simply, when you are not sleeping well (or at all) this can take a toll on things such as adrenal and thyroid function (hormone balances in general really). The body is forced to adapt and cope to keep us healthy and functioning during this time, so it is working extra hard and some (less necessary) repairs are getting put on the back burner.

 It’s just like if you were super busy at work and made yourself a priority list. You don’t have time to get to everything, so you figure out what is most important and necessary to keeping your job, and any less important or time sensitive tasks are saved for later. Then, when work slows down, you are still very busy for a matter of days or weeks finishing up the smaller items that were at the bottom of your to do list.

When the body is put under stress and sleep is scarce, the first thing the body does is make sure that the sleep you are getting is more efficient and it prioritizes what needs to happen to keep you healthy and functioning. To put it into work terms, it is answering important clients and running point on the big project due next week vs answering unrelated emails and filing.

Then, when the body does begin sleeping better, it starts in on the backlog of uncompleted repairs it needs to do.

It Takes a While To Rebalance After Insomnia 


Not sleeping is disruptive to the body, it causes short term stress to the adrenal glands and thyroid (among other things) and it can take time for these systems to recover from the extra work they were doing to support you when sleep wasn’t happening so it’s important to be patient.

A third factor is hyper arousal. Hyper arousal is what keeps you from falling asleep during insomnia or disturbed sleep and essentially is what causes you to feel tired but wired.

This occurs because something (usually life stress or the fear of not being able to sleep) keeps triggering the sympathetic (fight or flight) response in our nervous system, causing the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) to give you a false sense of energy and keep you awake.

This biological system was very helpful back in the day when we were running from bears and tigers, but not so much when our boss makes us angry, or our children stress us out.

After the stress that is triggering the chronic release of stress hormones is over, it can take the body a while to readjust to having lower amounts of these hormones in our system. Our bodies have literally been running on stress and now, without it, it can feel as if we don’t have any gas left in the tank.

Regardless of the cause, it’s important to recognize that many factors can influence our energy levels (stress, happiness, diet, life satisfaction and many other things we didn’t have a chance to cover today).

If you are coming out of a period of short or disrupted sleep, it takes TIME for the body to repair and rebalance.

How to Help the Body Recover After Insomnia


Finding ways to practice acceptance (the body is where it is right now), patience (knowing that the body is working to rebalance and this will improve over time) and finding ways to help love and support your body while it works to regain equilibrium (healthy eating, gentle exercise, time in nature, gratitude, etc) instead of stressing about what you “should” feel  will all help it to repair more effectively and lead to better energy levels in the future.


Interested in Learning More?

If you would like to learn more or book an individual session, please visit the Work With Me page or enroll in the 30 Day Beyond Sleep Course

In the meantime, I would like to leave you with this important message. You are not broken! You are whole, perfect, and healthy exactly as you are, and you CAN sleep!









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