How to recover from a sleepless night—and get back to sleeping well

A rule of thumb for sleep hygiene is to go to bed and wake up at the same time each night. But let’s be real—no one is perfect! And if you live a healthy, balanced life, there will be nights when you’re up before your bedtime, mornings where you’re sleeping in, and when you’re not getting enough high-quality sleep.

And while it’s perfectly normal to have a night or two where you completely throw off your normal sleep schedule (it happens to the best of us!), chances are, you won’t feel so great the next day. And if that one night of “off” sleep becomes a chronic trend, it can cause both short-term and long-term side effects, including heightened anxiety, depressed mood, and an increased risk of high blood pressure. Heart disease.

So the question is, how do you recover from the occasional “off” night’s sleep—and not only feel more energized throughout the day, but get back to getting the sleep you need to feel your best and perform at your highest level?

Drink plenty of water—and avoid too much caffeine

When you wake up in the morning after a bad night’s sleep, your first instinct may be to grab a cup of coffee. But if you really want to feel more alert and awake, then the best drink you can reach for? Good, old fashioned H2O.

“Poor sleep can dehydrate you—and dehydration makes fatigue worse,” says Vanessa Osorio, a certified sleep science coach at Sleepopolis. “Therefore, staying hydrated after a bad night’s sleep is very important.”

If you’re recovering from a night’s sleep, make proper hydration a priority. While there is no single criterion for hydration, aiming for eight 8oz glasses of water throughout the day is a good place to start.

And if you need a jolt of caffeine to get you going, no worries; Just make sure not to drink too much or too late in the day. Otherwise, you may find yourself struggling to fall asleep when it’s time to sleep.

“While it’s okay to drink a cup or two of coffee or another caffeinated beverage the morning after a bad night’s sleep, overdoing it will leave you feeling jittery and jittery—and if you’ve been relying on caffeine all day, chances are you’re in for another sleepless night. Putting yourself at risk,” said Osorio.

Take a cat nap

If you struggle to keep your eyes open because of your night’s sleep, a quick cat nap can help you find the energy you need to power through the day and do it at bedtime.

“A short midday power nap, especially after a bad night’s sleep, can actually help you pay off some of your sleep debt and speed up your recovery,” says Osorio. “A 15- to 20-minute nap can give you a big boost in energy and improve your cognitive function, while helping you avoid those groggy feelings. [many experience after a bad night’s sleep]”

Just make sure to keep your sleep short and sweet. “Napping longer than 30 minutes will make it harder to fall asleep later that night and disrupt your sleep schedule even more,” says Osorio.

Exercise (at the right time)

When you’re feeling tired, a workout may seem like the last thing you want to do. But what if you want to start feeling better and more energetic? It may be just what you need to do.

The good news? There’s no need to break a sweat in an intense HIIT class or go on a 10-mile run to reap the benefits of exercise. “After a bad night’s sleep, you probably won’t feel like doing an intense gym session, but doing some light exercise will increase alertness and help reduce fatigue,” says Osorio.

Just make sure to workout earlier in the day; Otherwise, your workout may make it harder to fall asleep. “When we exercise, we release chemicals like cortisol that help us feel energized—but also wake up,” says Dr. Chelsea Rohrscheib, a neuroscientist and sleep expert at Vesper. “If you’re struggling to sleep, limit your exercise window to early morning or late afternoon so those energizing chemicals don’t affect your sleep.”

Get plenty of natural light during the day…

To feel more energized, go outside and expose yourself to natural light. “Exposure to natural light not only helps you feel more awake and energized, but it also helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle — also known as your circadian rhythm — and help restore balance,” says Osorio. “So as much natural light as possible during the day, especially after waking up in the morning, will help you feel better and help your body recover faster”—and make it easier to get back to your normal sleep schedule.

…and avoid unnatural light at dusk

It’s great to soak up lots of natural light during the day. But in the evening, you want to signal to your brain that sleep time is approaching—and that means avoiding unnatural light after the sun goes down.

Or, more specifically, light from your screens (think cell phones, computers, and TVs). The blue light screens emit can mimic sunlight, which can throw off your circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep.

“Screens are particularly problematic because they emit blue wave light, similar to sunlight,” Rohrscheib says. “It can trick your brain into thinking it’s still early and not bedtime yet.”

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