February 27, 2024

Do you ever think, “No matter how much sleep I get, I can’t wake up?” While occasional sleepiness in the morning is normal, especially if you’ve had a busy week or stayed up a little too late, constantly being unable to get up in the morning can sometimes be a sign of a mental health problem.

In addition, disturbed sleeping patterns can worsen your mental health and exacerbate existing mental illnesses.

Because disturbed sleep can be a sign of or contributor to a mental health problem, you should never ignore a chronic inability to get up in the morning. Whether you sleep right through your alarm or lie in bed too exhausted to get up, there are solutions you can implement once you understand the underlying cause of your sleepiness.

What It Means When You Can’t Wake Up

Are you wondering why you can’t get up in the morning or what the underlying cause of your drowsiness could be? There can be a variety of reasons why can’t wake up in the morning and some may require more immediate medical attention than others.

Possible Medical Conditions

If you are struggling to wake up in the morning, it’s important to rule out medical conditions such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and chronic fatigue syndrome. If you have been diagnosed with one of these conditions, your inability to get out of bed may be related to your diagnosis.

In this case, a medical professional may prescribe medication or another treatment plan to help with this specific problem.

Sleep paralysis is another condition that can wreak havoc with your ability to wake up. This is a temporary paralysis that typically occurs when you wake up or fall asleep, but it can also happen at other times. Terrifying hallucinations and feelings of dread sometimes accompany it.

If you haven’t been diagnosed with any sort of medical disorder and still can’t seem to wake up in the morning, it’s possible that you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health problem.

Mental Health Reasons You Can’t Wake Up

If it seems like you can’t wake up no matter how much sleep you get, it might also be related to a mental disorder. Below are some mental health conditions that may affect your ability to wake up in the morning.

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Depression

If you are struggling to wake up in the morning, there is a chance that you may be living with depression. Other symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Emptiness and hopelessness throughout the day
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

If you think your inability to wake up might be related to this condition, reaching out to a professional is important. Effective treatments can help, including psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Anxiety

Mental health conditions such as anxiety may also affect your ability to wake up. Research indicates that around 50% of people with anxiety experience sleep disturbances.


People who struggle with this condition often feel stressed and overwhelmed during the day, which can cause sleep problems at night. This means that you might not be able to fall asleep or stay asleep for an extended period of time each night, making it difficult to wake up the next morning.

Bipolar Disorder

Another potential mental illness that can make it hard to wake up in the morning is bipolar disorder, a condition characterized by extreme mood swings.

The highs and lows that come with it can cause sleep problems at night. This is because your sleep schedule may shift dramatically over a short period, either due to depressive or manic episodes.

Research indicates that around 70% of people with bipolar disorder experience insomnia, and 25% experience hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) between mood episodes. Between 40% and 80% experience hypersomnia during depressive mood episodes.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is another mental health condition that can make it difficult to wake up in the morning. People with this condition often have a harder time falling asleep at night and experience greater sleepiness during the day.

While this condition impacts people throughout the year, people who are more susceptible will notice their symptoms become worse during the winter months when there is less sunlight available. This means you might sleep for longer periods of time at night and have difficulty waking up when it is morning.

ADHD

People who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also find it difficult to wake up in the morning. This is because they may tend to sleep for shorter periods and feel as if they haven’t gotten enough sleep when waking up.

ADHD is also associated with a lack of energy upon waking up, which causes people to want to return to bed instead of getting ready for work or school.

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also cause you to sleep for more extended periods at night and have more difficulty waking up. This is because people with PTSD often experience nightmares or flashbacks that disrupt their ability to get a good night’s rest, causing them to feel tired the following day.

Sleep disturbances are a symptom of PTSD, affecting between 70% and 90% of people with the condition. Research also suggests that sleep disorders are connected to the onset and maintenance of the condition.

Impact on Mental Health

The relationship between sleep and mental health is bidirectional. People with psychological disorders often experience sleep problems, but evidence also indicates that sleep disturbances can also play a part in causing mental conditions.

While mental health conditions can make it hard to wake up, being unable to wake up can also affect your mental health. Below is a list of some possible impacts that struggling to wake up may have on you:

  • Decreased energy levels throughout the day, making it more difficult for you to complete tasks and get things done
  • Increased feelings of sadness or depression due to not being able to meet your expectations
  • Negative self-talk about how you cannot accomplish everyday tasks, such as waking up in the morning
  • De-stabilized circadian rhythms, which result in you feeling even more tired and unable to wake up
  • Increased irritability towards others since waking up is taking an emotional toll on you

Tips for When You Can’t Wake Up

If a mental health condition is making it hard for you to wake up, even if it feels like you are getting plenty of sleep each night, below are some tips to help you cope:

Get Support

If you are struggling to wake up each morning, it can be helpful to enlist the help of friends, family, and health professionals.

  • Talk to a friend or family member you trust and let them know what is going on with you so that they can provide support.
  • Treat the underlying mental health condition. If another mental health condition causes your inability to wake up, seek treatment from a professional.
  • Talk to your doctor: If other methods haven’t help, discuss your symptoms with your primary care doctor. They can evaluate your symptoms and rule out medical conditions that might contribute to them.

Practice Healthy Habits

Sleep issues often benefit from adopting some healthy habits. Your overall physical health can play a role in the quality and duration of your sleep.

  • Take naps to catch up on sleep if you can’t sleep at night because of your mental health condition.
  • Ensure you eat healthy foods throughout the day, so your body will have the energy it needs when morning comes around.
  • Exercise during the day. This helps release endorphins which make sleeping easier when nighttime comes around. Studies show that people who exercise tend to experience less insomnia and may also have more energy when it comes time for them to wake up.
  • Limit caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening hours. Research has shown that consuming caffeinated beverages within six hours of when you want to go to bed makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol. Drinking too much before bedtime will make it harder for you to fall asleep and interfere with your natural hormone levels regulating sleep and wakefulness.

Adjust Your Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene is essential for falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up well-rested. If you often feel as if you can’t wake up in the morning, consider trying some of the following tips:

  • Create a calming bedtime routine. Doing things like taking a warm bath or reading before bed; this will help prepare your body and mind for restful sleep.
  • If you tend to have an erratic bedtime, try to reset your circadian rhythm by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. This might mean waking up early on weekends so that you can maintain a regular schedule on the other days of the week.
  • Limit your exposure to screens before bedtime. This means no TVs, computers, or phones for an hour before you go to sleep. Light from these devices inhibits melatonin release, interfering with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that helps regulate moods. It also disrupts circadian rhythms by stimulating cortisol production instead of letting it drop naturally.

Other Strategies That Can Help

Adjusting your expectations and trying different tools and techniques to manage your morning wake-up routine can also be helpful.

  • Be realistic in terms of meeting your expectations for waking up each day. This means not setting yourself up for failure by expecting too much from yourself during tough times.
  • Keep a journal next to your bed. If you have trouble falling asleep at night due to worrying, writing about what bothers you will help relieve some anxiety. Making a plan for the next day will also ensure your morning goes smoother.
  • Use a daylight alarm clock. This is a type of clock with a light that turns on gradually so you can wake up more naturally and feel less groggy compared to when using your phone alarm or other electronic alarms.
  • Light therapy boxes can be helpful. They emit a bright light that is similar to the sun. This helps regulate your internal clock and ease depression or anxiety that can keep you from falling asleep or waking up.
  • Set multiple alarms. Plug in your phone across the room (so you have to get up to turn it off) and set multiple alarms 15 minutes apart. If the alarm goes off, get up for a few minutes and do something before going back to bed such as taking your morning medication. This will help reduce how long it takes for you to wake up since your body won’t be in deep sleep anymore when each subsequent alarm goes off.

If you struggle with not waking up, it may be time to get help. There can be many reasons for this, and there is no shame in getting the support you need. Whether your struggle stems from a mental health condition or life stressors, find someone who will listen without judgment.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic, MA

Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of “Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder” and “7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety.” She has a Master’s degree in psychology.

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