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Some Reasons for Morning Fatigue (Waking Up Tired) in the Elderly

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Feeling tired is a normal occurrence in life irrespective of age. When the body is expended with physical or mental activity, tiredness tells us it is time to rest. Depending on the time or situation, tiredness may also cause a person to feel sleepy. Sometimes the feeling of tiredness is extreme usually when a person has over-exerted themselves. This is known as fatigue.

Often the elderly tend to feel tired more quickly than younger people which is largely related to a decrease in endurance and stamina associated with advancing age. This simply means that an older person gets tired faster and even slightly extra activity can lead to fatigue. However, fatigue is also a symptom of various diseases and is therefore more common in the elderly who are more likely to be suffering with age-related chronic conditions.

Causes of Morning Fatigue

Sleeping is one of the most effective ways to overcome fatigue provided that a person is eating well and is health overall. When sleep is unable to restore one’s vigour, then it needs to be investigated further. Waking up tired is seen as a symptom of various diseases. Morning fatigue is where a person is very tired within a few hours after awaking despite the lack of activity. This as well may be a symptom of certain diseases.

Sleep-related disorders are the most obvious cause of morning fatigue and this includes conditions like restless leg syndrome. In the elderly, it is the age-related changes in physiology, a range of chronic conditions and chronic medication that are most likely to upset normal sleeping patterns. It is important to remember that good quality sleep is linked to a healthy lifestyle and this includes factors such as diet, exercise, alcohol and caffeine consumption and mental health. Some conditions mentioned below are also common reasons for morning fatigue that goes by unnoticed.

Obstructive sleep apnea

This is one of the most common causes of waking up tired. The passages of the upper airways collapse or are blocked by the tongue limiting the intake of fresh air. A person may stop breathing for short periods of time and this causes them to awaken thereby reducing the quality of sleep. A common symptom is awaking with a headache in the morning, loud snoring, waking up gasping for air during the course of the night and feeling sleepy throughout the day.

Acid reflux during sleep

A person with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has a weakened sphincter between the stomach and esophagus (food pipe). This allows the acidic stomach contents to flow backwards up into the esophagus, sometimes reaching as a high as the mouth and nose. It tends to worsen at night as stomach secretion rises during this time, and lying flat allows for the acid to pass up into the esophagus more easily. Heartburn is a typical symptom along with a bad taste in the mouth and sore throat upon waking.

Frequent urination at night

The need to urinate frequently at night, known as nocturia, is a common symptom of various diseases such as diabetes mellitus, prostate problems in men, urinary tract infections and overactive bladder symptom. Sometimes it is a consequence of using certain medication like diuretics for the treatment of high blood pressure. Waking up at night to urinate disrupts the sleep cycle and leads to poor quality sleep. Failure to awaken can lead to bed wetting (nocturnal enuresis).

Respiratory disease and sleep

Any cause of impaired breathing and blood oxygenation will hamper normal sleeping patterns. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and secondary lung disorders like pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) may hamper normal breathing at night while asleep. The most common sign that this is a problem is that a person needs to sleep with more pillows as the disease worsens. Eventually a person may need to be sitting upright in order to stay asleep.


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