Sleep deprived? Here’s how to bounce back after a bad night’s sleep

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Didn’t get enough shut-eye last night? We asked Dr Sophie Bostock, aka The Sleep Scientist, for her top tips on how to power through the morning after a poor night’s sleep.

There are few things more dispiriting/agonising/devastating than hearing your alarm clock go off at what feels like 3am, only to realise that it’s actually time to get up for work. When you’ve suffered a seriously sleepless night, the day ahead can already feel like a write-off, no matter how many coffees you glug.

If you regularly feel like your days are suffering because of a lack of good-quality shut-eye, you’re not alone. Dr Sophie Bostock, otherwise known as The Sleep Scientist, is a passionate advocate for the importance of sleep for health and wellbeing. And she says that modern lifestyles – whether that means watching Netflix, worrying about work or scrolling on our phones until the small hours – make it perilously difficult to get the kind of rest we need.

“In today’s 24/7 society, natural sleep patterns are under threat,” says Dr Bostock. “Many of us don’t realise that our daily routines interfere with our in-built circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle which all our cells are programmed to follow.”

It’s no surprise that an interest in fine-tuning our lifestyle habits – from readjusting our posture to leaving work on time – has extended to a quest for the perfect night’s sleep. And we know we should be trying to get the best sleep possible, especially since sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in stress and anxiety.

But here’s the thing: sometimes, we’re just not going to manage it. Occasionally, life gets in the way. Maybe we have to work late because of a last-minute deadline, or our slumber is disturbed by a noise outside, or we just really really really wanted to watch the final episode of our favourite TV show. We should aim for good-quality sleep – but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we can’t always achieve it.

With that in mind, we asked Dr Bostock if there’s anything we can do to recover when we haven’t slept well. The bad news? Her advice doesn’t include hitting snooze and snuggling back down under the duvet. The good news? It’s totally possible to turn a rubbish night’s sleep into an enjoyable day. Here’s how. 

  • 1. Let there be light

    Woman walking down street

    We know it’s tempting to throw on some sunglasses and burrow down into your hoodie for a quick kip if you haven’t slept well. But it’s best to get moving – and soak up as much natural light as you can. 

    “Try and walk to work if you’ve had no sleep, even if it’s grey outside,” says Dr Bostock. “Sunlight and activity of any kind instantly boost your energy levels and make you naturally alert.”

  • 2. Delay your latte

    latte being poured

    Do you crawl towards coffee first thing in the morning? It might seem counterproductive, but Dr Bostock recommends holding off on your caffeine hit if you possibly can, as we naturally have quite high cortisol levels in the morning. 

    “Save caffeine for later in the day when you really need a pick me up,” she says. “There’s a natural slump in our alertness in the afternoon where we start to feel sluggish.”

  • 3. Eat good mood food

    sleep food

    “Our appetite hormones get disrupted by lack of sleep, so be conscious of what you’re craving,” says Dr Bostock. “Instead of the fried food you most likely want, eat wholegrains for breakfast that will give you a slow release of energy all day. And avoid anything high in sugar, as you’ll hit a slump.” 

    Eat something that makes you happy and whatever you do, don’t skip a meal. Being hungry doesn’t help anything

  • 4. Stay serene

    Notepad and pen

    Why do we get teary when we’re tired? “Being sleep deprived can make you feel overly emotional and anxious,” says Dr Bostock. “Try to breathe and pause before reacting to things when you’re feeling like this, as you’re more likely to be defensive.”

    She recommends focusing on “mundane activities” (like ticking off the simpler things on your to-do list) and leaving things that require your full attention for another day.

  • 5. Go to bath, bed and beyond

    Woman in the bath

    You’ve made it through the day on a crappy night’s sleep! That’s something to celebrate – but don’t hop into bed as soon as you get home. 

    “No matter how tired you are, don’t dramatically alter your bedtime – you want to keep your routine in sync,” warns Dr Bostock. 

    “It’s even more important to properly wind down before bed if you’ve slept badly the night before.” 

    That means no phones, a warm bath – or try this.

A version of this content was originally published in Stylist’s weekly email newsletter Stylist Loves Wellbeing. Subscribe for more tips on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing direct to your inbox

Words by Bre Graham, Christobel Hastings and Moya Crockett. 

Images: Bruno Van Der Kraan/Unsplash; Stocksy; Fahmi Fakhrudin; Getty Images 

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