Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Why do I wake up tired?

We've all had that 'foggy brain' sensation after one too many bleary taps on your alarm's snooze button. That exhausted and miserable feeling when you wake up from a lie in that seemed like luxury until you surface, hours later, with a dull headache and no motivation to do anything.

At first, this feeling doesn't seem to make sense. How can you wake up more tired than when you went to bed when sleep is supposed to be refreshing? Surely more sleep should mean you are more refreshed?

Here is a fact that not many people realise:

Sleeping too much can make you feel tired!

The answer lies in REM sleep, the dream stage of sleep in which your brain is just as (if not more) active as it is when you're awake. It's actually too much REM sleep that is the cause of feeling tired upon waking.

There are two main ways by which too much REM sleep can lead to waking up feeling tired:

1) 'Over dreaming' or too much REM sleep can deprive us of the stage of sleep (slow-wave sleep) that restores and refreshes the body and brain, consequently we wake feeling physically tired. If you look at a sleep cycle graph, you can see that REM sleep appears periodically until the morning, so, if you sleep for 14 hours instead of the more usual 8, you will naturally go through additional stages of REM sleep.

2) During REM sleep the orientation response is continually being fired off. The purpose of REM sleep is to de-arouse emotional expectations from the previous day, however over pressure on the orientation response can lead to the exhausted feeling we get when we sleep too much. The orientation response is the same pathway used by the brain to focus our attention on getting things done during the day, which explains the lack of motivation and mental exhaustion we feel after an extended period of REM sleep.

Waking up tired is a symptom of depression however feeling tired upon waking does not mean you are depressed, it is purely an emotional and bodily response to too much REM sleep.

The reason depressed people sleep more (studies have shown that depressed people have more REM sleep than non depressed people) is because their overloaded brain is trying to resolve too many emotional expectations (worries) each night, leading to exhaustion when they wake up. This in turn leads to more sleep, and so the cycle of depression can continue. Fortunately it can be broken.

For more information about REM sleep, the role of dreaming and breaking the cycle of depression please explore our websites:

why-we-dream.com - the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming sheds light on so many previously unexplained topics from dreaming, and hypnosis to psychosis and why we forget our dreams.

lift-depression.com - focusing on treating depression, this website covers the link between REM sleep and depression.

humangivenscollege.com/courses/cycle-of-depression - effective, evidence based training on understanding the cycle of depression from Human Givens College.

NEW Online training: How to break the cycle of depression

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