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The #1 Reason You're So Tired (It's Not What You Think)

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Does this sound familiar? You finally manage to get everything done and fall into bed, where it's easy to fall asleep because you're bone-tired. You sleep a reasonable number of hours -- at least it seems as if you do -- but when you wake up, you feel like you hardly slept. Then you drag around all day, feeling fuzzy-headed, grumpy, and longing for a nap.

If this sounds like you or someone close to you, you'll want to know about a little-known breathing problem called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). Unlike sleep apnea, which has been well known for a long time, UARS has only recently been getting attention. The term "resistance" refers to the fact that something is slowing or blocking air in the nasal passages. The most common causes are mild nasal congestion or tongue position during sleep that blocks breathing. Because resistance in the upper airways makes it harder work simply to breathe, your sleep is disrupted throughout the night. According to otolaryngologist Steven Park, UARS is extremely common in older women. One French study found that nearly half of all women with chronic insomnia and daytime fatigue turned out to have this type of sleep-disordered breathing.

Park says he sees many patients with UARS who think they're sleeping poorly due to stress or insomnia, but it's more complicated than that. He wrote a book about the phenomenon called Sleep Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired. What's really happening, Park says, is that your body is half-waking up over and over again during the night. Since you're unable to fall into a deep restorative sleep, you don't feel refreshed in the morning.