We’ve all felt sluggish, tired, or experienced the lack-of-sleep “hangover” and forced ourselves out of bed. I have had many therapy and life coaching clients ask me how they can feel better and be more focused after a bad night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, “bad” sleep nights happen, sometimes by choice (binge watching TV shows, partying too late or finishing a book, etc.) and sometimes things happen which are beyond our control (illness, pain or a sick child or pet).
No matter the reason, we have to function during the day and it would be nice to have a little energy too.
Here are five quick tips on how to stay awake, focused and energized after a “bad” night’s sleep.
1. Stay hydrated by drinking a glass of water or a cup of warm lemon water as soon as possible. Please continue to hydrate throughout the day. Avoid soft drinks, vitamin waters, and energy drinks with high amounts of sugar. If you typically drink coffee or tea with caffeine, I recommend consuming these by 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. Staying hydrated will also decrease your chances of getting a headache in the late afternoon.
2. Eat a complete meal as soon as you can. Grabbing a sugary cereal bar or yogurt will start you on a blood sugar roller coaster and leave you craving sugar all day while dealing with the “crashes.” We often crave unhealthy, sugary foods for quick energy when we are sleep deprived. You may find that small meals every 3 hours provide more consistent fuel. Don’t forget your healthy fat, vegetables and protein. I have been known to sacrifice the shower (thank you, dry shampoo) in order to eat my eggs and vegetables cooked in coconut oil. It truly makes a difference, physically and cognitively.
3. Move your body by taking a brisk walk, a relaxing bike ride, jogging, hiking or doing yoga or Pilates. If you do not have time for a complete workout, take five minutes every hour or ten minutes every two hours to walk outside or in your home or workplace. Another alternative when feeling groggy or foggy is turning on your favorite upbeat song and dancing.
A sleep-deprived state is not the day to go for your personal best time or be super aggressive. Why? You will activate stress hormones to perform at an intense level and may also activate your sympathetic nervous system (the fight, flight and/or freeze response). You can complete this harder workout but it will not be beneficial for cognitive performance or stamina.
4. BREATHE in energy-boosting scents. Citrus essential oils provide a natural boost via the olfactory and limbic systems of the brain and will uplift mood. It is also a good opportunity to take conscious, deep breaths through your nose. Try one or more of these: grapefruit, orange, bergamot, lemon or tangerine. You can inhale the scent from the bottle, pour a few drops on a tissue or diffuse in the air. I keep these in my office and my clients frequently comment on the positive benefits. When you have time, give your nose the opportunity to smell each in a health food store and identify what appeals to you most so you can keep that scent at home or in the office. “The nose knows” and it is true. Stay tuned, I will write more about my favorite brain-boosting essential oils in the future. A quick warning, citrus oils are photosensitive and can cause skin to burn more quickly in direct sunlight.
5. Enjoy a shower ending with a cold shot of water for 30 to 60 seconds at any point in the day. It is invigorating and will certainly wake you up. Keep breathing and actually feel the spray on your body and do not planning your entire day (maybe I am the only one who tries to do this). An additional benefit; many dermatologists claim that the cold water will make your hair and skin look healthier, shinier and less dry.
Bottom-line, pace yourself and be kind to your body and your brain. You were not able to recover and restore your energy fully during the night. You do not want to increase your stress levels by pushing too hard during the day, which can then decrease the quality of your sleep going forward. Take breaks throughout the day, maybe even a brief power nap (or for those of us who can’t nap, rest) for 20 minutes before 1:00 or 2:00 p.m.
Wishing you a more fit, focused and fabulous brain!