Mercy's Dr. Susan Besser Offers Insights Into Keys To A Restful Sleep

December 14, 2017
Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea - Overlea, MD

Dr. Susan Besser, responding to a query from, answered questions concerning “Why You Wake Up Tired Even If You Get Enough Sleep.” Dr. Besser is a primary care provider specializing in Family Medicine and sees patients at Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea.

What are some reasons you might you wake up tired even if you've slept 8 hours or more? How can you tell if each is the case for you? 

Firstly, you need to know, it’s not just the quantity of sleep. It’s also the quality. But before I mention quality, let me just say that a person generally needs between 6-8 hours of sleep. Not enough or too much leads to poor quality sleep. Additionally, if you don’t sleep about the same amount each night, the body gets disrupted- so you can’t sleep 4 hours one night and then “make it up” by sleeping ten hours the next night. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work- you can’t store sleep. 

Moving on to quality of sleep-how soundly do you sleep? Are you such a light sleeper that every sound is disruptive? Is your bedroom full of electronic gadgets that glow, beep, buzz?

These affect sleep by not allowing the full range of sleep. What does that mean? Sleep is not just one stage-it’s a continuum of several stages of sleep from light (REM) sleep to deep sleep. During the night we cycle through these stages-the full cycle takes about 90 minutes, so there are several cycles throughout the night. If sleep is disrupted or fragmented, you might miss a stage, that affects sleep quality. 

What else can affect quality of sleep?

If you are anxious or depressed, your sleep quality might be affected such that you don’t actually rest-thus you feel tired. If you are awakened through the night, obviously that affects sleep quality. Pain, of course can cause nightly awakening, as can repeated trips to the restroom. Additionally, certain illnesses such as restless leg syndrome affect sleep quality. If you eat late at night, your sleep may also be disrupted as well. 

One more problem that affects sleep is sleep apnea. That is a condition that people frequently don’t know they have. With sleep apnea, a person has intermittent episodes when they actually stop breathing. The body is aware of it and so partially wakes to stimulate breathing. However, you aren’t fully awakened, so you don’t know this is happening. Your bed partner will know, however. They will hear loud snoring punctuated by long seconds of total silence. So, what to do? Sleep hygiene- try to go to bed about the same time every night (yes, even weekends) and get up at about the same time. Remove noisy devices from your room. Don’t have the TV on in the room. It’s not really helping. If you have to get up frequently to use the restroom, talk with your doctor about possible treatments. 

If you find you have leg cramps at night that disturb your sleep-again, your doctor can help. There are medications that can help this problem. If you snore heavily and tend to feel tired, you may have sleep apnea. That needs to be tested and treated (yes there is a treatment) so talk to your doctor. 

Susan L. Besser MD, MBA, FAAFP, CIME, Diplomate American Board of Obesity Medicine, Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea

Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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