6 Easy Ways to Recover From a Bad Night's Sleep

Amy Lawrenson
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We’ve all been there… You go to sleep thinking it’s just going to be another regular eight hours, and then you either lie there for what feels like an eternity waiting to fall asleep, wake up numerous times or have one of those bizarre slumbers filled with vivid dreams that leave you wondering how much quality sleep you actually managed to clock. If that’s the case, you might spend the next day in a hazy fog, one that makes you feel a bit hungover (without the joy of the wine part).

Sleeping is important for our bodies and brains to relax—our breathing and pulses slow down—so when we don’t get quality restful sleep, we can be left feeling anxious, light-headed and unable to concentrate. Luckily there are plenty of tricks you can employ the day after a bad night’s sleep to recover; you just need to take a two-pronged approach. “Sleep is about the brain, not just the body,” says sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley.

Keep scrolling for Dr. Stanley’s tricks to feel well-rested even when you’re not.

Get Up and Out

You may think that staying in bed for as long as possible before leaving the house will help you claw back some z’s, but Dr. Stanley advises against it: “However bad it feels, you need to get your body awake. Throw open the curtains and open the window to get some fresh air and light in,” he tells us. And don’t forget to factor in breakfast: “It’s a good way of telling your body it’s daytime,” he adds.

Complete Your To-do List Early

If you know you’ve had a bad night, then the likelihood is that you’ll be seriously tired come the evening. “In this case, do all the important work at the front end of the day,” Stanley advises. “You won’t want to do anything productive later on.”

Don’t Reach for the Caffeine

“Guzzling caffeine is a temporary solution,” Dr. Stanley warns. “It will only get you going; it won’t get you through the day.” In fact, drinking cup after cup of java can have the reverse effect around four to five cups, and you’ll reach a tipping point. “If you drink too much caffeine, it actually becomes a sedative. When it comes to the side effects, there is a U-shaped curve: It will give you a boost, but then too much will have the reverse effect,” explains Dr. Stanley.

But you should get up and make yourself other beverages on the regular if you’re tired. “The act of getting up and making a tea is better than the tea itself,” he adds. “When I was assessing people’s sleep for studies, I would get up and make a tea every hour; it encouraged me to get up and move around. Plus, it made me go to the loo, another reason to get up and move.”

Move it, Move it

Which brings us nicely onto the next point: Don’t just sit still and veg out at your desk if you’re seriously sleep deprived. “Be as active as possible,” says Dr. Stanley. “Take more breaks and walk around. It’s difficult to remain awake if just staring at a screen.” If you can, book a last-minute yoga or Pilates class at lunchtime, or take yourself outside in the fresh air for a 20-minute walk.

take a nap

“If you can find a way to take a nap at work, do. When you’re sleepy, the thing you need to do is sleep. Caffeine is a temporary solution,” says Dr. Stanley. “If you can’t nap at your desk, take yourself off to your car or even the toilet!”

For those who really can’t nap at work, we asked Dr. Stanley whether a meditation app could help. “The best boost you can get is to sleep, but just closing your eyes will help to relax the brain,” he tells us. “In a noisy environment, something (like a meditation app) that allows you to close your eyes and brain will be of benefit.”

Don’t Put Pressure on Your Next Night’s Sleep

“If you have a bad night, the next night should be better. You can catch up on some of that missed sleep; you’ll be catching up on the deep restorative sleep you missed the night before. But don’t put too much pressure on it,” says Dr. Stanley. “Relax and then go to bed at your regular time. Do all the things you should be doing to ensure a good night’s sleep, and don’t put any expectations on it. Approach it casually, and it will happen.”

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