Why Am I Always Sleepy No Matter How Much Sleep I Get?

Feeling tired all the time? It’s most likely due to high sleep debt or being out of sync with your circadian rhythm. A health condition could also be to blame.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Woman at work in front of computer yawning and feeling sleepy

The latest ad for the world's comfiest mattress is at it again. You stare enviously at the screen as the ad model bounds out of bed when the alarm clock goes off. You can't help but wonder, "Why am I always sleepy no matter how much sleep I get?"

Beyond natural morning grogginess (also known as sleep inertia) and the predictable afternoon dip, you shouldn’t constantly feel tired throughout the day.

Luckily, there are two common causes of all-day tiredness and they can be fixed. Below, we’ll cover why you’re most likely tired despite feeling like you’ve had a good night’s sleep and how the RISE app can help you get to the root of the problem and boost your energy levels.

Why Am I Always Sleepy No Matter How Much Sleep I Get?

Anyone struggling with excessive daytime sleepiness knows how much of a drag it can be on their everyday life. Cue the impaired cognitive skills, slower reflexes, weakened immune system, and poorer mood the next day. It's also a recipe for chronic diseases further down the road. But why does it happen?

The two major culprits behind feeling sleepy all the time are: 

  • High sleep debt
  • Being out of sync with your circadian rhythm 

In the next sections, we'll talk about these two common occurrences in detail.

Culprit No. 1: High Sleep Debt

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app shows how much sleep debt you have.

High sleep debt dampens your energy levels and leaves you feeling sleepy throughout the day. Sleep debt is the running total of how much sleep you owe your body compared to your sleep need, which is the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night. 

To know whether or not you’ve got sleep debt, you first need to know your true sleep need. 

​​One study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night. 

To find out your sleep need down to the minute, turn to the RISE app, which uses your phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-based models to work out exactly how much sleep you should be aiming for.

RISE can also work out how much sleep debt you have. If you often have more than five hours, this may be the reason you're sleepy all the time.

Here’s how sleep debt explains why you're sleepy all the time:

  • If you don’t know how much sleep you need, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough, leaving you in debt. If you shoot for eight hours of shut-eye because that’s the common advice, you may not be getting enough sleep for you. Read more: Is 8 hours enough sleep? And Why am I still tired after 8 hours of sleep?
  • It’s easy to underestimate your sleep duration by not knowing, or by forgetting to take into account, how long you take to fall asleep and how frequently you wake up in the middle of the night (aka your overall “sleep efficiency”). Spending eight hours in bed won’t mean you’ll get eight hours of sleep. Plus, it’s hard to estimate your own sleep times. A 2021 study found the overall agreement level between self-reported sleep data and sleep measured by a device was only 57%. The end result? Sleep debt, despite your best intentions. 
  • To recoup the sleep you've lost, you have to out-sleep your sleep need, or temporarily get more sleep than you usually need to catch up. You may spend a few nights sleeping for nine hours, but if your sleep debt was high to begin with, this may not be enough to catch up on sleep and boost your energy levels. Beyond having high sleep debt, there are times in life when you’ll need more sleep than usual, such as when you’re recovering from a period of high stress, an illness like COVID, or from intense exercise like an ultra-marathon. Sleep debt strikes again!

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

Culprit No. 2: Circadian Misalignment

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peak and dip times
The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm each day.

Another reason you might feel bone-weary tired is circadian misalignment.

Your circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that regulates vital biological processes like your sleep cycle and energy fluctuations. Going against the flow of your circadian rhythm — a later-than-usual bedtime, working the graveyard shift, etc. — incites circadian misalignment.

Daylight savings time (DST) reveals how a seemingly minor one-hour fast-forward/fall-back of your sleep pattern just twice a year has repercussions on your health and energy. The shift in the spring, for example, can incite sleep loss for anywhere between one and eight weeks, with later chronotypes often requiring a much longer time to adapt.

Below, we share three other scenarios that trigger circadian misalignment for many.

Scenario 1: Chronotype Mismatch

The timing of your circadian rhythm is, in part, dictated by your chronotype. From sleeping to waking, eating to exercising, there’s a right time to carry out your daily activities if you want to be in top form. Your chronotype is why you might identify as a “night owl” or an “early bird” — with most of us somewhere in between these two extremes. What’s your chronotype? Learn more here.

For many night owls, their current lifestyle may be at odds with their chronotype because we live in an early-bird world. When you’re biologically inclined to have a later sleep time, it can feel impossible to drag yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn for work or school. And when you do, it’s often without enough sleep. No wonder you constantly think to yourself, "I'm always sleepy no matter how much sleep I get!"

The Solution

Your best bet is to align your lifestyle with your chronotype. If that isn't possible, say, you're an evening chronotype with a 9-5 job, try actively shifting your circadian rhythm to match your schedule. While it's doable, take note that it requires time, effort, and consistency.

You can learn how to reset your circadian rhythm here.

Scenario 2: Social Jetlag

You’ve heard of (and probably have experienced) travel jet lag. But there’s another form of jet lag you may not know: social jetlag, when your social and biological clocks are out of sync. It’s a common problem — about 87% of us have social jetlag and go to bed at least two hours later than usual on weekends.

For those who commute to the office, a late-to-bed, late-to-rise timetable on the weekends (or days off), only to strong-arm your internal clock into an early sleep-wake schedule during the workweek is common. For those who work from home, or have a hybrid schedule that doesn’t necessitate a consistently timed morning commute, social jetlag may be a much more frequent occurrence.

Unfortunately, this form of jetlag doesn't just take a toll on your body the next day. Its backlash extends far into the future — research, for example, confirms the close relationship between circadian disruption and metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity.

The Solution

Consistency is the antidote to social jetlag. If some deviation from your sleep-wake times is non-negotiable, prioritize regularity in other aspects of your daily routine, most especially when you eat and exercise, and try to get as much natural outdoor light as you can. 

There’s compelling science to suggest regular mealtimes are a solid tactic to steady your circadian rhythm. For example, in a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis, scientists recommended time-restricted eating (TRE), which "emphasizes the timing of eating within a limited duration" to minimize and prevent the ill effects of circadian misalignment. The paper concluded that TRE improved several metabolic metrics — such as weight gain, blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol levels — for better overall health.

Scenario 3: Shift Work

Shift work is another prevalent trigger of circadian misalignment. There are side effects a shift worker can experience from circadian misalignment alone as well as circadian misalignment coupled with sleep debt:

  • Stand-alone circadian misalignment: A 2005 study discovered women working the night shift are more vulnerable to breast cancer. Another 2019 study highlighted circadian disruption is linked to a greater risk of sarcopenia (progressive muscle loss).
  • Circadian misalignment plus high sleep debt: One study in the Journal of Policing notes that police officers who worked the night shift and had substantial sleep debt were "four times more likely than other officers to have metabolic syndrome."

The Solution

RISE app screenshot showing you when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

Turn to sleep hygiene, the daily habits you can do to help you fall asleep and stay asleep at the right times for you. Healthy sleep hygiene can help mitigate the worst of shift work sleep disorder (SWSD), a circadian rhythm disorder affecting shift workers, which causes a lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. 

Paying attention to sleep hygiene will also stop common sleep disruptors like ill-timed bright light, physical activity, or caffeine causing poor sleep or a less-than-ideal sleep environment keeping you up, which is especially important to stay on top of when you’re already sleeping at odd times. 

You can also leverage certain circadian cues to bring forward or delay your sleep schedule for better circadian alignment.

For instance, light is the most powerful circadian cue to shift and reset your internal clock. Expose yourself to bright light (preferably sunlight) when you wake up and avoid artificial light (especially blue light) in the few hours before bed (blue light blocking glasses will help!).

If possible, request rotating shifts that move forward in time. Forward shifts push your bedtime backward so you experience less circadian disruption and need less adjustment to your sleep schedule.

The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to help you stay on top of them all. The app will also tell you the best time to do each habit based on your circadian rhythm to make them more effective.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications. 

When is Tiredness a Cause for Medical Concern?

If high sleep debt and circadian misalignment aren't to blame for your persistent tiredness, there may be a chance a health condition is at work (there’s also a chance all three are contributing to your fatigue).

The tendency to sleep longer than the average person is medically known as hypersomnia or oversleeping. And various medical conditions and sleep disorders can cause excessive sleepiness including:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Thyroid disorders, like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Mental health issues, like anxiety and depression
  • Kidney disease
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiencies 
  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Heart disease or heart failure 
  • Allergies
  • ADHD, which is tightly linked with sleep problems
  • Bacterial or viral infection (like the common cold or coronavirus (COVID-19)

Take note that common symptoms, like joint pain or backaches, can also affect the amount and quality of your sleep, so you end up perpetually sleepy. The same goes for certain medications and stimulants, like antihistamines, antidepressants, and alcohol, which can cause drowsiness and sleep problems.

A big lifestyle change can also be a common cause of fatigue, such as: 

Speak to your healthcare provider if you think a medical condition is a cause of fatigue for you. They can run tests to see if there’s an underlying cause and suggest treatment options if needed. 

How to Stop Feeling Sleepy All the Time?

Now you know the likely culprits behind your lack of energy, it’s time to do something about them. Here’s how you can get more energy: 

1. Lower Your Sleep Debt 

Use RISE to find out how much sleep debt you have exactly. We recommend keeping this below five hours to enjoy higher energy levels. If you’ve got more sleep debt than this, you can pay some back by: 

2. Get in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

We covered a few ways you can live more in sync with your circadian rhythm, but here’s what to keep in mind: 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Even on weekends. 
  • Eat meals at roughly the same times each day: And avoid meals too close to bedtime  
  • Go to bed at the right time for you: Look for your Melatonin Window in RISE, this is the time of night your body’s rate of melatonin production will be at its highest, helping you fall asleep easier.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up a reminder to check their Melatonin Window.

Stop Feeling Sleepy All the Time With RISE

For the most part, the answer to "Why am I always sleepy no matter how much sleep I get?" is most likely hefty sleep debt and/or circadian misalignment. In rarer cases a chronic illness, medical issue, or medications might be to blame.

But you can stop feeling sleepy all the time with the RISE app. RISE can work out how much sleep debt you have and keep track of it as you pay it back and predict your circadian rhythm each day so you can work to live in sync with it. Plus, RISE can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to make meeting your sleep need easier, boosting your energy, productivity, and overall well-being.

Summary FAQs

Why am I always so tired no matter how much sleep I get?

The two most likely reasons you’re always so tired no matter how much sleep you get are you’ve got high sleep debt or you’re not living in sync with your circadian rhythm. You may also feel sleepy if you’re ill, pregnant, or you’ve got a medical condition like anemia or diabetes.

What should I do if I feel sleepy all day?

If you feel sleepy all day, try paying down your sleep debt — by sleeping for longer at night and taking well-timed naps — and living in sync with your circadian rhythm — by keeping a consistent sleep schedule and eating meals at roughly the same times each day.

How to stop feeling sleepy

Stop feeling sleepy by paying down your sleep debt — by sleeping for longer at night and taking well-timed naps — and living in sync with your circadian rhythm — by keeping a consistent sleep schedule and eating meals at roughly the same times each day.

What deficiency causes tiredness and fatigue?

Deficiencies that cause tiredness and fatigue include iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D deficiencies. Eat a balanced diet, get sunlight, and seek medical advice to get blood tests for vitamin deficiencies and suggested supplements if needed.

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