Would you agree that one or two sleep-deprived nights are not such a big deal? You could function almost as normal, couldn't you? This paradox lulls us into thinking that a lack of sleep is not such a big deal.
But then sleepless night number three creeps in and in the morning we feel like I'd think zombies feel - groggy, foggy-brained and incapable of doing anything remotely productive.
This is all thanks to a well-known hormone called adrenaline (also known as 'fight-or-flight'). It sweet-talks us into a sense of false security after a few sleep-deprived nights but ok-ish days. And then - bam! And you've no idea how to survive the day.
After a night of no or little sleep we are so tired that our 'fight or flight' response kicks in. It keeps us going by increasing our heart rate and blood pressure, increasing oxygen supply to our lungs and playing tricks with our metabolism. It almost carries us on its wings...
But after some time adrenaline itself starts draining our energy supplies. Because - 'how long really can you stay alert for?' Not long, as the ’fight or flight’ response is there as a short term solution only.
So exhaustion from adrenaline rush catches up with no sleep and our head starts clouding up... our thinking processes start slowing down...and we enter the survival mode... unless our body shuts down completely, that is, and we fall asleep on the spot.
But is there a way to make those days bearable without triggering 'fight or flight' response and without having a day that is a near write off?
There are a few things we can do. They are not long term solutions and they won't help 100%, but they might, just might make the day after a sleepless night just a bit more doable.
It might sound like an obvious one. But caffeinated drinks might be an answer and a go to drinks for many for a good reason. It has many health benefits. But most importantly, it might give a needed boost to our body.
If there is a chance to have a quick snooze - it might be an idea to have a 20-30 minutes nap straight after coffee. It's also known as 'a coffee nap'. Caffeine starts by relaxing your nervous system and then energises it to help you feel much better upon waking up.
Do not underestimate the power of fresh air, especially if it’s cool outside. Open the window for a bit, let the fresh morning air enter the room's circulation. It will help to clear the fog in your head a bit as well.
Quick yoga or a simple stretch or a walk might work wonders by refilling your lungs with oxygen and reenergising your brain along the way. It won’t cure sleep-deprived head but it will give you a new lease of life for quite a few hours. You could also try gentle mindfulness meditation.
Drink plenty of water
Water hydrates our body and helps our brain to stay focused. Even if it does not exactly wake you up, being hydrated will help you to feel a bit more alive.
Opt for healthy light meals
Today is about helping your body as it’s already under pressure from the lack of sleep. Eating light meals will give your body extra energy as not all of its efforts will be thrown at digestion.
We do feel more hungry after a sleepless night. It's a way of our body telling us it needs a rest. Keep it going by giving it quick healthy snacks, like fruits, veg and nuts every so often. It will help release much needed energy and yet again won’t spend all its efforts on trying to digest the food you’ve just eaten.
Priority tasks only
After a sleepless night do priority tasks first and as soon as possible. Be realistic and be prepared that you will not achieve much at all in the afternoon. Do simple tasks after lunch, such as admin, if you are at work, fold your laundry if you are at home or nothing at all if you can (my preferred option).
Make it an early night
Try having an early night to allow your body to get that extra sleep. Also if another sleepless night might be on the cards it’s better to be prepared. Forget the chores. Leave Netflix or writing that book for another evening of the week. Go to bed as soon as you can and who know, you might be well rested by the time your child wakes up in the middle of the night. These strategies might give you a few ideas to ease into a relaxing and comfortable sleep.
Do you have any tips on how to make your day more bearable after a sleepless night?