Why Am I Tired Yet Unable To Sleep?

Why Am I Tired Yet Unable To Sleep?

Before you grab the sleeping medications, consider everything that might be causing you to be exhausted during the day yet awake at night. Once you’ve determined what’s causing the problem, you can take steps to enhance healthier sleep.

Why Am I Tired Yet Unable To Sleep?

Some days, no matter how much coffee you drink, it’s challenging to keep your eyes open, much alone accomplish the chores at the workplace or home.

Yet, all too frequently, when you finally get into bed, you are wide awake.

It’s infuriating. What in the world is going on?

Before you grab the sleeping medications, consider everything that might be causing you to be exhausted during the day yet awake at night. Once you’ve determined what’s causing the problem, you can take steps to enhance healthier sleep.

Source - Healthshots

Explanation Of Your Circadian Rhythm

According to sleep researcher W. Christopher Winter, MD, author of “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It," the circadian rhythm acts as an internal timekeeper for everything our bodies perform in a 24-hour period.

This system regulates body temperature, metabolism, hormones (including melatonin), and sleep by using light, darkness, and our biological clock.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus is the body’s master clock (SCN). The SCN, which is located in the brain, regulates melatonin synthesis. This hormone aids in the regulation of sleep.

Melatonin levels stay low throughout the day while it is bright outdoors. As the day progresses, our bodies create more melatonin, with levels peaking between 2 and 4 a.m. before declining again.

Our bodies are most prepared to sleep around 2 hours after melatonin levels begin to climb.

Winter argues that everyone has their unique circadian rhythm, which is hereditary to some degree. So, contrary to what your parents taught you as a child, there’s no reason you “need" to go to bed at a certain hour.

I don’t care what someone’s schedule is, as long as it feels right for them and is healthy,” Winter tells Healthline. 

However, if you’re tired but can’t sleep, your circadian rhythm may be off.

This could be a sign of delayed sleep phase syndrome. This occurs when you fall asleep 2 or more hours later than what’s considered “normal” (10 p.m. to 12 a.m.), making it difficult to wake up in the morning for school or work.

It often affects young people more — between 7 and 16 percent — but also occurs in about 10 percent of people with chronic insomnia.

Is There A Distinction Between Weary, Sleepy, And Fatigued?

Many people use the terms “tired," “sleepy," and “fatigued" interchangeably, but there is a distinction, according to Winter.

You’re exhausted at the completion of a marathon, and you probably don’t have the stamina or enthusiasm to run another marathon, let alone walk the distance to your vehicle. But you’re not tired – you wouldn’t fall asleep resting on the grass beyond the finish line. Winter defines sleepiness as “the inability to keep oneself awake."

Why Am I Exhausted Throughout The Day?

If you’re exhausted but can’t sleep when the sun goes down, you might have a delayed sleep phase disorder. If it doesn’t work, it might be something else or a combination of things.

Here are some of the reasons why you can feel exhausted all the time, particularly throughout the day.


Naps aren’t always terrible. Napping offers many health advantages. However, the poor nap approach might keep you awake when you should be sleeping.

Long naps and sleeping later in the afternoon, according to research, might lead you to take a lot longer to fall asleep at night, sleep badly, and wake up more often.

Winter suggests maintaining naps between 20 and 30 minutes long and sleeping at the same time every day so your body can expect it.


An anxious mind does not allow itself to doze asleep comfortably.

It’s no surprise that sleep disruption is a diagnostic sign for several anxiety disorders, which, according to prior studies, 24 to 36 percent of patients with insomnia also have.

Anxiety also causes increased arousal and awareness, which may further delay sleep.


According to a 2019 study, up to 90% of individuals diagnosed with depression complain about their sleep quality.

There were reports of insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep-disordered breathing, and restless legs syndrome.

The connection between sleep problems and depression is complex. It seems to interfere with circadian rhythms.

Inflammation, changes in brain chemicals, hereditary variables, and other factors might all impact the sleep-depression link.


Perhaps it’s time to rethink that afternoon latte or energy drink.

Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours on average. It may come as no surprise. Therefore, that study reveals that even 200 milligrammes (mg) of caffeine — around 16 ounces of brewed coffee — 16 hours before bedtime may affect your sleep. 

According to 2013 research, consuming 400 mg of caffeine 6 hours or less before sleep had a massive impact on sleep disruption. Winter suggests stopping caffeine intake 4–6 hours before bedtime.

Screen Time

Put down your phone! Blue light generated from smartphones, tablets, computers, and TV displays lower nighttime melatonin synthesis and reduces tiredness.

Winter suggests turning off all electronic devices two hours before going to bed. Consider wearing blue-light-blocking glasses at night.

Sleep Disorders

Delayed sleep phase syndrome isn’t the only condition that causes you to feel drowsy but not fatigued at night.

Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are susceptible to doing the same thing. Breathing frequently pauses or becomes extremely shallow during sleep apnea, then resumes. Restless legs syndrome causes your legs to feel unpleasant, causing you to need to move them.

Both disorders can disturb nightly sleep, resulting in daytime drowsiness.


The relationship between eating and sleep is a little ambiguous.

Researchers examined excessive daytime drowsiness and diet in a 2019 study. They discovered that substituting 5% of one’s daily calorie intake with equivalent quantities of saturated fats or carbohydrates increased the chances of daytime sleepiness.

Substitution of saturated fats with unsaturated fats, protein, or carbohydrates, on the other hand, lowered the probability of excessive daytime drowsiness.

They conclude that dietary adjustments can benefit those suffering from sleep difficulties. 

According to a 2016 study, high-fat diets decreased REM sleep, deeper sleep, awakened from sleep. High-carbohydrate diets were linked to higher REM sleep, less deep sleep, and falling asleep sooner.

However, the authors of the study state that further research is needed to understand if any eating pattern improves or hinders overnight sleep and daytime energy.

Is It A Terrible Thing To Be Tired?

Being fatigued throughout the day might naturally reduce productivity and make you cranky.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not obtaining enough quality, restful sleep regularly increases your risk of:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • obesity

How Can I Get Proper Sleep?

Winter’s #1 recommendation for anybody who is exhausted yet unable to sleep is a regular, consistent sleep and waking pattern.

You could also wish to change your bedtime, he suggests.

Consider this: you don’t go to a restaurant for an hour simply because it’s noon; you go because you’re hungry. Why should you lay in bed and wait for sleep? Wait until you’re exhausted before sliding between the covers, and only do activities that won’t engage your mind in the build-up to that time.

Then, as always, adopt appropriate sleep practises:

  • Maintain a cool and dark bedroom temperature of 60–67°F (15–19°C).
  • Consider leaving your phone and other electronic devices in a different room.
  • If sounds keep you awake, use earplugs or a white noise machine.

Also, before going to bed, engage in relaxing activities such as reading, writing, or meditation.

If anxiety causes your brain to hum at night, Michelle Drerup, PsyD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, recommends scheduling 20 to 30 minutes of “worry time" throughout the day, preferably at least 2 hours before sleep.

Keep a journal about your worries. Then, make a list of solutions to those issues.

When you’re tempted to let your thoughts run at night, just tell yourself that you’ve dealt with problems and just let them go. Or convince yourself that you’ll worry about it tomorrow, but right now is the time to sleep.

If you attempt a couple of these cures and still find yourself wondering, “Why am I exhausted yet unable to sleep?" Consult your doctor.

Nobody walks into my office and says, ‘I kicked my legs 400 times last night,‘" Winter tells Healthline." ‘I can’t sleep, they complain." When you tell your doctor about your sleep issues, he or she may ask you questions and, if required, do some sleep tests to determine what the underlying problem is. Then you may get the right treatment to address the underlying reason and help you sleep better.

Winter does not prescribe sleep drugs unless a patient has a disease such as restless legs syndrome, works a shift, or is attempting to avoid jet lag before a trip.

When we use a sedative like Ambien, Benadryl, or melatonin, we confuse sedation with sleep. That reinforces the belief that something is wrong with your sleep," he says. “But it does nothing positive for sleep, it just induces sedation.

If you’re still intrigued, keep in mind that sleeping drugs might have negative effects and have an influence on certain health issues, so always try alternative solutions first and see your doctor or a sleep expert before taking any sleeping pills. They can advise you on which option is best for you.

The Bottom Line 

If you’re exhausted yet unable to sleep, it might be an indication that your circadian rhythm is out of sync.

Poor napping habits, anxiety, sadness, caffeine intake, blue light from electronics, sleep problems, and even food can all contribute to being fatigued all day and awake at night.

If you keep complaining, “I’m so exhausted but can’t sleep!" and over-the-counter sleep aids aren’t working, see your doctor. They can assist in determining the underlying issue and recommending ways to help you achieve comfortable sleep so you have energy throughout the day.



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