What to Do When You Can’t Sleep

As the temps drop outside, it can prove harder and harder to peel yourself out from under the cozy covers of your bed. We’ve all been a victim of the snooze button, especially when just 10 more minutes seems so attractive to our groggy selves. But how effective are those few extra minutes when you’re not able to sink into a deep sleep again? Can getting up and getting on with the day help your body feel better the rest of the day? Here, reasons why you may just want to think again about hitting that snooze button.

Should you get extra sleep, or stick to routine?

As tempting as it is, stop hitting the snooze button to try to sneak in a few extra minutes of sleep. When your alarm goes off, get up right away and stick to your morning routine. Going back to sleep for just a short time tells your body to start the sleep cycle all over again, so when the alarm goes off a second time you’ll feel even drowsier than you did before. This turns into a downward spiral, which results in feeling sleepy for up to four hours later. Instead, figure out the time you truly need to wake up by, and get out of bed when your alarm goes off. Waking up at the same time in the morning will cause you to feel tired at the same each night. Soon, your routine will be so, well, routine that you may not even need that alarm to open your eyes and start the day. What a dream!

Hitting snooze might seem idyllic in the moment, but don’t let your brain tell yourself you’ll feel more rested with a few more seconds of sleep. When you hit snooze and drift off, your sleep cycle starts all over again. So when the alarm sounds off a second time, you’ll be in an even deeper sleep than you were originally, which causes you to feel even groggier. 

Plus, the more times you hit snooze, the more tired and confused you’ll feel. In fact, research has found this type of sleep inertia can persist for two to four hours after you’ve woken up. In other words, fight what your body is telling you and just get up. You’ll feel a lot better than you would in two hours if you hit snooze.

Setting a strict routine each a.m. can mean the difference between getting to work on time or being late for the big meeting. Before you go to bed, make a list of your morning routine or the tasks you want to accomplish the next day. Having something to do and knowing what must get done will act as motivation to get up on time. If you continue to wake up feeling drowsy, try setting your alarm a few minutes later or earlier to track your natural wake cycle.

If you wake up at different times every day, your body may have a difficult time knowing when to start feeling sleepy. This can cause your bedtime to get pushed back later and later, further depriving you of much-needed rest. If you’re a chronic snoozer, set your alarm to the time you actually need to wake up by and then get up right away. Drink a glass of water, take a few big stretches, and don’t look back at the comfy bed. Eventually, this routine will become your natural rhythm. You’ll feel drowsy at the right time of the night, you’ll go to bed on time, and may eventually no longer need an alarm clock to wake up.

What happens when you can’t sleep?

We’ve all been there: No matter how hard you try to fall asleep, you end up tossing and turning throughout the night without ever getting those zzz’s you need. Or you stay out later than you’d like and only have time for a few hours of sleep. When it comes to sleep deprivation, which one wins: an all-nighter or two hours of sleep?

Before energy drinks, college students relied on coffee and other carbonated beverages to stay awake to finish term papers and study for finals. That feeling of euphoria is actually your body trying to tell you to get some shut-eye. You might not ace the exam either because lack of sleep causes short-term memory loss. The same goes for your sleep schedule in your adult life. Over time, too many sleepless nights will affect your performance and your ability to make it to those workouts you love.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 percent of the population is sleep-deprived. Most people need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night. But let’s say you stayed up all night binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix (we hear you, it’s great). Now it’s 4 a.m. and you have to be up at 6 a.m. If you can fall asleep after the last episode, go for it. Grabbing two hours of shut-eye will help your brain and body recharge enough to make it through the day.

Do yourself a favor and take a two-hour siesta. You will be a little foggy when the alarm goes off, but you will feel better than if you watched the sun come up. Just don’t make it a long-term habit.

We’ve all hit that wall in the middle of the day. Whether we’re at work on a weekday or out shopping with friends on the weekend, it seems only a nap (or a really big cup of coffee) could knock us out of our drowsy state. While naps carry a stigma of being something only lazy people or those without enough going on do (how rude!), countries across the world designate time in their everyday life for short sleeping periods in the middle of the day to regain energy and alertness. So, should you set aside time in the middle of your day for some shut eye or power through your tiredness?

Should you take a nap if you get low quality sleep?

There seems to be a strong line between people who believe in naps and people who don’t. Some say naps only make them sleepier, but research shows the key to a good nap is all in how long and what time of day you snooze.

A study from the research journal Sleep compared the benefits of napping at various lengths of time to not napping at all. The results found that a 10-minute nap was best for reducing sleepiness and improving cognitive performance.

Why am I more tired after a nap?

Although different for everyone, a nap lasting longer than 20 or 30 minutes could trigger sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling you get after just waking up, so set an alarm to wake you up before that deep sleep sets in.

In addition, you’ll also want to choose the right time of day to drift off. Most people’s inner body clock strikes tiredness between 1 and 4 p.m., so try syncing your nap to this period of day. If you nap too late into the evening, you’ll interfere with your ability to fall asleep later that night. Plus, it’s worth it to nap earlier in the day. Not only will you feel more active directly following the rest, but you may even experience extended alertness a few hours after waking up.

If you’re one of those people who just can’t nap during the middle of the day and are feeling drained, get up and take a walk. Activity raises your body temperature, which in turn can boost alertness for some time afterward. Keep in mind if your eyelids feel heavy your body is saying you’re tired. Experiencing this too often could turn into a significant sleep debt, which is the total hours of sleep lost after multiple nights of not getting enough shut-eye. For example, if you require eight hours of sleep each night and are only getting seven, after a week it will feel as if you pulled an all-nighter.

We get it, though. Your schedule is busy and holding a 9 to 5 job means you can’t exactly snooze in the middle of the day. One study found missing even 90 minutes of sleep one night a week reduced daytime alertness by 32 percent, so try going to bed just 15 minutes earlier each night. Soon, you’ll create a routine of getting under the covers at a decent time and won’t feel that after-lunchtime lull the next day.

Should anyone steer clear of naps? Well, if you’re prone to insomnia or already sleep poorly at night, an afternoon siesta night worsen these problems and interfere with your already difficult time sleeping. In this case, push through the tiredness with a walk around the block or extra shot of espresso.

When it comes down to it, research shows if you snooze you don’t lose. As long as you sleep for less than 30 minutes and only between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m., you’ll reap the reward of a short catnap, including improved mood, increased alertness and heightened performance. Happy napping!

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