Making Up for a Bad Night of Sleep

Updated on May 23, 2018

So you stayed up too late bingeing your latest Netflix series, or you tried to sleep but you stared at the ceiling all night, instead. Facing a day after a night that held little to no rest can feel overwhelming. It’s easy to get mad at yourself, mad at the world, and mad at whatever kept you up.

Instead of getting mad, come up with a plan to have the best day possible. Sure, it may not be the day you had planned, but it can still be a good one. Use these tips and tricks to help your body and mind be the best they can be, even when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.

Focus on Your Attitude

On a day after a night with little sleep, your attitude will make you or break you. Are you going to be angry and frustrated all day, or are you going to forgive yourself, forgive whatever kept you up, and move forward instead?

It’s important that you accept the occasional bad night of sleep, instead of beating yourself up over it or obsessing over what could have been different. Since you can’t change things now, the best you can do is accept your reality, choose to work within it rather than fight against it, and figure out if there’s anything you can change for next time.

Forego the Snooze Button

While sleeping in might seem like it would be the answer to all your woes, it can actually make things worse. Instead of changing your sleep patterns even more, do your best to remain as consistent as you can. This will help your body maintain consistency even though you didn’t fall asleep when you wanted to the night before.

Skip the snooze button, too. Once your body has been disturbed, you won’t get the kind of rest that will make much of a difference in how you feel or how much energy you have. Skip the procrastination and get up when you usually would.

Find Some Natural Light

Natural light helps us wake up because it stops the body from producing melatonin. Since this chemical makes us sleepy, getting natural light early in the morning can help us wake up and stay awake. The light triggers a mechanism in our brains that regulates our circadian rhythms and tells the body that it’s time to be awake. Simply opening a curtain can help you feel more awake and even more rested.

Take the Right Kind of Shower

A shower almost always makes you feel better, and it can be especially useful when you’re combatting tiredness. It’s important to use it correctly, though. Start by taking your normal shower – normal water temperature and normal duration. Before you get out, turn the water as cold as it goes and make yourself stand there for 30 seconds. Then do 30 seconds of hot water, followed by 30 more seconds of cold. This will help you feel stimulated and it will increase your blood flow, too.

Get Your Workout In


If you work out in the morning, don’t skip it because of a bad night’s sleep. In fact, you may want to add in a short exercise routine even if you don’t normally exercise in the morning. You will get your blood flowing and your heart beating, and the endorphins you produce should help you feel better about yourself and your day, even if you’re still tired.

Make Your Day Simple

The easier you can make your day, the better you’ll feel. Your brain won’t be able to handle as much when it is sleep deprived, and it’s important that you modify your life around that fact.

Some of us live complicated lives and it’s hard to figure out what, if anything, we can do to change it. When you’re tired, though, it’s a good idea to put off anything that can be put off. Don’t need your dry cleaning anytime soon? Pick it up tomorrow instead of today. Can you get a sub for the carpool, have that important meeting tomorrow, or work half a day? There are very few times in life when it’s a good idea to embrace procrastination, but the day after a bad night’s sleep is one of them.

Drink Your Coffee

Coffee will definitely help stimulate your brain, especially when you’re just waking up. Going overboard, though, can result in a pounding heart and sweaty hands and not much else. You’re as stimulated as you’re going to get after two cups of coffee, so enjoy those and then leave the rest behind.

If coffee isn’t your thing, substitute something else. There’s about 190 mg of coffee in two cups, so work out how much of your beverage of choice you need to drink to get that much, then down it and go.

Avoid Sugar


When the body is tired, it craves the quick energy that sugar offers it. Don’t give into this, though, if you can possibly help it. Sugar will lift you up, but it will also make you crash later. Unless you plan to binge on sugar all day, you don’t want to get into this cycle or you’ll just feel worse. Sugar also offers a lot of empty calories that won’t really help your body function better. Since you need as much functionality as you can get when you haven’t slept well, sugar won’t serve your purposes.

Don’t Eat Too Much

Tired bodies want to eat more. They need energy, they didn’t get it from rest, and so they crave food all day long. It’s hard to have the willpower to resist your own hunger, especially when you’re exhausted, but do your best. The extra food won’t do anything except make your stomach feel heavy and you feel sleepy. It also comes with a lot of extra calories that can pack on the pounds if you’re chronically tired and keep eating.

Drink Your Water

Water is always good for your body, and it’s even more important when you’re tired. It’s not so much that water helps you stay awake as it is that the negative effects of dehydration are exacerbated when you haven’t slept enough. Make your drink more stimulating by drinking it cold. That feels refreshing and triggers your body to be awake and even a little bit excited.

Take More Breaks

Your brain is going to struggle with focus because you’re tired, and the best thing you can do is give it some rest. Plan short, 5-minute breaks every 30-60 minutes. Go to the water cooler, take a walk around your cubicle, or step outside for a few deep breaths. It will all help your brain regain focus and stay awake.

Take a Nap

If you have a long enough break during the day, take a quick nap. Even a 20-minute power nap can help you feel refreshed and ready to go again. If you get an hour for lunch, this can be the perfect time to sleep. Eat in the first 15-20 minutes, then lie down in your car or in an empty office. Set a clock to wake you up about 20 minutes after you fall asleep. Be sure you give yourself enough time to get up and back to your desk before lunch is over.

Combat Tiredness with a Walk

If napping isn’t a good option for you, try taking a walk instead. This will get you outside, where that natural light will remind your body that it’s time to be awake. The exercise will also stimulate you, and it will produce endorphins that will make you feel better about your life, even though you’re tired. This is another good use for your lunch break, especially if you can get outside and away from your desk for a few minutes. You don’t have to work up a sweat, just move your body and let it take care of the rest.

Listen to Stimulating Music


Music can make or break a mood, and it can also help you stay awake. If you can put in earbuds at work, this might be the perfect way to get through a day where you’re exhausted. Make or find an upbeat playlist, put on your headphones, and let the music keep you awake and happy. Be sure to choose music that won’t put you to sleep, though. This can be different for everyone, so know yourself and choose wisely.

Go Back to Normal

As soon as possible, get your body back on its regular sleep/wake schedule. You may want to go to bed a bit earlier the night after the night where you don’t sleep well, and that’s fine. Resist, though, the urge to go to bed a lot earlier than usual. This will throw off your rest even more, and you may find yourself wide awake at 4 AM. Instead, expect that it might take a day or two for your body to recalibrate. Do your best to stick to a schedule you know and one that your body expects.

A bad night of sleep doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In fact, it doesn’t have to be much more than a small stumbling block on your road to success. Choose to have a good attitude about it, and spend your day making up for the negative effects of little rest, rather than fighting yourself and your body all day long. Don’t make it into a big deal. You may find that it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.


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