No matter how dedicated you are to getting your shut-eye, sometimes a less-than-stellar night's sleep is inevitable. The good news: "One bad night's sleep isn't going to hurt you long term," says Joyce Walsleben, Ph.D., coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Sleep.
But it can make you feel not so great the next day. Luckily, there are ways to feel normal (or very close!) after a rocky night's rest.
1. Open your shades
A big dose of sunshine is the first thing you'll want to try. "Natural light resets your body clock, helping you function better all day," Walsleben says. "Even the low light on a cloudy or rainy day wakes you up better than any indoor bulb."
Early-morning sunlight is best for helping you start the day feeling rejuvenated. To perk up fast, open your shades as soon as you get up.
2. Grab the right eats
"When we're tired, our instinct is to reach for sugary foods for a quick rush," says Samantha Heller, R.D., clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Connecticut. "But those foods make your blood sugar spike and crash, setting off a roller coaster of energy highs and lows."
For lasting energy, start your day with healthy protein and whole-grain carbs, Heller says. Try a whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a sliced banana.
3. Try this if you can't take a nap
The ideal remedy for the mental fatigue that occurs after sleep loss is an afternoon nap, says Matthew Edlund, M.D., author of The Power of Rest. But since that's not possible for most people with jobs, the next best thing is a form of active rest called "paradoxical relaxation."
Edlund explains: Focus on one muscle group in your body for at least 15 seconds, concentrating only on how it feels and nothing else. Repeat up and down the body. Surprise — you feel recharged.
4. Drink your coffee nice and slow
No need to gulp down that morning brew: Pour it into a thermos and sip slowly enough to make it last most of the workday. People who consumed the caffeine equivalent of just 2 ounces of coffee per hour still got a kick, according to a study in the journal Sleep. Just cut off the java by 3 p.m., or you may have trouble falling asleep that night.
5. Take a walk to wake up
The time of day when the sleep deprived drag the most is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., says Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan. If you find yourself yawning through afternoon meetings, try stepping out for a 10-minute walk.
"Movement boosts core temperature and stimulates the heart, brain, and muscles, preventing a slump," Breus says. Even pacing around your office will help kick your body back into gear.
6. Go to bed on time
As tempting as it is to crash at 8 p.m. the evening following a rough night's sleep, you'll feel most refreshed if you hit the sack close to your usual bedtime.
"Our bodies have a natural rhythm of sleep and wake — you'll get the most restorative sleep if you stick to that pattern," says Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., a New York City–based clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders. "Changing your schedule to make up for lost sleep can actually lead to other problems, like early waking and even insomnia."
Instead of hitting the sack (or sacking out on the couch) after dinner, go to bed no earlier than an hour before your normal bedtime and wake up no later than an hour past your normal wake time to catch up on lost sleep without overdoing it.
7. Hang around the water cooler
Sleep deprivation can mildly dehydrate you, even if you're not suffering from a happy-hour hangover. And dehydration actually compounds fatigue, Breus saysso sipping water will help lessen sleepiness. Drink enough so you're not thirsty and you have clear-ish urine, Breus recommends.
Another trick: Throw in a few ice cubes. "Unlike warm drinks, which tend to relax you, cold beverages can increase alertness because they are more refreshing," Kennedy says.
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