You snooze, you lose: on the difficulty of waking up in the morning

You snooze, you lose: on the difficulty of waking up in the morning

If you’ve been reading articles on migraine.com and/or doing independent research about your illness, you know as well as I how often you hear certain nuggets of tried and true advice.  For example: stay hydrated; eat healthy foods regularly (no meal skipping); use a migraine or headache diary to help identify your triggers; get yourself on a regular sleep schedule; etc.

It’s that last one regarding sleep that’s been a little complicated for me throughout life.  For the longest time, I never heard any advice about regular sleep patterns as part of any migraine-related advice.  Once I started seeing that tidbit pop up here and there, I willfully ignored it, as I loved staying up super-late one night and crashing out at 9:00 pm the next.  Finally, years later, I got on a sleep routine and it changed my life and my migraines.


These days I do my best to climb into bed with a book between 10:30 and 11:30 at night; I usually fall asleep within half an hour or so, making my regular bedtime somewhere between 11:00 pm and 12:00 am (but usually much closer to 11). My alarm is set for any time between 7:30 and 8:00 am, and as long as I’ve gone to bed on time, I can stick with that.

Once I’m up and at ‘em, sipping coffee and checking email or reading more of my book (I read a lot, you guys), I feel great. I look out the window and decide to step onto the porch for some cool morning air.  I make the bed and give the cat fresh water and feel proud of myself for not having lingered in bed longer than necessary.

Here’s the thing, though:  the part between the alarm going off and actually getting out of bed is next to impossible for me. It has been for my ENTIRE LIFE.  To this day, my mean big sister (who’s now one of my very best friends, happily) occasionally throws out old Janet quotes from the ’80s and ’90s when I was the most annoying morning person ever.  My mom would have to repeatedly wake me up, as I’d sleep through alarms (or turn them off and go back to bed) and was convinced that staying in bed dreaming was the best possible fate.

This problem persisted throughout high school, leading me to being almost late nearly every day. (To be fair, the only times I was ever tardy were when I was carpooling with others—but still, that’s not much to be proud of when you consider the stress I inflicted on myself each day by insisting on grabbing a few extra winks.)

Perhaps it’s gotten a tiny bit easier than that as I’ve aged, but it still doesn’t feel that way.  Once I’m awake, I can be happy and productive and even wonder if I’m morphing into a morning person.  But that seductive snoozing time (when my brain tries to convince me that five or ten or even sixty more minutes of sleep would be the best idea in the whole world, if not the universe) is still tough to muster through even though I know I’l be better off if I just wake the heck up.

Does anyone out there have similar trouble waking up in the morning? How have you coped with this over time? How, if at all, do you think this tendency to snooze and wake up feeling so tired has affected your migraine disease?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (45)
  • Sophie1992
    2 years ago

    I’ve had problems with getting out of bed for so long, I’ve even had to ask work to give me flexi hours for this.
    I was advised by the hospital that chronic fatigue and migraine go hand in hand and work in a cycle so it’s difficult to get to a point without migraine and without tiredness. I’ve tried having the blinds open a bit to get natural light in, putting alarm across the room so I have to get up, sitting up straight away and putting music on. Nothing has worked so far :/

  • Coco1
    2 years ago

    Mornings have always been a struggle but I am seeing more brain fog lasting longer into the days on some days. Other days (very rarely unfortunately) I wake up refreshed and full of energy. I enjoy those days of course, but I am also trying to be not so hard on myself for the brain fog days.

  • jlar
    3 years ago

    This is very true. It seems like a fair trade in the moment but it usually induces a headache or increases stress (which can lead to headache).

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Good call about the increased stress we often feel when we snooze and get behind on our days! But gosh, it’s hard to get out of that cozy bed sometimes. 🙂

    Thanks for your comment.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Kate Koltun
    4 years ago

    I think as a migraineur who has daily migraines for over the past 10 years, that migraines are exhausting. I believe it’s not just fatigue from medication side effects and poor sleep,; it is not fitfull because everything about migraines are still exhausting us while we sleep. Migraines don’t stop because we sleep. I have been brutally awakened with a migraine from a deep sleep(or so I thought). This is why I believe I have such a hard time getting out of bed . My sleep is not restful. When I am feeling better, I notice it is easier to get out of bed.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Kate,

    What an astute observation. You make such an excellent point, one I can’t believe I hadn’t really thought about before in relation to feeling rested upon waking (or not): “Migraines don’t stop because we sleep.”

    I do notice that on mornings after a migraine-free day, mornings when I wake up feeling good, I am much better at getting out of bed.

    Thanks so much for your comment.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Taru
    4 years ago

    I have the exact same problem! I stay up usually 12-02 and i can sleep easilly until the noon. I’t always hard for me to get out of bed. Eather i slept too much or too little, anyways i’ve got a migrein on the time i wake up. I’ve been srtuggelin for years with this problem and it seems to go worse and worse every mornin.. i have sleeping pills, but they dont work as good as they should and i dont even want’to use pills for my sleping, i want’to have a daily routine that i use.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Taru,

    Thanks for your comment! Have you ever talked to your doctor about this problem? I wonder if he/she might be able to help you get into a better routine. I hope you’re feeling good.

    Take care,
    Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Randy
    4 years ago

    So happy to say this life long problem seems to be behind me! After I found the right regimen of meds, therapies and diet FOR ME, I have a normal sleep schedule and wake without an alarm! This went right along with the decrease of my migraines from 20 + debilitating headaches to 3-4 mild (haha) headaches per month so I know there is a correlation. THANKS SO MUCH for migraine.com – it is truly a well of support & knowledge! I pray for all of us that suffer from this hideous despicable BEAST!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Dear Randy,

    I’m sorry I have taken a year (gasp!) to get back to you, but boy oh boy am I happy to hear about your feeling better. Thank you for sharing this story. I hope this note finds you feeling good.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Carrie
    4 years ago

    My biological clock has always been set to go to bed around 3am and wake up between 10-11am. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well for someone who is employed as social worker (non-crisis work)! I try to go to bed at the same time every day and get 7-8 hours of sleep. It doesn’t matter. I have to peel myself out of bed every morning after hitting snooze until the last possible second. It’s worse now, with the medications, but it’s always been an issue.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    I’ve read some interesting books and articles about sleep and how some people really are wired differently and the “typical” American sleep schedule isn’t a good fit for them.

    Thanks for your comment; sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Susan L
    4 years ago

    I also suffer from insomnia, and difficulty getting up. But I tell you, since childhood, I’ve never outgrown my need for 10 hrs. Sleep. This is extremely difficult to plan a life around, but so are my chronic daily migraines. One thing that helps me is that I’m on Topiramate, and I awake 90% of my mornings before my 10 hrs. Are over, so I take my Topiramate when I awake at this “early” hour, go back to bed, and when it is time to get up, I am at a pain level I can often bear. If I’m on a Maxalt day, (I can take that sumatriptan 3 days a week), I will probably be able to function well that day. But getting enough sleep, no matter how much YOU need is critical for we migraineurs – just like eating regularly is!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Excellent points, Susan L.! Thanks for your comment; sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Operadiva76
    4 years ago

    I just turned 38 less than 12 hours ago according to the time on my birth certificate. So even at birth, I liked sleeping in & was a “night owl!” I have never been able to adjust to a regular sleep pattern or become a “morning person.” My neurologist tells me that as long as I am getting enough sleep, & I have a schedule that works for me, it doesn’t matter that my bedtime is between 4am-6am. I have even seen a Sleep Disorder Doctor & did an at-home monitoring of my sleep patterns for 2 months, as well as being hooked up to a device when I slept. I wake up every 1-3 hrs & rarely fall into REM sleep, & have mild Apnea due to sinus issues & small air ways…..doesn’t really lead to feeling rested! No matter what I have tried, even when I was young, once the migraines started my sleep issues got worse. I have a hard time falling asleep/staying asleep because I’m such a lite sleeper. I am ALWAYS late for things because I’m hitting my snooze button, trying to get a little more sleep because I feel so tired.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Operadiva76,

    First of all, sorry for the delayed reply. Since it took me a year to write you back, that means your birthday is coming right up: happy birthday!

    Thanks for the feedback. How are things with you now?

    Take care,
    Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Kpandes
    4 years ago

    I’ve never been a morning person either, but the difficulty of getting out of bed has definitely worsened since chronic migraine set in. Having some level of migraine every day while coping with a full time job and little kids is beyond draining, so going to sleep can be such a profound relief. I just wish that the sleep I got was truly restful, and that I could wake up refreshed rather than in a continued mental fog.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    I’d rather get 6 hours of truly restful sleep than the 8-8.5 hours of non-restorative sleep that’s my norm. Lately, since the time change, I have been waking at 6:30 (!) and it’s actually going moderately well. It’s only been a couple of weeks, though, so we’ll see. 🙂

    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

    -Janet G.,”The Migraine Girl”

  • SK
    4 years ago

    I’ve never been a morning person in my entire life. Sleep has always been an issue for me and my body seems to demand lots of it, if I don’t get at least 8 hours a night I have a hard time even functioning.

    I’ve just recently started seeing a neurologist for my migraine issues which I get in the mornings and with my monthly cycle, occasionally I get them at other times too and we are not sure what the trigger is yet.

    I do keep to a regular sleep pattern 95% of the time, half hour or so of reading or tv and I’m asleep by 11 pm or 11:30 and up at 7:30 am with the alarm set for at 7 am, but it normally takes me until 7:45 to find the energy to get out of bed. I sleep through alarms all the time, if it wasn’t for my cat who demands to be fed no later than 7:45 I’d never make it work on time. Very frequently I wake up in the morning feeling exhausted and occasionally with a migraine.

    My doctor is trying to rule out seizure activity right now, but started me on preventative medication for migraine which really seems to be helping for now. Some of my morning problems may be sleep apnea (runs in my family). Wagering a sleep lab test is somewhere in my near future.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    SK,

    I’m sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment. I thought I’d check in to see how you’re doing.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Kristin
    4 years ago

    I used to be able to “pop” up when my alarm got up, even if I went to be late- and I got up EARLY- around 445 or so because I had to be to work around 7am. That meant plenty of time to shower, get makeup on, hair done, breakfast eaten, and time for a good 30 minute drive in to work. Now, for some reason just a few years later, I just can’t seem to make myself get up, even if I go to bed early (930, 10pm, etc), and now I get up around 530-6am to be here at a different job around 730. I still have horrible migraines (working on finding a new neurologist, etc etc) that have no appreciable pattern, no matter what I do about sleep, but I know that the less sleep I get- the worse my day will be for sure!!!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Just checking in a whole year (!) later to see how you’re doing now, Kristin.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Erin B
    4 years ago

    I have had a very similar pattern since childhood. I used to be tardy for school so often I would get in-school suspensions and my 1st period teacher would publicly mock me when I would walk in late. I am now a 34 year old mother and my son struggles to help get me out of bed so I can get him to school on time. It also takes me a long time, hours, to feel awake enough to fully function and that is after caffeine which I know is not helpful for my chronic migraines. I have noticed that I need to ease into waking up. A hectic morning or some kind stressful event that causes a sudden awakening will cause a migraine that will ruin my entire day. I have a hard time trying to explain to people that my body is incapable of adapting to mornings. It is a struggle to wake no matter how much sleep I get, go to bed, or wake up. I have even been in debates with “morning people” about the issue. It’s nice to hear that I am not alone. I have also always wondered if it was associated with being a chronic migraine sufferer.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    A belated thank you for this comment, Erin B. I have a cup of coffee every day. I weeded it out a couple of times in my life and realized that, for me, caffeine is not a trigger. It can be a very powerful acute treatment for mild migraines, though, but only if I abstain and drink it just when I have a migraine coming on. So far I enjoy my coffee each day too much to give it up.

    I hope this note finds you feeling well.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Gretchen Buckalew
    4 years ago

    I’m 35 and I’ve noticed within the past year that if I stay up later than normal and sleep later the next day, it really throws me out of sync and I end up paying for it. When I was little, my mom said I hardly put up a fight when it was time for a nap. I NEEDED my sleep and I still try to get more than 8 hours but I can’t do it anymore. I go to bed around 9 and read until 10pm and have to wake up during the week around 5:45am. I try to sleep in until 8 or 9am on the weekends but if I push it any later the headaches/migraine rears it’s ugly head.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    It’s fascinating to think about how our childhood patterns might have morphed into our adult patterns. I should ask my mom about my reactions when she used to make me nap!

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Writermom
    4 years ago

    I also have sleep apnea. The CPAP equipment used to help me sleep better, but now, if my headache is bad at bedtime, or my nose is already bothering me, the CPAP is impossible to use. I don’t ever in my entire life (and that’s a long time) remember waking up feeling rested or relaxed.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    A belated thank you for the comment.
    I hope you’re feeling well!

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Writermom
    4 years ago

    Hi, Migraine Girl! I am now and always have been an “evening” person! Our bodies have their own natural rhythms. Some are early people, but I am not. When I worked evenings, I got up later in the morning, had breakfast, did some odds and ends, fixed lunch, took a nap and then went to work until about 11 or 12. I felt much better then. I have very loud tinnitus, as well as lots of things on my mind, and it’s usually very hard for me to get all my meds, insulin, prepare for the next day, and get to sleep before 1 or 2 a.m. Since my husband sets the alarm for 6 a.m. (he’s a morning person), it’s really difficult to get up and going, but I do. Of course, I need a long nap during the day. My headaches are everyday, but it doesn’t seem to matter whether or how I sleep. A VERY long time ago, if I had a short night of sleep, I knew I would have a migraine the next day. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. My most productive times of the day are between 9:00 pm and about 12:00m. So, what’s a body to do? I’ve tried going to bed earlier, but, since I don’t go to sleep easily, it doesn’t make any difference. I get my most restful sleep during either my morning naps or my afternoon naps, which can be 2-3 hours long.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the feedback, Writermom. I wish you could find a job/lifestyle that fit your body’s natural rhythms better, but that seems like a really tall order in our 9-5 working style here in the U.S.

    Sorry it took me so long to acknowledge your comment. I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • emm1lou
    4 years ago

    This is so familiar! I have always struggled with mornings, long before migraines became a significant feature in my life.

    I have to set a ridiculous number of alarms, including ones that vibrate the bed frame. Over the years my parents, housemates and ex husband have been at their wits end about my inability to hear even the loudest of them.

    Since my migraines have turned chronic, this has certainly been worse. When I do hear the alarms I’m forever hitting the snooze button to avoid that awful fuzzy ache I wake up to. Sleep is definitely better than pain, right?!

    Over the last few months I’ve started to notice a definite link between the severity of head pain I have when I wake up and how abruptly I’ve been woken up. It seems that if I’ve been in a really deep sleep I wake with a really intense, crushing headache and associated nausea, dizziness/vertigo.

    It also takes me much longer nowadays to get myself moving in the mornings once I’m up. I’m just so slow!

    As frustrating as it is, I’m glad to know it’s not just me!

    Em

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    I’ve been tempted to buy the alarm clock that rolls around the house until you catch it! It might drive my husband nuts, though, and that’d lead to a whole host of other frustrations in the house. 🙂

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling good.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Writermom
    4 years ago

    Em, I have some of the same issues. When I am sleeping, as in my naps, there is no pain. But after I get up and move around, the old head starts. And, yes, some days in the morning, I am very slow, also. You are, for sure, not alone!

  • aricialea
    4 years ago

    I have suffered from this very same issue since I was a child! I have often wondered if I was “the only person” that had this problem. I slept through my alarms in high school but my parents were to wake me up; sometimes multiple times. As an adult I held night jobs until 3 years ago. I have gone as far as having 5 separate alarm clocks placed all throughout my bedroom to help me wake up in the am. After a few weeks, I was sleeping through those as well. During that time I had a strict 9:30 bedtime set for myself. The only thing I found to really help was prescription sleeping pills. If I took them early and went straight to bed, I was able to hear my alarms and get up in the am. It wasn’t a long term solution though. I am back on night shifts now. I “regular” sleep pattern for me is pretty impossible. I don’t feel rested when I wake up but I don’t have to go to sleep fearful that I will oversleep (everyday). Could this really be related to my migraines? I have suffered from migraines for 16 years.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    The only sleeping pills I’ve tried leave me so groggy in the morning–I’m guessing I maybe took ones that were too strong or took them at the wrong time of day.

    I hope you’re feeling good; sorry for the delayed reply.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • saramay
    4 years ago

    I have never been, nor will I ever be, a morning person. My brain is just very slow to wake up. I’ve tried giving up coffee per my neurologist’s suggestion, but seriously cannot wake up without it. I wish my husband could understand that it is not me being stubborn, but my brain taking time to be fully functional.
    (I was hoping this article would draw some correlation to the two so I could share with him that it’s not just me.)

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    I wish I could provide sound medical evidence for you to show your husband–instead I just have my own anecdotal account (and a lot of fellow migraineurs’ comments!). There are some really fascinating books on sleep out there that your husband might find interesting. This one has chapters on how humans’ sleep patterns have changed dramatically over time and how some people have natural schedules that are very different from what’s considered the norm: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13629711-dreamland

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Anne
    4 years ago

    Yes! This has been a problem my whole life – and not from staying up late. I could sleep all day every day. Even if I get more sleep than I need, I can still sleep some more. Sometimes, my migraines manifest with a minor headache, no nausea, but dizziness and exhaustion – I can’t stay awake.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    A belated thank you for the comment, Anne. I hope you’re feeling good today. Have you talked to your doctor(s) about your fatigue?

    Take care,
    Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • 4 years ago

    I use to suffer from insomnia all my life. The type of insomnia that kept me up late thinking about 20 million different things at once. The later the hour got the more anxious I grew over the fact that I couldn’t sleep because I knew that waking up would be impossible in the morning.
    Then my episodic migraines converted to chronic. The meds I’m on now have almost completely eliminated my insomnia, but not my inability to wake up. My dear husband has worked out a routine to help me, but even it isn’t 100% snooze proof.
    My husband (who works from home mind you) gets up 30 minutes before me, fixes my coffee & brings me a cup of coffee to help wake me up. Then if I’m not by a certain time, he checks on me and makes sure I get up. We try to get to bed at the same time every night as well, but it is hard. Work days are much easier than off days.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the feedback, Sara, and sorry it took me a year (!) to respond. I appreciate your comments. I have been having bad insomnia this month–seems to happen whenever the clocks “fall back,” but the “20 million different things at once” sure are popping up at 3 and 4 in the morning! So frustrating.

    I hope you’re feeling well today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Nicole
    4 years ago

    My inability to get out of bed in a timely fashion is the bane of my partner’s existence. He doesn’t seem to believe me when I blame it on my migraine brain. I have always had this issue. The only time I ever work up feeling refreshed and ready to go was the first week or two I was on Topamax (which has since ceased being a viable preventative for me). I need to get out of bed and move around for a good half hour before my brain starts going. In that first half hour, I can fall asleep anywhere so just getting up and moving locations does not help.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Tell him there’s a whole slew of us who are in the same boat as you. I can’t prove it’s related to migraine, but it sure sounds like it based on everyone’s comments.

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    i have suffered with insomnia since i was young. then add a diagnosis and symptoms of episodic migraines. then add a diagnosis and symptoms of sleep apnea. Did not know how to treat and manage, nor did i have the money to treat and manage all of my health care problems. now episodic migraines have become chronic daily migraines sometimes lasting 4-5 days long. i too now struggle with slow getting up in the morning, slow to function, difficulty getting up in the morning, never feel rested. If I push snooze for 10-30 min my head pain feels worse, yet I can not find the energy to get out of bed no matter what my sleep schedule ia or how much sleep I have gotten. recent sleep study shows my pressure should be decreased. waiting on insurance approval and on fitting for new mask to c if this helps. love this community. I feel normal.

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    so sorry.

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