Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Louise Carter
Crying is a means of emotional release, but it can be exhausting. It’s common to feel tired after crying, but this also means that weeping late at night can lead to a long, restful night of sleep.
If you’re crying due to stress or pain, your body will be flooded with cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress responses. Cortisol leaves the body through tears.
In many respects, crying purges feelings of stress, at least in the immediate term.
Releasing stress from the body and mind by crying can make us sleepy, especially as it releases endorphins and oxytocin. These are self-soothing hormones that improve mood and relax us.
Sobbing takes a physical toll. If you cry heavily, you’ll likely hyperventilate, reducing brain oxygen flow. The heart will beat faster during crying, reacting to changes the body is experiencing.
Try not to fall asleep immediately after crying. If you take a few minutes, your eyes have time to clear any excess fluid that remains gathered. You can use this time to rehydrate and reduce any swelling around your eyes, helping you look and feel better in the morning.
Is it Normal to Cry Myself to Sleep?
Everybody needs the emotional release provided by a good cry every once in a while.
Watching a sad movie, receiving bad news, or feeling overwhelmed by the relentlessness of modern life can leave anybody overcome by emotion.
Bedtime is the most logical time to cry, especially if you have kept a lid on high emotions throughout the day. You’ll feel increasingly tired, not have distractions or duties to fulfill, and your bedroom is your safe space and sanctuary.
Crying at night occasionally can help you overcome something that’s bothering you and restore your natural equilibrium. However, there may be a medical or psychological explanation if you’re crying yourself to sleep more often than not.
According to the Journal of Research in Personality, around a third of people feel much better after crying and will likely sleep well. However, the outcome depends upon your mood and circumstances.
Why Do I Sleep Well After Crying?
Feeling tired after an emotional release is common, but why is crying so exhausting? You may need a long sleep after shedding tears for various reasons, including the following:
Release of Stress and Anxiety
Stress and chronic pain are common explanations for crying in adults. Either of these experiences will release cortisol, the “stress hormone,” leaving you feeling increasingly overwhelmed.
Allowing yourself to acknowledge your feelings and weep often feels like a natural remedy, so does crying reduce cortisol?
According to Psychosomatic Medicine, crying allows cortisol to leave the body through our tears.
If you can’t hold back tears, you have also likely been carrying significant stress in your body and mind for some time.
Crying means you’ve opened the floodgates and let this stress go. This clears your mind and encourages restful and uninterrupted sleep.
Shedding tears encourages the body to release endorphins.
Tears are a reaction to emotional stress or physical discomfort, while endorphins also have painkilling properties. Frontiers in Psychology stated that crying is a self-soothing activity in children and adults.
Once your crying has concluded, your body will remain flooded with endorphins, creating a sense of well-being, including more confidence and self-esteem.
Crying also triggers the brain to flood the body with oxytocin, commonly called “the love hormone.”
If nobody is around to hug you after crying, which is a more traditional way for this hormone to appear, crying will have the same sedative effect.
After a heavy bout of crying, you may even feel euphoric. This is due to your body experiencing a spike in hormones. These hormone levels will balance out to pre-weeping levels overnight while you sleep.
Use of Energy Reserves
Many people need a nap after crying because the activity is tiring. One of the main reasons that crying is so tiring is that it will increase your heart rate.
When we cry, the brain automatically experiences a fight-or-flight response. This places your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) in control of your body.
Once the hormonal impact of crying sets in, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) takes control.
Just as the SNS keeps you alert, the PNS takes responsibility for calming down afterward. This takes time, and you’ll feel sleepy and relaxed as the PNS works.
In addition to an elevated heart rate, crying is often linked to gasping breaths and hyperventilation.
This shortness of breath means your brain receives less oxygen through the respiratory system. This means you may feel dizzy, light-headed, and tired.
How much energy does crying take? This depends on how heavily you were crying.
A few tears may not leave you tired, but a genuine spell of loud, contorted sobbing (colloquially referred to as “ugly crying”) will sap your resources.
Why Do My Eyes Feel Tired After Crying?
While crying will leave your body tired, especially if you feel calm and relaxed after expelling stress, your eyes will bear the brunt. Tears are produced by the lachrymal glands located beneath lower ocular bones.
These glands become stimulated when we cry and swell as a result. One or two tears may be absorbed back into the eyes and have limited impact, but the more you sob, the more tired your eyes will feel.
Deal with this by reducing the swelling around your eyes after crying. Splash your face with cold water, and consider these home remedies:
- Lay a cold compress, or even a bag of frozen peas, over your eyes to reduce blood flow.
- Place a slice of cucumber over each eye. As per Fitoterapia, the high water content of cucumber rehydrates dry, swollen eyes. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Lay used cold tea bags over the eyes. The tannins and caffeine will constrict blood flow to the eyes.
- If you have witch haze, soak some onto a cotton pad and leave it on the eyes for 5 – 10 minutes.
These steps will help your eyes brighten and sharpen up but won’t counteract the physical and emotional exhaustion associated with crying.
Does Crying Make You Fall Asleep Faster?
You’ll likely feel ready to sleep as soon as you cease crying, especially if you are sobbing heavily.
Your brain will be deprived of oxygen, and your body will be filled with hormones. It may be all you can do to curl up and doze immediately.
As exhausted as you may be after crying, immediately falling asleep isn’t ideal. Your eyes will likely still have excess fluid gathered after you cry, and if you doze, they won’t have time to drain properly.
If you feel that the only thing you can face is sleep, lay on your back and use at least 2 pillows – more if you find this comfortable. This will elevate your head to allow tears to drain while you rest.
Knowing how long to wait to sleep after crying can bolster your rest. Staying awake for 10 minutes can help you look after yourself, but it won’t be long enough for the hormonal impact of weeping to wear off.
You can use this time constructively to complete the following tasks:
- Wash away any eye makeup you wear to prevent smudging and staining on pillowcases.
- Drink at least one 8 oz glass of water to rehydrate.
- Take some deep breaths, and consider writing down the reason for your tears to complete your stress purge.
These activities are optional but may further boost your chances of a good night’s sleep after crying.
If you immediately doze after a bout of weeping, you may find that your rest is disturbed, or you wake up sooner than you would like.
Do You Need More Sleep After Crying?
As always, this depends on how much you cried and the reason for your tears. The amount of sleep you’ll need will directly correlate to the level of recovery your body and mind require.
Imagine you shed a handful of tears because you recalled a sad event from your past or watched a movie with a tragic ending. This will inspire some tiredness, but you’ll likely recover comparatively quickly.
You’ll need to sleep much longer if you are heavily weeping, sobbing, and wailing after receiving devastating news, such as a bereavement or the end of a relationship.
Your body will undergo significant hormonal changes and crave the opportunity to return to a steady heart rate and replace lost oxygen.
Heavier crying will also release more oxytocin, which will, in turn, likely leave you sleepier for longer.
If possible, share your bed with a loved one after crying. This will double the oxytocin release and possibly make it easier for you to sleep as long as you need.
Does Crying Make You Tired the Next Day?
If you don’t sleep enough after crying, perhaps because you were weeping late at night and didn’t get 8 hours of rest or your emotional turmoil led to nightmares and disturbed sleep, you’ll likely feel exhausted upon waking.
Remember that your body needs time to recover from a significant crying episode.
If you force yourself into strenuous physical or mental activity before you are ready, you may become overwhelmed and emotional and cry again.
If you feel that you’re not ready for a day of work, errands, or socializing the day after crying, don’t force yourself into a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Listen to your body, and plan accordingly.
Should I Make Myself Cry if I Can’t Sleep?
If you regularly find yourself unable to sleep, you may be reduced to tears. If you struggle to get into a healthy sleep routine, there are better ways to encourage rest than forced crying.
Every once in a while, this may be okay. If you have experienced an emotionally troubling time and bottled up your feelings, there is no weakness in allowing yourself to cry and releasing this tension. You’ll likely feel and sleep better for it.
It’s inadvisable to build time for crying into your daily sleep hygiene routine.
If you find yourself growing upset every evening, consider what may be triggering this emotional disquiet and look to remove it from your life.