What To Do If You’ve Had A Terrible Night’s Sleep To Try & Salvage Your Day, According To Experts
From tossing and turning in the sheets after waking up a couple hours before your alarm was originally set, to having bad dreams all night long — we've all had nights where sleep just wasn't our friend. And, the day after a restless night can be super rough, to say the least. The best thing to do if you've had a terrible night's sleep to try and make your day suck a little less varies from person to person. Everyone will have a different go-to that works for them, whether that's treating yourself to a breakfast sandwich and a cold brew or taking a nap in your car at lunch. But finding a morning routine that works for you after a night of tossing and turning can make a huge difference on the rest of your day.
Unfortunately, even after one night where you don't quite get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, both your physical and mental health can be negatively impacted. "Sleep is vital for a variety of physiological functions. Sleep deprivation can [...] cause fatigue, irritability, and worsen depression or anxiety," Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program and a sleep health expert for Mattress Firm, tells Bustle.
What's more, as Forbes reported, studies have shown that while sleep deprivation may have may lead to a short-term increase in your productivity, skipping out on sleep can affect your work performance negatively in the long run — sapping your creativity, impeding your ability to focus, and impairing your overall cognitive functioning for days.
However, there are ways to help ensure the rest of your day runs smoothly even when battling exhaustion. These seven hacks can help you reclaim your day after sleeping terribly the night before.
1. Try To Be Aware Of Your Mood
Losing a good night's sleep can make even the friendliest of people grumpy and moody AF. So, first things first, try to be aware you may be on edge, readjust, and invite some extra positivity into your life.
"Many people will start the morning feeling tired and grumpy, which can set a negative mood for the rest of the day," Michael Trufant, a sleep apnea expert and business unit manager for the healthcare company Aeroflow, tells Bustle. "Focusing on the fact that you didn’t sleep could make you feel more tired than you actually are, so take a deep breath, bring in positive energy, and focus on what you need to accomplish." In other words: adjust your expectations for the day and just try to get through it.
2. Take A Short Nap
"If you’re unable to get adequate length of sleep at night, then napping can be a useful way to supplement your sleep. A short nap that is timed appropriately can certainly increase energy and boost mood," says Dr. Kansagra.
But the keyword here is "short." Trufant warns that, "Sleeping longer than 20 minutes could cause you to wake up from a deeper sleep, leaving you feeling groggy." And, he explains, sleeping to late in the day can mess up your sleep-wake cycle even more.
If you opt to take a midday siesta, check outa couple of expert-approved tricks for your nap to make it the most of it. Just make sure you head to your car or another ~discreet~ location for it, instead of napping in, say, a bathroom stall.
3. Stick To Your Routine
When you're fatigued from a lack of sleep, it can be super tempting to crawl back in bed and just skip your usual morning routine. However, Trufant explains that on the days you're sleep-deprived, it's even more important to maintain your regular schedule. He says you may even "want to adjust your daily routine to be a little healthier than usual," adding that, "Your body will naturally cycle through rising and falling energy levels, so you’ll want to work with them, and prevent crashing." Make sure you drink extra water and actually take your vitamins, if you don't feel great after not sleeping, as well as opt for a complex-carb and protein-packed breakfast.
4. Drink Your Coffee Or Tea
If you're a coffee drinker, it's best to stick to your scheduled programming, and have your daily cold brew. "Caffeine works by tricking our brains into thinking there is less adenosine, a substance that builds up in our brains, and can make us feel sleepy," explains Dr. Kansagra. "So, when we have caffeine in our system, our brain thinks it’s been awake for far shorter, making us feel more awake."
However, Trufant says that you should be sure not to go overboard on your caffeine intake to compensate for a lack of sleep, because having too much caffeine can cause some adverse side effects. Rather than reaching for a fourth or fifth latte because you can't stop yawning, try other strategies for keeping awake and alert, such as drinking cold water, taking a walk, or using essential oils.
5. Get Moving
You don't need to be a professional athlete to glean the benefits of moving your body, walking, and practicing breathing techniques after a restless night. Trufant says, "If you need extra energy in a pinch, get up and get moving. Do some light exercises or stretching to get your blood flowing or take a brisk walk outdoors. Sunlight is energizing and mood-boosting." He adds that even if you're busy, taking a moment to focus on your breath can make you feel more "alert." Try some subtle yoga poses you can do at your desk to get the blood flowing.
6. Take A Coffee Nap
Dr. Kansagra explains a technique you may want to try after a terrible night's sleep is a coffee nap — which, true to form, combines both coffee and napping. As Vox reported in 2015, science shows this method is more effective than either drinking coffee, or taking naps alone. Dr. Kansagra says, "The key to this technique is timing the nap immediately after rapid ingestion of coffee or other caffeinated beverage, with the intention of waking after 20 to 30 minutes — just as the effects of caffeine are starting. This can allow someone to wake feeling very refreshed." If a regular nap just won't do it, a coffee nap might be worth a try. (But again, keep it short!)
7. Be Cautious
Since lack of sleep can make you a little less on the ball, so to speak, try to be extra mindful of how it's affecting your mind and body. For example, if you can't seem to stay awake while drinking your cup of Joe, it's probably best to take public transportation to work so you avoid accidents. Similarly, today might not be the best day to work on that big presentation you have due next week — try catching up on emails or other housekeeping tasks instead. "Be relaxed and attentive all day until you can return to bed at your regularly scheduled time, or even a little earlier to catch up on missed sleep," says Trufant.
Sleep deprivation can make you feel a bit out of the loop and grumpy, but it doesn't mean the next day needs to be total garbage, or even unproductive. Simple things — like having your coffee, sticking to your daily habits, and being aware of you mood — can help the morning after a bad night's sleep fly by without a hitch.