Getting through the day after a sleepless night might feel like an uphill battle. You might be weak, sore, and irritable. The American Sleep Association reports that just 35% of adults regularly obtain the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, so this is a problem for many people in the United States. More sleep is the most obvious solution to these issues. However, there are certain temporary fixes that can help you maintain your daytime alertness. If you’ve had a sleepless night, here are 12 strategies to get your mojo back.
1. Get up when your alarm goes off.
Dr. Chris Winter, neurologist at Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia and author of “The Sleep Solution,” told INSIDER that “trying to keep that consistent wake-up time is important” instead of sleeping in or taking a day off work and sleeping until noon, which can cause more problems than it solves.
2. Drink caffeine.
Winter told INSIDER that drinking two cups of coffee first thing in the morning is a good way to kickstart your day and keep you going strong all day long.
However, Winter warns against using lack of sleep as an excuse to drink excessive amounts of caffeine, as this might disrupt your natural sleep rhythms.
3. Go outside.
According to Dr. Michael Grandner, head of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, strong light is one of the greatest ways to wake yourself up since it sends your body a “daytime” signal.
Grandner told INSIDER that this would “help shake off the sleep inertia.”
Winter agreed and proposed to increase energy by eating lunch outside or taking a short walk at midday.
4. Stay Active
Getting some exercise could do wonders for your health and attentiveness. There are substantial benefits associated with exercise, even in the short term. Physical activity has a positive effect on the brain, enhancing cognitive functions like memory, focus, and learning.
Outdoor workouts might have extra health benefits. Time spent in the sun has been shown to boost alertness. Natural light triggers the body’s circadian rhythms, or 24-hour internal clock, which tells us it’s time to wake up. If you’ve had a sleepless night, getting some vitamin D from the sun may help you get through the day.
5. Get exercise.
Even if you’re feeling exhausted, getting some exercise can boost your mood, energy, and even the quality of your sleep the following night, according to registered dietitian-nutritionist Molly Morgan, who spoke with INSIDER.
Winter elaborated by saying that if you’re feeling too drowsy to go through with a complete workout at the gym, a brisk walk will help reawaken your muscles.
6. Eat small frequent meals.
According to registered dietitian-nutritionist Lauren Manganiello, who spoke with INSIDER, “eating small frequent meals will maintain your blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day.” Having too much time pass in between meals can cause a drop in blood sugar, which in turn can lead to weariness and, in turn, overeating.
Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, concurs, recommending instead of three large meals each day, five or six smaller ones. She told INSIDER that spreading out meals throughout the day will provide more consistent energy in smaller doses.
7. Eat Healthy Meals
The way you perceive food and make dietary decisions changes after even one night of poor sleep. The association between insomnia and obesity is likely due to the effect sleep deprivation has on our brains, making us feel more rewarded by less healthful food and leading us to consume more calories overall.
Sugary foods may provide a temporary surge of energy, but they often have the opposite effect in the hours that follow. Nevertheless, it has been shown that a diet consisting largely of certain healthful foods might help mitigate the symptoms of chronic fatigue. These are foods like fish, seafood, nuts, and seeds that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Getting a cognitive boost from tyrosine-rich foods may be helpful if you have to go to work or school after a sleepless night. Eggs, beef, tofu, milk, and whole grains are good sources of tyrosine.
8. Avoid high-carb foods.
Cording advised INSIDER readers to stay away from extremely carbohydrate-heavy meals. It’s common for you to “burn through those carbs quite rapidly,” followed by a “energy drop.”
She suggested eating lean protein and healthy fats at every meal instead of grabbing a slice of pizza. “Those things are going to satisfy you, and they are going to help you feel full for longer by slowing down how rapidly you digest a meal,” Cording said.
9. Take a short nap.
Taking a nap, even for only 20 or 30 minutes, can boost your cognitive abilities for the remainder of the day, Grandner told INSIDER. Take an early afternoon nap, and this becomes much more true.
Winter elaborated by saying that naps should be brief and taken early in the day to avoid disrupting nighttime sleep.
10. Stay hydrated.
According to Cording’s INSIDER interview, “your cells are particularly thirsty when you’re sleep deprived, because they’re working extra hard to take care of you and they need that extra water.”
Even more so, the Mayo Clinic says that dehydration might make you feel even more lethargic.
11. Avoid giving into cravings.
According to Cording’s interview with INSIDER, “when we’re sleep deprived, our appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin are tremendously out of whack.” When we’re exhausted, our perception of fullness decreases, so we’re always hungry even when we know we have eaten.
According to an article published in Men’s Journal, these hormones have been shown to boost hunger for sweet and starchy foods.
According to The Daily Meal, high-sugar foods have the same effect on blood sugar and can cause energy dumps as high-carb foods.
Manganiello advised people to check their hunger levels before giving in to snacking urges.
12. Practice relaxation techniques.
According to research conducted by the Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, a lack of sleep might increase feelings of irritability, short temper, and stress.
Grandner advised his patients to practice relaxation techniques to alleviate this stress and prepare themselves for whatever the day might bring.
Grandner advocated practicing deep breathing or a body scan at regular intervals. He told INSIDER that one way to swiftly release stored tension is to “move your awareness over all the different muscles in your body to identify where you are tense,” and then relax those muscles.
Avoid Driving If You Are Too Sleepy
Don’t go behind the wheel if you’re feeling tired because of a lack of sleep. Drowsy driving is the equivalent of drunk driving when it comes to awareness. Because of impaired reaction time after a night without sleep, sleep deprivation is a contributing factor in as many as 6,000 fatal car accidents annually in the United States. A blood alcohol percentage of 0.10%, the equivalent of being awake for more than 24 hours, is beyond the legal limit for driving in all 50 states.
After a restless night, it’s best to take a bus, rail, or cab instead of driving.
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