How to … recover from a bad night’s sleep

Here’s how to fight the fatigue after a bad night’s sleep and not fall back into bad habits that might prolong the problem.

We all have them from time to time … those terrible restless nights where you can’t seem to either fall or stay asleep. The next day can be the worst part, dragging yourself through work or activities when you’re exhausted and your body won’t function as it should. Here’s what you need to know in order to get the best out of your tired self and make sure the next night isn’t a restless repeat.

Don’t hit snooze
We know it’s especially tempting when you’re exhausted to convince yourself that just 10 more minutes of shut eye will compensate for a wakeful night, but the stats say we’re wrong.

According to sleep expert Sonia Ancoli-Israel who was interviewed by, the best thing you can do the morning after a bad sleep is stick to your normal routine as much as possible. While it is good for us, it means no snoozing and no sleeping in, even if it’s a day off. This helps to maintain your circadian rhythms which impact your energy levels, metabolism, immunity and more. 

Get outside
Getting out of the house – and not just bed – can help to cue your body clock and make you feel more awake. Whether it’s going for a walk, having your breakfast sitting outside or even just standing outside the back door for a minute, expose yourself to the sun as much as you can. The production of melatonin – your body’s ‘sleepy’ hormone – is supressed in natural light, making you more alert, according to Ancoli-Israel.

Limit the caffeine
It’s tempting to use coffee as a liquid crutch to keep us going throughout the day, but unfortunately, we have to rein ourselves in. If having coffee or another caffeinated drink like green tea is normally a part of your morning routine, go for it. However, sleep specialist Dr Michael Breus warns that while caffeine can help us get going in the morning, it’s best to cut it off by lunchtime to avoid being kept awake at night.

Nap time
Back to the good old days of daily naps … just don’t exceed 25 minutes. Sleeping for too long allows your body to slip into a deep sleep, after which you’ll probably feel even more groggy than before your nap. They say that a 25-minute nap around 1pm allows your body enough rest time without impacting your sleep cycle and keeping you up at night.

Get moving
Exercise stimulates your body into producing cortisol, which keeps you alert. One study showed that 10 minutes of stair climbing worked to boost your body’s energy levels more than a can of caffeinated soda. Your energy naturally dips around 3pm, so counteracting this with even a small amount of physical exercise can keep you on your feet.

Don’t drink alcohol or smoke
It might not be the most welcome news in the world, but while alcohol does make you sleepy while you drink it, it actually wakes your body up once it’s been processed a few hours later, making for another bad night’s sleep. Similarly, tobacco is a stimulant, so along with all its other negative health effects, it will keep you awake and can give you a bad night’s sleep.

No tech time
The blue light given off by your phone or other screens is stimulating and can keep you awake, so try to put away the tech once the sun goes down.

Are restless or sleepless nights regular for you? Or maybe you’re tired a lot of the time? We recommend seeing your GP if sleep problems are starting to interrupt your daily life, work habits or mood.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    3rd Mar 2019
    I would be interested to read what other subscribers have to say helps them with their sleep routine.
    3rd Mar 2019
    Why would I go to a doctor for sleep problems, all they will do is try and get me hooked on sleeping pills and then cause me more serious health problems. I think diet plays a lot to do with it, if you consume lots of salt, sugar and fats it will effect your digestion and keep you awake no matter what time of day you have it, because your body goes into detox when it sleeps so you liver is hard at work, keep your liver happy, keep it hydrated and not with caffeine, alchohol or soda drinks. Eat lots of fresh raw veggies and fruit. I also do yoga stretches upon waking and before I go to sleep, spray lavender in my room and read from a book, no devices before bed.
    3rd Mar 2019
    I diffuse essential oils into the bedroom for an hour or so. Some blends work better than others for me but even if I lay awake for a while, the scent is so lovely I relax and don't worry. I have found that I don't sleep for as long now I'm older, but my mother found this as well so maybe there is an inherited factor there somewhere. Sleeping for a while during the day doesn't stop me from sleeping at night for which I'm thankful.
    3rd Mar 2019
    I find that a satisfying, enjoyable, productive day is the best recipe for a good night's sleep. I also use a small radio with ear buds which I set to snooze at 30 minutes. I am rarely awake when it turns off. Its also good if I wake up and think too much in the middle of the night, (an old habit from a pressurised job), it helps to get my mind off of things. ABC radio has far more interesting programs at night than almost any TV programs during the day.

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