Couldn’t sleep last night? Here’s how to recover from a bad night’s sleep (even if you can’t take a nap)

We’ve all been there. The alarm goes off, and you just finally fell asleep. Or maybe you slept, but it was that post-night-out, nightmare-filled kind of sleep. Of course the best way to recover from a bad night’s sleep is to go back to bed so you can get the rest you need. But when that’s not an option, here is everything you need to know about how to recover from a bad night’s sleep, one step at a time, so you can make it through the day.

How to Recover from a Bad Night’s Sleep

First, hydrate

Drink 32 ounces of water when you wake up to hydrate and energize your body.

Drink 32 ounces of water when you wake up to hydrate and energize your body.

75 percent of us are chronically dehydrated to begin with. When we have had an extra-long night, our hydration needs are even greater than normal.

Upon waking up, drink 32 ounces of fresh, pure water from a source that is 100% BPA-free and doesn’t contain any chemicals. If you can, slice up a lemon and put it in your (preferably room temperature) water. Drinking lemon water in the morning can help improve your immunity, revitalize your skin, boost your energy and mood and more.

Take a hot – and cold – shower

Cold water causes your blood vessels to constrict and improves circulation.

Cold water causes your blood vessels to constrict and improves circulation.

It’s already a hard morning so don’t worry, there is no need for a long, freezing shower. However, giving your body an icy blast of cold water at the end of your shower can help your body wake up.

The cold water running over your body causes “vasoconstriction,” which is a term used to describe when your blood vessels constrict. As they tighten, they improve your circulation, causing your blood to circulate a lot more quickly. Improving your circulation will get your blood pumping and let your body know it’s time to wake up.

Get some sunlight

If you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, your circadian rhythm – the internal clock that regulates our sleep cycles – is likely off. One of the best ways to get it back on track is to get some natural morning sunlight.

As an added benefit, studies show that getting some early morning sunlight may also be connected to achieving a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and helping people reach their weight loss goals. So if you can, catch some rays before you sit under the glaring fluorescent lights in your office all day.

Nourish your body

When we are tired, our bodies look for the quickest source of energy they can find. That’s why, after a sleepless night, you’ll often find yourself craving sugar, carbohydrates and food that can give you the energy you need quickly. 

Try your best not to give into cravings for sugar and processed food. Instead, find something to eat that combines protein, fat and carbohydrates, and stick to whole foods. Additionally, gulp down some coconut water, which contains natural electrolytes that will continue to hydrate your body.

Have a little caffeine

There is nothing wrong with a little bit of caffeine, especially after you’ve filled your belly with plenty of water and whole foods. Stick to no more than 1-2 cups, and make sure whichever caffeinated beverage you choose is not packed with sugar.

Simplify your day

When you get to your desk, be realistic about what you can accomplish today. The whole day doesn’t have to be a wash just because you didn’t get a great night’s sleep. Minimize all non-essential activities. Is there a lunch date you can reschedule? An errand you can run tomorrow instead of today? Take a good look at your calendar and see what can wait.

Do work that energizes you

If you can, reschedule work that you find challenging or boring for tomorrow, and work on something that you find fun and easy.

If you can, reschedule work that you find challenging or boring for tomorrow, and work on something that you find fun and easy.

Next, if you can, consider what you had planned to get done and if there is another type of work that you may be more successful doing on little sleep. Can you work on a project that requires simple writing, rather than hours of data entry that will put you to sleep? If you were planning on having a difficult conversation with someone today, consider rescheduling it. It’s better to have a productive conversation when you are rested and prepared than a negative conversation that could be detrimental to your projects or relationships.

Take a break

Don’t try to plug through the whole day without a break. Taking a short break during the day will help you recover from a bad night’s sleep and make it through the afternoon slump. If you can, get outside and get some exercise. Studies show that getting a midday workout in can boost your productivity for the rest of the afternoon.

Cancel evening plans

Cancel any plans you don’t find nourishing and let your body rest at night.

Cancel any plans you don’t find nourishing and let your body rest at night.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsiness and fatigue play a major role in car accidents. An estimated 1 in 25 drivers reports having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days.

Unless the happy hour, volunteer activity or book club meeting you were planning to go to after work truly energizes you, consider cancelling any plans you had and going home to rest instead. If you do head out on the road, be extra careful and don’t make it a late night.

Turn in early

Plan to turn in early, but not too early. To get your circadian rhythm back on track, try to stay up at least until the sun sets.  If you have been drinking coconut water or coffee during the day, be sure to stop after 1 pm. Dim the lights in your home 1-2 hours before you plan to hit the hay.

Finally, ensure that you’ve tried to address whatever kept you up last night. If it was stress, try incorporating some of these essential oils into your bedtime routine and practicing this breathing exercise before you go to sleep.

How to recover from a bad night’s sleep: Want more sleep hacks?

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