Understanding and Treating the Effects of Unrefreshing Sleep

According to the Center for Disease Control, 50-70 Million adults suffer from a sleep problem at some point during their lives.(1)

Unrefreshing sleep is a condition that is gaining more and more recognition in the area of sleep problems.

Fortunately, increased awareness of the sleep problem is helping people to better treat it.


What is Unrefreshing Sleep?

According to WebMD, the term “unrefreshing sleep” is used to explain the situation where a person gets an adequate amount of sleep but does not awaken from that sleep refreshed.(2)

Even after a full night of sleep, a person suffering from unrefreshing sleep does not feel rested.

Unrefreshing sleep can be the result of;

  • chronic fatigue syndrome,
  • hypersomnia,
  • sleep apnea,
  • other sleep disorders,

but a person can have unrefreshing sleep without suffering one of these sleep disorders.


Waking Up Feeling Unrefreshed: Negative Effects

The negative consequences of poor-quality sleep are numerous and extend far beyond yawning through long business meetings.

The problem results in poor quality of sleep as opposed to quantity of sleep, and according to WebMD, high-quality sleep is critically important to health and well-being.(2)

Sleep runs in a cycle of four stages, often called circadian rhythms, each of which is critical in properly regulating metabolism and other bodily functions that control good health.

If the circadian rhythm is interrupted, as it is during unrefreshing sleep, you are left feeling;

  • fatigued,
  • weak,
  • and emotionally drained.

You may have difficulty focusing on a task at hand, and have a greater chance of injury or accident due to reduced mental capacity.

In addition, you are at greater risk of developing any number of severe medical conditions.(3)



Unrefreshing sleep can be caused by a myriad of circumstances ranging from severe sleep disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome or narcolepsy to minor sleep habits such as drinking too much caffeine or alcohol before bed.

Other medical conditions like;

  • diabetes,
  • arthritis,
  • heart conditions,
  • and obesity

can also produce night-time symptoms that contribute to unrefreshing sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, depression and associated anxiety and stress play a huge role in the rising numbers of people experiencing unrefreshing sleep.(4)

Depression is also often accompanied by physical pain like;

  • headaches,
  • stomach aches,
  • or back pain

all of which can interrupt quality sleep and contribute to unrefreshing sleep.


How to Improve Sleep Quality?

Because the causes of poor sleep quality are so varied, your strategy for improving your sleep will likely vary as well.

If you suspect that you are experiencing unrefreshing sleep as a result of another sleep disorder (such as chronic fatigue syndrome, narcolepsy, or hypersomnia), or medical condition, see a qualified doctor to advise if a sleep study, prescribed medication or another medical treatment is necessary.

If stress or anxiety is a big component in your life, find ways to alleviate your worry, especially in the evening before bed.

Take 15-30 minutes to unwind, read quietly or listen to relaxing music. If you benefit from writing your worries down, take the time to write in a journal before bed, and then close the book on your apprehensions until morning.

If you find your concerns are not calmed by relaxation and may be a deeper depression, visit your doctor to see what medical treatment might be available to you.

If you believe that your unrefreshing doze of sleep is the result of lifestyle or poor sleep habits, there are some relatively easy steps you can take to improve your sleep.

Here are some actions to try:


Dietary Changes

– According to Dr. Craig Maxwell, diet plays a central role in good health and the quality of your sleep.(5)

Avoid processed foods, stimulants like caffeine, soda and energy drinks, and artificial additives or chemicals.

All can lead to nutritional deficiencies that contribute to poor health, including unrefreshing sleep.

Rather, focus on a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats.


Avoid Large Meals Before Sleeping

– High fat and protein meals right before bed can contribute to unrefreshing sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you stick to a light carbohydrate based snack if you are hungry before bed.(6)


Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption

– Although a nightcap may seem to help you sleep at night, a five-year study conducted by the University of Missouri, School of Medicine found that alcohol actually disturbs sleep quality in the long run.(7)

Even a measured amount of alcohol consumed as much as six hours before sleeping can change your sleep patterns and reduce the quality of your deep sleep cycles.


Increase Exercise

– Exercising on a regular basis will increase serotonin in your brain, which will alleviate stress and anxiety.

Keep in mind, however, that vigorous exercise right before bed may make going to sleep difficult and can actually contribute to unrefreshing sleep.

Better to fit a rigorous workout in at least four hours before turning in.


Consider Losing Weight

– More than half of American adults are either overweight or obese, and the extra weight contributes to numerous health disorders, including unrefreshing sleep.

Unfortunately, poor sleep patterns have also been found to contribute to obesity, creating a circular pattern that is hard to break.

According to a Harvard Health Publications blog, losing weight vastly improves sleep problems and helps you get a more restful night’s sleep.(8)

In addition to reducing belly fat and the conditions that cause sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, losing weight is typically accomplished by using other proven strategies for a good night’s sleep, such as;


Stop Smoking

– The negative effect of smoking on your overall health is well documented, and smoking’s detrimental consequences carry to sleep problems as well.

The Huffington Post reports that smoking changes your natural sleep cycles over time, causes you to wake up more during the night, and increases your chances of developing other sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia.(9)

All these factors contribute to unrefreshing sleep.


Practice Good Sleep Habits

– Good sleep hygiene can help you cultivate normal sleep patterns.

Do your best to keep a regular schedule, going to bed and waking at generally the same time each day.

Make sure you sleep in a quiet, darkened room. Avoid falling asleep with the television on in the background. If you prefer background noise, consider investing in a white noise machine.

If you have trouble falling asleep, leave the room after about twenty minutes to read quietly or listen to soothing music, and return to bed when you feel sleepy again.




While the above techniques will often be just what you need to improve your unrefreshing sleep, if the problems continue to plague you, visit a qualified medical doctor to confirm there is not a more serious underlying condition causing your symptoms.

Researches and references