I Can't Wake Up: What It Means for Your Mental Health

Man not wanting to wake up in the morning.

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Have you ever tried to wake up but just couldn't? 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.

For this reason, it's important not to 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 to Be Unable to 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 you're unable to wake up in the morning and some may require more immediate medical attention than others.

Possible Medical Condtions

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. However, 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 Problems That Affect Your Ability to Wake Up in the Morning

Below are some mental health conditions that may affect your ability to wake up in the morning.

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, or hopelessness throughout the day and changes in appetite or sleep patterns.

If you think that your inability to wake up might be related to this condition, it's important to reach out to a professional.

Anxiety

Mental health conditions such as anxiety may also affect your ability to wake up. 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. This condition is characterized by 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 of time, either due to depressive or manic episodes.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is another mental health condition that can make it difficult to wake up in the morning.

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 those with this condition tend to sleep for shorter periods of time and feel as if they haven't gotten enough sleep when waking up.

In addition, people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often experience a lack of energy upon waking that can make them want to go back 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.

Impact on Mental Health

While mental health conditions can make it hard to wake up, being unable to wake up can also take a toll on 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 Coping With the Inability to Wake Up

If a mental health condition is making it hard for you to wake up, below are some tips to help you cope:

  • Talk to a friend or family member that you trust and let them know what is going on with you, so they can provide support.
  • Make sure you are eating healthy foods throughout the day, so your body will have the energy it needs when morning comes around.
  • Be realistic in terms of meeting your own personal expectations for waking up each day. This means not setting yourself up for failure by expecting too much from yourself during tough times.
  • 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 they may also have more energy when it comes time for them to wake up in the morning.
  • Treat the underlying mental health condition. If your inability to wake up is caused by another mental health condition, seek treatment from a professional.
  • Take naps to catch up on sleep if you can't sleep at night because of your mental health condition.
  • Create a calming bedtime routine. Do things like taking a warm bath or reading before going to bed; this will help prepare your body and mind for restful sleep.
  • 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 only make it harder for you to fall asleep, as well as interfere with your natural hormone levels that regulate sleep and wakefulness.
  • 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.
  • 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 which interferes 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.
  • Keep a journal next to your bed. If you have trouble falling asleep at night due to worrying, writing about what is bothering you will help relieve some anxiety. Making a plan for the next day will also ensure your morning goes smoother.
  • 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 or a loved one are finding it challenging to wake up due to a mental health condition, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

If you are struggling 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 just life stressors, reach out and find someone who will listen without judgment.

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7 Sources
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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