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Can't Wake Up in the Morning?

detectiveby Carl W. Bazil, M.D., Ph.D.

Q. I get enough sleep but just can't wake up in the morning. What might be the reason?

A. You're probably not sleeping effectively. Sometimes people can be aware of this—if it takes a long time to get to sleep or they frequently awaken for long periods. But not always. And continued daytime sleepiness could signal one of several sleep disorders.

If you can't wake up despite getting enough sleep regularly, here are two of the sleep disorders your doctor might consider:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea. This is the most common one. With it, you have difficulty breathing during sleep, resulting in frequent arousals that you may not even know about. It can also cause other serious health problems.
  2. Periodic limb movements. This consists of shaking of the legs or arms during sleep, also possibly causing sleep disturbances.

In both of these sleep disorders you may be sleeping but never getting quality, deep sleep, so you never feel rested. A rarer condition is narcolepsy (falling asleep during the day, out of the blue). 

If you suspect any of these, have an evaluation by a sleep specialist. All are treatable, so you will feel a lot better once you can get the quality sleep you need. You'll be able to wake up in the morning and may even avert worse health consequences. 

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is a board-certified neurologist and sleep specialist at  Columbia University Eastside and director of the neurology division at the Neurology Institute's Columbia Comprehensive Sleep Center in New York City.

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Last updated and/or approved: June 2012.
Original article appeared in May/June 2008 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

Comments (2)add comment
narcolepsy what are the odds?
written by James D. , March 24, 2013

I must admit that I am one of those who have a sleeping disorder but can you please tell me the odds of getting narcolepsy. I am very much concerned with this.
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Symptoms indicating only worst and rarest instances of sleeping disorders
written by riaz ahmed , January 11, 2013

Such medical conditions are only rarely found in the people having sleeping disorders. As a doctor, what I have seen is the thoughts of past, present challenges and future plannings in pending prevent such people from sleeping deeply and normally. But they are, wrongly, interpreted as undergoing sleeplessness on the reasons that you give. The reasons which are present here, which are reliably based on your researched work, may sound true but real disorders may be the ones associated with socio-anthropology rather than with what you are exclusively attributing to.
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