IF YOU'RE wondering how you'll keep your eyes open today – no fear.
There are ways you can offset the damage of a bad night's sleep that don't just involve a coffee.
It goes without saying if you’re sleep deprived, and it’s not just a one-off, you may need to take a look at your sleep routine.
Sleep is essential for health, as studies have shown it’s linked to an earlier grave.
Sometimes feeling tired is a sign of a serious health condition, such as sleep apnoea, or signals you have a sleep disorder, like insomnia.
Fatigue – an overall lack of energy – is also a key symptom of dozens of condition, from Covid to cancer.
But if you’ve just had a poor night’s rest and need a pick-me-up, the following could help:
Get some caffeine
If you’re tired it’s likely you’ve already tried caffeine, which comes in the form of coffee, energy drinks, sports drinks, teas and some foods like chocolate.
It’s recommended that you stick to no more than 400mg a day.
But that gives you room to drink around four cups in one day, as one mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine.
However, be wary that everyone's tolerance is different and some people – such as those on some medications, are pregnant, have heart conditions or anxiety – should find out what limits they have.
You should also avoid drinking caffeine too late in the day, as this could spoil your next night’s sleep.
Often feelings of tiredness are a sign of dehydration, which is onset by a heavy night drinking.
Your brain power, including concentration, is massively impacted by how hydrated it is. Dehydration leads to fatigue because it impacts the flow of oxygen to the brain.
If you’re not a fan of water, try sparkling water with a splash of squash or a slice of lemon or lime to make a fizzy drink with low sugar.
London-based Dr Chidi Ngwaba told Healthista: “For instant energy, I drink freshly squeezed lemon and lime in water. This rapidly provides the electrolytes essential for our cells to make energy. It solves the problem of dehydration too.”
If you’re feeling tired, it’s tempting to reach for highly calorific foods or a large meal to make you feel better.
But not only will a habit of this lead to weight gain, it will likely leave you feeling more sleepy.
A large meal needs to be digested, which takes a lot of energy, and eating produces hormones that can make us feel drowsy, such as serotonin and cholecystokinin.
Researchers have observed that people who eat a lot at lunch typically show a more pronounced afternoon slump, according to Harvard Health.
It may be better to stick to small and frequent meals spread out over the day.
In a 2012 study by Appalachian State University, researchers concluded that bananas were as beneficial as sports drinks in terms of providing energy.
Avoid too much sugar
On another note about food choices, foods that are high in sugar, including carbohydrates, may make matters worse.
Foods that cause a spike in blood sugar levels, such as biscuits, cakes, white bread and pasta, will give you a short term boost followed by a “crash”.
It means there isn't enough glucose in your blood to supply your cells with energy, leaving you feeling even more tired.
Nutritionist Rob Hobson told The Sun: “Steer clear of foods that are high in sugar and instead choose foods like almonds that contain protein, fibre and fat which deliver a slow release of sustained energy that lasts hours.
“Food is our main source of fuel and eating more mindfully and making smart snacking choices can make a significant difference to your energy levels in the long term.
“Sustained energy sources last for longer periods of time because they are digested slower, slowly releasing the energy we need to keep us going.
“Almonds are a good example – they contain plant protein, healthy fats plus fibre and have been found to help curb hunger and reduce the potential for making unhealthy food choices later in the day.”
Do some exercise
The last thing you want to do when you’re tired is hit the treadmill.
But exercise triggers a set of processes that can improve fatigue.
It releases endorphins – chemicals which make us feel positive and active – and boosts oxygen to the brain.
A study published in 2014 in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills found that a session of high-intensity training improved cognitive function with respect to attention and short-term memory tasks.
Justin Rhodes, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Scientific American: “Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.”
If you’re feeling zapped, deep breathing techniques may help you get back on track with your day.
There are various practises you can find online, and one example includes:
- Put the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth.
- Exhale completely through your mouth.
- Then inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.
- Repeat for a total of four breaths.
Imagine being somewhere else
Dr Meg Mehta, psychologist, said one way to perk yourself up is to use “energy imagery”.
She told Healthista: “Bring to mind a time and place where I felt particularly energetic. For me this tends to be holidays.
“The key here is to recall the event so that its energy and vigour washes over you again. Think of exactly what you saw, heard and even smelled or tasted. The more detail, the more powerful this mental exercise is.
“Then I turn up the volume – metaphorically – and make the colours, aromas and sensations even more intense. Once this image is at its peak, gently come out of the memory and back to the here and now by taking a deep belly breath in through the nose on a count of three, and exhale.
“An even easier way to do this is through sounds and smells so if you have a song that reminds you of a spectacularly lively, positive time, or a scent that brings back a moment of excitement.”
Take a nap
A recovery nap may be all you need to get going again, if there is somewhere you can take it.
But beware, anything more than 30 minutes is likely to make you feel more groggy, the Sleep Foundation says.
After around 30 minutes, the body is more likely to enter a deep sleep and waking up from this state, usually with an alarm, makes you feel worse.
This is called “sleep inertia”.
Around 10-30 minutes is the sweet spot for a “power nap” as this “provides restorative sleep without drowsiness after waking”, experts suggest.
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