What Can I Do To Recover From Bad Sleep? An MD Weighs In

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She received a B.S. journalism and a B.A. in english literature from Boston University.
Tired Woman Sitting in Bed with Coffee Cup

Image by Aleksandra Kovac / Stocksy

Despite our best efforts, we all have nights that we stay up too late, just can't fall sleep, or wake up and can't get back to bed. While we may be inclined to pick up an espresso or sugary snack, there are other things to make sure this one bad night doesn't wreak havoc on your day and your rest going forward.

It's important to recognize the dangers of sleep deprivation and remember that even with these tips, there's no replacement for a quality night's sleep. "Much like a race car that needs to make a pit stop to refuel and change tires, our brain/body needs the same," Eva Selhub, M.D., told mindbodygreen. "Without sleep, every system in our body will go into overdrive and eventually lose its ability to function at its best."

Resist the urge to sleep in.

After a night of tossing and turning, it can be tempting to stay in bed a little (or a lot) later than normal. And while getting enough rest is (obviously) very important, so is keeping a sleep routine to ensure your sleep for the next day isn't thrown off. Hitting snooze isn't really doing us any favors, and it's a similar case here: You're better off sticking with your schedule and getting up and out.


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Be mindful of caffeinating to compensate.

For many of us, a cup of coffee or tea is how we start every morning, regardless of how we slept. And if you pour yourself a little extra one morning after a less than optimal night of sleep, that's OK—it's when those less than optimal nights get more frequent that you should start looking at how you can improve your sleep instead. "If you have just one poor night's sleep, drinking a little caffeine to get a boost for the day won't hurt," said Selhub. "But remember, the energy you feel is fake—it's due to the caffeine and not your tank being full."

Get moving.

Sitting down at work all day without taking stretch breaks is never a good idea, but when you're struggling to stay alert, it can make it even harder. "Take a moderate paced walk outdoors for 20 minutes," suggests Selhub, "or a slow and mindful walk, so that it's both movement and meditation." The combination of the fresh air, natural sunlight, and a bit of exercise should give you a boost to get through an afternoon slump.

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Take a nap (but keep it quick).

According to Selhub, one of the "better ways to boost your energy if you don't get a good night's sleep is to find a time during the day to take a 20-minute power nap." This option is better than getting an extra coffee or some sugar because it actually adds to your "sleep bank". Let it go too much longer than 20 minutes, though, and you risk disrupting your sleep another night by resting too much during the day.

Next time you wake up feeling like you barely got to sleep, try these practices to keep the sleepiness at bay—with a few simple tricks, you'll be back to better sleep in no time.

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