How to recover after a bad night's sleep, according to science

Publish Date
Monday, 19 March 2018, 7:30AM
Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

More than a third of American adults don't get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

Despite our best intentions to go to bed at a reasonable time, it just doesn't always work out that way, and we all suffer the consequences.

Lack of sleep costs an estimated $411 billion in decreased productivity each year, according to a 2016 study, reports The Daily Mail.

While there are hundreds of tips out there for how to get a good night's sleep, none of that is particularly helpful when you're starting the day after a night of tossing and turning.

The Daily Mail spoke with experts in nutrition, fitness and sleep about their top tricks to make a quick recovery after a terrible night's sleep.

1. Don't hit snooze

One of the worst things you can do after a bad night's sleep is hit snooze, according to Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD, director of education at the UCSD Sleep Medicine Center.

After hitting snooze you may fall back asleep and end up in a deeper stage of REM sleep, which will make you groggier.

Hitting snooze in the morning can make you groggier and mess up your body's sleep cycle. Photo / Getty Images.
Photo / Getty

Sleeping late also interferes with the body's clock and could set you up for another night of insufficient sleep.

"The truth is, after one bad night of sleep you should change very little in your routine," she told Health.

"You should still get up at the same time you do every other morning, even if it's the weekend."

2. Open the curtains

Experts recommend exposing your eyes to natural light as soon as possible after waking up to signal to your brain that sleep time is over.

Natural light has been found to suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.

Exposing your eyes to natural light can improve your mood. Photo / Getty Images.
Photo / Getty

The brain takes cues from the light and produces increasing amounts of melatonin as the sun goes down with levels peaking in the middle of the night and then dropping to their lowest in the morning.

The natural light has been found to have the opposite effect on serotonin, a key hormone for mood regulation.

According to a 2016 study by Swedish researchers, sunshine boosts serotonin levels in the brain, improving mood and focus.

3. Take a cold shower

Top tech employees in Silicon Valley swear by waking up with a cold shower to get ready for a long day.

A freezing blast of water in the morning helps you wake up and jump-starts the brain, according to sports psychologist Melinda Nicci.

"When an icy shower hits your skin, the natural reaction is to breathe much more heavily and deeply," she said.

"This increases oxygen intake and speeds up circulation. Blood travels to your limbs and organs faster — and brain function gets a boost."

A 2017 study found that a blast of cold water in the morning was linked to higher energy levels and fewer sick days.

In fact, two-thirds of the 3,000 participants even chose to stick with their chilly regimen once the experiment was over.

4. Include at least two food groups at breakfast

Starting the day with simple sugars found in many cereals and granola bars sets you up for a crash later on.

Instead, registered dietitian Caroline Passarrello recommends eating a complex breakfast that combines at least two food groups.

Some of her favourite breakfasts are Greek yoghurt with fruit and granola, whole grain cereal with milk and dried fruit mixed in, a whole grain waffle with peanut butter and banana or a yoghurt smoothie with fruit and greens.

Registered dietitian Caroline Passarrello recommends eating a complex breakfast that combines at least two food groups. Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty

Each of those options combines protein, fibre and nutrients.

The protein found in yoghurt, milk and nut butters helps curb your appetite curb your appetite and sets you up to make healthier decisions all day.

Fibre-rich ingredients are not only filling but they also provide steady energy.

Fibre also slows the absorption of sugar into the blood, preventing a sugar rush and subsequent sugar crash.

Topping your breakfast off with fruit makes it a little more interesting and the sugar will give you natural energy.

The majority of Americans fail to consume the daily recommended two cups of fruit, which provides vital vitamins and minerals.

5. Time your caffeine intake

While it might seem like coffee is your best line of defence against grogginess, experts say drinking caffeine first thing in the morning isn't very effective because levels of the hormone cortisol are high.

Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day to help regulate the body's internal clock.

In the morning cortisol levels are high, which makes you feel more awake.

Drinking caffeine first thing in the morning can counteract the effects of the hormone cortisol. Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty

However, caffeine inhibits the production of cortisol and interferes with the body's nature rhythm.

For those who haven't gotten enough sleep, Passarrello recommends waiting until later in the morning to grab a cup or coffee or skipping it altogether.

Caffeine is dehydrating and drinking too much can lead to jitters and headaches.

Passarrello recommends sticking with water because dehydration can impair attention span and memory when your brain is already foggy from lack of sleep.

6. Swap your morning workout for smaller activities

After a bad night of sleep, chances are you'd rather stay in bed a little longer rather than hitting the gym, and that's probably a good idea, according to fitness coach Shannon Fable.

While there's no specific rule for how much sleep is enough before a morning workout, Fable said that anything under six hours is questionable.

Research has shown that sleep deprivation makes you perceive workouts as harder than they are. Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty

When you're sleep-deprived, your coordination is negatively affected and exercise is potentially more dangerous.

Additionally, research has shown that sleep deprivation makes you perceive workouts as harder than they are.

Smaller activities throughout the day such as parking further away from the supermarket for a longer walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can take the place of a morning workout after a rough night.

A study by researchers at the University of Georgia published in April found that 10 minutes of stair-climbing boosted energy levels more than the caffeine in a can of soda - which could mean you can skip the coffee too.

This article was first published on Daily Mail and is republished here with permission.