Non-Restorative Sleep: Why Do I Feel Tired Even After Sleeping Enough?

You’re probably well aware that you’ll feel tired if you don’t sleep for long enough. But what about when you’ve slept for plenty of time but you’re still waking up feeling drained? Non-restorative sleep or unrefreshing sleep occurs when a person wakes up feeling tired even after sleeping for the recommended amount of time (typically 7 to 9 hours).

Key takeaways:
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    Non-restorative sleep occurs when you spend enough time resting but you still wake up feeling tired.
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    Many different factors could lead to low-quality sleep.
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    Sometimes non-restorative sleep occurs with other sleep conditions like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy.
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    Non-restorative sleep is not the same as insomnia but the two can occur together.
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    If poor sleep is hindering your daily life, talk with your doctor to help find a solution.

What are restorative and non-restorative sleep?

Restorative sleep occurs when your sleep quality is good enough for you to wake up feeling rested. Multiple stages of sleep are required for a good night of rest. Deep sleep or REM sleep is essential for a restful night of sleep.

When talking about differences, non-restorative sleep occurs when you’ve rested for a long enough time but you still wake up feeling tired.

Sleep recommendations vary depending on age. Generally, it is recommended that adults get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. If you’ve met this quota but you’re still feeling fatigued in the mornings, you may be experiencing non-restorative sleep.

What type of sleep is most restorative?

The last two stages of sleep, non-REM 3 and REM, are the most restorative. Overall, there are four stages of sleep: N1, N2, N3, and REM. But if you miss out on those two essential sleep stages, then there is a good chance that you won’t wake up feeling very rested.

Non-restorative sleep symptoms

The most obvious sign of non-restorative sleep is waking up feeling tired, even after sleeping through the night.

Analysis shows that some other symptoms may indicate non-restorative sleep:

  • Feeling fatigued during the day.
  • Being unable to get through the day without taking a nap.
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating.
  • Feelings of emotional vulnerability.

Is it non-restorative sleep or another sleep disorder?

Non-restorative sleep is unique to other sleep conditions. It is defined as, “the subjective feeling that sleep has been insufficiently refreshing, often despite the appearance of physiologically normal sleep.”

Some other common sleep disorders include the following:

  • Insomnia. Insomnia occurs when an individual is unable to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Narcolepsy. This condition causes daytime sleepiness and “sleep attacks” in which a person suddenly and unexpectedly falls asleep.
  • Sleep apnea. Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea usually snore loudly and have episodes during sleep in which their breathing stops and starts.
  • Restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome or RLS causes aches and pains in the legs, causing restless movement.

Non-restorative sleep can happen alongside other sleep conditions and be related to these conditions.

What causes non-restorative sleep

Non-restorative sleep can result from lifestyle factors and underlying health conditions. Here are lifestyle-related risk factors that may cause non-restorative sleep:

  • Shift work or working overnight.
  • Waking up regularly to care for a baby at night.
  • Jet lag from frequent travel.

Certain health conditions can also cause non-restorative sleep, such as depression and bipolar disorder. It has been found that individuals with depression frequently struggle with sleep disturbances, like non-restorative sleep. Sleep issues are also frequently seen in patients with bipolar disorder. Treating sleep disorders in patients with depression and bipolar disorder can be essential for well-being and overall health.

How is non-restorative sleep diagnosed?

To diagnose non-restorative sleep, your doctor will want to evaluate your lifestyle and health history to determine what factors may be causing you to not get adequate rest. They’ll want to screen you for any underlying health conditions that could be causing your sleep issues and rule out other sleep conditions before arriving at a diagnosis.

Sometimes, a diagnostic test called a polysomnogram or sleep study is used to diagnose sleep disorders. Sleep studies monitor your body and record data overnight while you sleep. A sleep study will look at multiple factors to determine a diagnosis, including brain wave changes, eye movement, breathing rate, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Is non-restorative sleep the same as insomnia?

No, non-restorative sleep and insomnia are technically not the same things. Insomnia is defined as sleeplessness or the inability to sleep. Non-restorative sleep is the subjective feeling that sleep was not adequate even after sleeping for the recommended amount of time.

Sometimes non-restorative sleep is a component of insomnia. Insomnia can involve a variety of different sleep issues that affect sleep quality. Individuals with insomnia are likely to experience non-restorative sleep as a result of their condition.

Not getting enough restorative sleep: what are the consequences?

High-quality sleep is essential for overall health. Consistently not getting enough restorative sleep can be consequential to health in many ways. Poor sleep can cause sleepiness during the day, making it difficult to focus and making you more likely to injure yourself accidentally.

One study found that nonrestorative sleep can cause depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder has even been linked to poor sleep, with a study finding that poor sleep quality can make individuals more likely to develop the condition.

How to treat non-restorative sleep

If you’re suffering from non-restorative sleep then it is important to take action so that you can feel better and prevent further health conditions from occurring. Finding ways to get a restful sleep can help you recover from any health issues you’re experiencing and prevent future ones from developing.

Improve sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to nightly habits that can help contribute to a restful night of sleep. Examples include the following:

  • A calm environment that is dark and quiet to sleep in.
  • Turned off electronics that are kept in a separate room.
  • Limited/reduced caffeine consumption late in the day.
  • Consistent sleep schedule (e.g., going to bed around the same time every night).

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation can help you relax your mind to make it easier for you to fall asleep at night. Many people experience sleep disturbances as a result of feeling stressed out at night. Having a good handle on stress management and mindfulness can help with this.

Adjust your lifestyle

Lifestyle factors, like exercise and supplements, may help with sleep quality. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet might lead to better sleep. Some people take melatonin to help with sleep. This can help you fall asleep but should only be taken with the guidance of your doctor.

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)

Non-restorative sleep is commonly associated with mental health challenges and life stressors. Speaking with a therapist can help you identify what thoughts are causing interference with sleep and help you come to terms with those thoughts for a better night’s sleep.

Get an appointment with your doctor

If you’re having excessive sleepiness and it’s interfering with your daily life, it may be time to visit your doctor. You may even need to see a sleep specialist to get to the root of the problem.

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