How to recover from a run of bad nights' sleep

You had a rough night’s sleep last night. You couldn’t drift off, then when you did, you tossed and turned, or kept waking up – over and over.

It’s fine, you think. You’ll just catch up tonight.

But then that sleep is rubbish too. And the next night’s. And the one after that.

Soon enough, one bad snooze has turned into a chain of terrible rest, and you’re absolutely exhausted.

Now what? How do you get your sleep back on track? And how do you get through the day after a bad run of rest?

We asked some experts to talk us through it.

The health impact of a bad run of sleep

We don’t need to tell you that even one night of bad sleep can impact your health. So several nights of poor sleep can have a more serious impact than knocking you off your game for a morning.

‘Experiencing just one bad night’s sleep can have a serious impact on concentration levels, reaction time, memory, and the ability to retain and retrieve information,’ says Hannah Shore, the sleep expert at Silentnight. ‘The more frequently this happens, the more it will impact everyday life, resulting in leaving you feeling stressed.

‘A lifetime of bad sleep has been proven to have links with health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.’

Can you ‘catch up’ on missed sleep?

It’s tempting to start counting up all the hours of snoozing you’ve missed and try to tack them on to your sleep at the weekend, or plan to doze through the day in an attempt to ‘make up’ for all that disruption.

But this might not be the best idea.

If you sleep all day or have extra hours of rest at times you wouldn’t usually be asleep, this could have a knock-on effect on your usual eight hours.

You might feel better on the day, but then be unable to drift off at nighttime – and so the cycle of messed up sleep continues.

Instead, aim for your usual seven to nine hours of sleep to try to get back into a healthy routine. And if you’re really exhausted during the day, stick to a nap rather than hours of daytime snoozing.

‘If you have had a run of bad nights’ sleep, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try and catch up on sleep with daytime naps if you find you have any pockets of time,’ Dr Naomi Newman-Beinart, psychologist and nutritionist, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Even a 20-minute nap has been found to help when you are feeling so tired you can barely function, and should be able to keep you going until evening time again.’

‘However, napping is best avoided if possible and this should not become a pattern.

‘If you are feeling sleep deprived, you should make it a priority to get the right amount of sleep per night for a healthy functioning body and mind.’

How to recover from a run of bad nights’ sleep

Try not to stress about how much sleep you’re (not) getting

‘Sleep’s biggest enemy is stress and worry, therefore as hard as it is, try not to worry about the lack of sleep you are getting,’ says Hannah.

Easier said than done, we know, but try not to panic or watch the clock getting into the wee hours.

Challenge the anxiety-driven thoughts and reframe them as something along the lines of: ‘whatever sleep I get is helpful, and I’ll get to sleep when I’m ready’.

Prioritise your sleep routine

Hannah says: ‘Start to focus on making sleep a priority, ensuring you have a set bedtime routine and sticking to it. The routine should involve steps like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, all of which help control the body’s clock.’

Avoid sleep-wreckers

Heather advises: ‘Try to avoid things that may cause a bad night sleep such as alcohol, late night plans and too much screen time.’

When it comes to caffeine, proceed with caution

Downing coffee might help you get through the day on little sleep, but be very careful – too much caffeine, too late, will wreck your sleep that night, continuing this unhealthy sleep pattern.

Get outside

Expose yourself to sunlight during the day to help get your body clock on track.

Try relaxation tools

Naomi says: ‘You may also want to try sleep inducing products and practices, such as meditation and yoga, that may help you to sleep.

‘If you find that stress is the main reason why you’re not able to drift off, or is waking you up during the night, I suggest trying CBD oil. I always recommend the Icann relax CBD oil to help to relax and calm the mind and body before you head to bed. But do check with your GP before you try CBD oil if you are taking any medications.’

Exercise

During the day, ‘exercise or go outside for a walk,’ suggests Naomi. ‘Fresh air and moving the body to get the blood pumping and adrenaline up should help you to feel better and more energised.’

Movement will also tire out your body to make it easier to slip into sleep at night.

Have a wind-down routine

You can’t go straight from busy work mode to sleep. You need a period of relaxation to prepare your mind and body for rest.

‘Many people often struggle to sleep due to not having the ability to switch off or stop those thoughts racing through their minds,’ says Hannah. ‘Participating in an activity that allows time to wind down before bed will help tackle this.’

Don’t lie-in on the weekend

Dr Naomi says: ‘Many people may find that during the week they are so busy trying to fit everything in that this causes them to have a bad night’s sleep, however it is unhealthy to just catch up on sleep at the weekends. You should be aiming for a regular sleeping pattern.

‘I would suggest setting an alarm at the weekend as it may also be because you are sleeping so much during the weekend that you are not tired on Mondays. Having a good sleep pattern is key.’

Seek professional help if bad sleep is a regular occurence

An occassional bad night’s sleep is normal, but if you’re often struggling to get good quality sleep, talk to your GP.

‘If you find that lack of sleep is causing you difficulties during the day and causing difficulties when trying to perform your normal daily tasks, contact your GP to discuss it,’ Naomi tells us.

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