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Up and At ‘Em: How to Bounce Back After a Shitty Night’s Sleep

Good morning, zombie!

To anyone reading this, I’m officially approaching one week of subpar sleep. I’ve been watching my parent’s pugs, and cute as they are, their ceaseless snorting is more than one pair of earplugs and a blaring white noise machine can manage. Every night is like trying to sleep through a rocket launch, and I’m not sure how much more I can take. 

For now, there’s only one thing left to do: Talk to clinical sleep educator Terry Cralle about how to recover from sleep deprivation. Read on for her advice, and keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

Avoid Your Snooze Button

Alluring as it can be, the snooze button isn’t your friend. When your alarm jingles in the morning, you’re likely nearing the end of your final REM cycle, which is a highly restorative stage of sleep. When you snooze and go back to sleep, you launch your body back into another REM cycle. But when your alarm wakes you up again a few minutes later, it rouses you in the middle of that new REM cycle, which leaves you feeling foggy and disoriented.

To stop that, Cralle suggests setting your alarm for the “latest time you can get up,” then making sure you get out of bed immediately (some natural light can help your body get up and at ‘em). Awful as you may feel, snoozing will only make it worse.

Tell Everyone You’re Sleepy

It won’t make you feel more awake, but Cralle says it can prompt the people around you (who hopefully understand your anguish) to bear with your added exasperation. As an added bonus, conversation can get your brain working again, which should help give you an extra boost. Obviously, you’ll have to have a longer exchange than “I’m sleepy,” but research shows that having a chat makes you happier, which could provide the encouragement you need to succeed after lackluster sleep (or at least make it through until your next slumber).

Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthy

“You’ll likely crave high-fat, sugary foods for energy,” Cralle says. But those will only make you crash harder. Instead, she suggests treating your body to sustainable energy via “high-protein, healthy foods” and plenty of water. Bananas, eggs and non-sugary yogurt are all good bets.

Smell Some Smells

Peppermint oil, rosemary, eucalyptus and cinnamon are all alerting scents,” Cralle says. That’s because they stimulate areas of the brain associated with mental clarity and memory. Chewing gum or mints can have a similar effect.

Move Around

If you can manage it, some exercise or even a short walk can increase oxygen circulation throughout your body and release endorphins, both of which make you feel more energized.

Watch a Funny Video

Like exercise, laughing increases your intake of oxygen-rich air and your production of endorphins. Now here’s a video of a chimpanzee doing push-ups:

Playing upbeat music can have a similar effect.

Take a Coffee Nap

A regular nap is fine, too. But Cralle says a coffee nap — slugging a coffee, then immediately taking a 20-minute snooze — can be extra stimulating. That’s because caffeine takes a while to kick in, so in theory, it should slap your system right as you’re waking up from your nap.

That said, Cralle warns of going overboard on caffeine, because too much will make it hard to fall asleep, and that spells yet another day of exhaustion.

Be Lazy

I know you’ve got a million things to do, but you’re not going to do them well if you’re too tired. “After a bad night of sleep, you might be more clumsy and uncoordinated,” Cralle says. Instead of trying to be the Lord of Productivity all day, she has a simple suggestion: “Go to bed.”

While those are all great suggestions, I knew I’d need a lot of help, so I also reached out to the snooze sorcerers on r/Sleep. Here’s how they recommend surviving the day after a bad night’s sleep:

  • “Don’t dwell on it.”
  • “Eggs and tea.” (Again, caffeinated is good so long as you don’t overdo it.)
  • “Look forward to the next night’s sleep.”
  • Masturbation.”
  • “Just struggle it out.”
  • “THC and CBD edibles before dinner.”
  • “Midol and a Monster.”

Okay, I’ll try all of it. Goodnight.