Job stress. A temperamental toddler. Financial worries. Family struggles. All can lead to sleepless nights, at least once in a while. And numerous studies show sleep deprivation is tied to a host of health problems, from heart disease, to diabetes, to depression.
Fortunately, a number of proven ways can help you bounce back from an occasional bad night’s sleep or all-nighter. Here are nine expert recommendations:
Eat a hearty meal: A bad night’s sleep can make you feel hungrier the next day and it can make it harder to resist cravings for junk food. Start your day with a healthy breakfast with protein to keep you energized throughout the day, says registered dietitian Megan Faletra.
Catch some rays: Dr. Cathy Goldstein, a neurologist at Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Center, says bright light helps wake you up. After a poor night’s sleep, try and get outside and turn on as many lights as you can, even if you feel groggy.
Get moving: Light exercise can help you recover from a bad night’s sleep by giving you a needed burst of energy. Psychologist Courtney Bancroft, who specializes in insomnia and sleep wellness, says even just a few stretches or jumping jacks can help get you going. Your best bet is light exercise like a walk or bike ride, rather than something more strenuous.
Try deep breathing: Breathing exercises can provide the same energy boost as light exercise, says Bancroft. Try sticking your tongue out and panting for 30 seconds, breathe in deeply and repeat. Alternate nostril breathing can also give you an energy boost. Cover your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through your left nostril for four seconds. Cover your left nostril with your pinkie and exhale out of your right nostril for the same amount of time. Then breathe in on the right side, covering the left and keep alternating for one minute.
Stay cool: Heat can make you feel even sleepier after a night of tossing and turning. Bancroft recommends taking a cold shower, turning down the air, or running your hands under cool water.
Avoid napping: If you stay awake all day after a bad night, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep the following night, says Bancroft. “This keeps the sleep drive – one of the major systems that affects our ability to fall asleep – ‘hungry,’ so to speak, for sleep,” she says. If you can’t make it without a nap, don’t allow yourself to sleep longer than 45 minutes, or you may find yourself even more tired than before you laid down. Time your nap before 2 or 3 p.m. so your circadian rhythm can reset and you don’t have another restless night.
Hydrate: Dehydration can make your exhaustion feel worse. Try and drink two to three liters of water throughout the day.
Tune out: Make your bedroom free of electronics. The light coming from your iPad or cell phone can trick your body into thinking it needs to stay awake. Instead, Goldstein recommends forcing yourself to turn off all electronics two hours before bedtime.
Drink coffee: Coffee reduces adenosine, a neurotransmitter your brain releases when you’re tired. Try to time your last cup before 2 p.m., since too much caffeine late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
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