7 Reasons You're Having Trouble Waking Up, Based On Chinese Medicine

by Isadora Baum, CHC

If you can't seem to find the energy to pull yourself from your sheets in the morning and you're still getting enough shut-eye, it might actually be related to traditional Chinese medicine principles. Turns out, TCM can explain why you are so tired, and why you can't seem to find enough stamina to get out of bed and get a jumpstart on your day. When you're overcome with tiredness, and it starts to become chronic, it can be even more challenging to break free of the cycle. So, catching it early and looking into more Eastern medicine principles might be able to do the trick.

For those who are unfamiliar, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a more holistic approach to health that focuses on mind-body healing. It is based on the principles of yin and yang, opposite elements that must exist in balance for a healthy qi, or life energy. Practitioners of Chinese Medicine can assess health issues by looking for disturbances in this balance, which can often involve examining your tongue.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on feeling energetic in the day and getting the sleep they need to function and feel restored. However, even if you're getting those zzz's, it's possible to still feel low in energy stores. And, if you're unsure of what lifestyle habits might be causing the drainage, it's worth a shot digging a bit deeper into less obvious theories, much like traditional Chinese medicine. The good news is it's easy to get your body back on track by incorporating some traditional Chinese medicine remedies. Here are seven reasons why you might not have the stamina you need in the morning and you're waking up so tired, based on TCM experts.


You Have A Qi Deficiency

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If you can't get yourself out of bed without hitting that snooze button one-too-many times, it could be related to your qi based on TCM. "Qi deficiency is a lack of vital energy in the body," Elizabeth Trattner, a Chinese and Integrative Medicine expert, tells Bustle. "It can be from a lack of nutritive Essence (blood) or that the digestive system isn’t doing its job making qi." How can you tell if qi is off? "If you have a pale tongue and weak pulse it probably means you’re qi deficient," Trattner says.

You may also look for signs of poor appetite, a pale or swollen tongue, or loose stool, Dr. Amanda Frick, ND, LAc, lead naturopathic doctor for Harvey Health, tells Bustle. "Be sure to thoroughly chew food...stick to light exercise, and aim to add nourishing foods like warm soups/tea, root vegetables, animal protein and yellow foods," says Frick. "Avoid sugar, raw, cold foods, and iced drinks."


You Have A Blood Deficiency

"Blood is the nutritive aspect of qi," says Trattner. "It cools us down at night allowing our bodies to turn inward. A blood deficient tongue can be pale or a dusky red. Many times we see a mix of blood and qi deficiencies with people who can’t drag themselves out of bed into the morning." So it's a pretty common cause of what might be happening.

Frick says that symptoms of blood deficiency that are causing your fatigue can range from a pale complexion, insomnia, dizziness, or blurred vision. You may also notice a pale, or dry tongue, she says. The remedy? "[F]ocus on adding lean animal proteins to the diet, as well as dark colored vegetables and fruits. Examples of blood nourishing foods include meat, black beans, cherries, beets, leafy greens, molasses, and soy," says Frick.


Qi Stasis

If your qi (life energy) is stuck and can't seem to move, it can also make it harder to wake up in the morning. Trattner says that when this energy is stuck, it makes it difficult to get out of bed. "If you have stasis, your tongue will be a shade of purple and your veins under your tongue may be purple as well," says Trattner.

If qi isn't moving, you may notice irritability, crankiness, mood swings, and the tip of your tongue may appear red, says Frick. "The best thing to do is to keep meals simple and light, make sure mealtime is relaxed and stress free," says Frick. "Add lots of vegetables and aim for bitter and pungent foods to help move the qi. Onions and citrus fruits with peels may be especially helpful."


Yang Deficiency

Trattner says yang and yin are counterparts that keep the body in a state of balance, so when there's a yang deficiency, it can throw the body, specifically kidneys, out of whack, making it harder to wake up. Though, it's not as common. "This is an extreme version of blood and [qi] deficiency," says Trattner.

"Signs that may accompany yang deficiency fatigue include always feeling cold, sore back or knees, poor digestion, low libido, and edema. The tongue may appear pale and thin," says Frick. Tips? "Keep your abdomen and low back covered and stay warm! Avoid inactivity and exposure to cold weather and draft. Caffeine may be best avoided to prevent further damage to the yang. Add warming spices like cinnamon, clove, ginger, and pepper," Frick says.



Yes, even in the world of TCM, stress can lead to an imbalance and poor energy. "Stress, traumatic events, chronic disease all drain the Vital essence of the body," says Trattner. "Typically these people will wake at around 5 a.m. and have loose stools and will crawl back in bed."

According to Trattner, this may also lead to a yang deficiency, which in turn affects sleep. To tell if you're yang deficient, Trattner says look out for symptoms like skin looking sallow, and your tongue appearing to be dusky white-pink. A change in what you eat may help. "Yang deficient people need to eat warm food only to build themselves back up," Trattner says.


Yin Deficiency

"Yin, the opposite/complement of yang, is the cool, fluid, slow and stable energy that sustains us and keeps us balanced," says Frick. "If yin is deficient, sleep, emotions, and stress management easily become affected."

Most symptoms that indicate yin deficiency have to do with heat in the body, Frick says. "Signs that may accompany yin deficiency fatigue include night sweating or hot flashes, sensation of heat in the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, dryness of the hair, skin or vagina, and difficult sleep. The tongue may appear slightly red, dry or cracked," Frick says.

How to heal? "Most important to rebuilding yin is to take adequate rest and relaxation," says Frick. "Avoid excess exposure to cold, as well as alcohol, coffee and overly spicy foods. Some yin toxifying foods include pork, dairy, eggs, dark colored fruits, and asparagus."


Excess Phlegm

"When fluids are not being moved or transformed in the body, damp and phlegm can accumulate and contribute to feeling sluggish and slow," says Frick. Excess phlegm associated with fatigue may bring on symptoms like a feeling of heaviness in the limbs, bloating, and a thick, greasy coat on your tongue, says Frick.

A fix? "Add foods that prevent the accumulation of dampness like celery, kelp, cabbage, radish, cucumber, bamboo shoots, and jujube," says Frick "Avoid overeating, and stay away from heavy, greasy or overly sweet foods."

If you have trouble getting out of bed, and Western medicine isn't helping you out, you might want to look into the traditional Chinese medicine principles to get some information what's going on in the body.