Noise from the neighbours, a new bed, the new puppy whining in his basket – anything can result in a night without sleep but the question is, how on earth are you supposed to get through the following day? Thankfully, there are ways to survive it.
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“The first thing to understand is that short term sleep deprivation is never as bad as we think,” says Stephanie Romiszewski, sleep physiologist at Sleepyhead Clinic, Exeter (sleepyheadclinic.co.uk)
“It doesn’t actually affect our ability to cope as much as we believe, but it is our beliefs about this that actually make us worse.”
Thinking you won’t be able to deal with a day on little sleep can make you do things like cancelling a visit from friends, says Romiszewski, maybe thinking you’ll spend the time resting instead. But this is a mistake, she says, as it can then trigger another night of bad sleep.
“Actually, not sleeping can be used to re-set your ‘sleep system’ if used wisely,” she says. Simply follow these instructions.
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Get up like it’s any other day
“Lying in has no positive effect on how we feel,” says Romiszewski. “It delays the inevitable and actually makes us feel worse. Getting used to a regular wake time will encourage good sleep in the future anyway!”
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Keep your diary full
Explain that you haven’t slept well, by all means, but don’t bail out of events that you’d normally enjoy. Nine times out of ten you feel energised after seeing friends or going to the gym, so don’t skip it today.
It might not feel like the day for some gardening or a walk in the park but in fact it’s the perfect day for it! “Expose yourself to a lot of light during the first two thirds of your day,” says Romiszewski. “Light exposure can reduce melatonin (sleepy) hormones and affects your mood, metabolism and alertness.”
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Resist those 40 winks
While napping helps you recharge in the short term, says Romiszewski, it will also make going to sleep at your normal time in the night more difficult. Then you might end up with the same situation the following day. Napping is fine, though, adds Romiszewski, if you can sleep deeply at night anyway, or if you don’t mind going to bed later and sleeping for fewer hours.
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Stick to your usual schedule
Heading to bed at 7pm when you usually go up at 9.30pm won’t mean you wake up feeling great, it’s far more likely to give you problems getting to sleep or possibly make you wake up a few hours later. “That will only increase alertness and anxiety, produce poor quality, ‘bitty’ sleep and makes you wake up super early the following morning,” says Romiszewski.
Try to stop worrying
Worrying about sleep is the number one blocker to getting good sleep says Romiszewski and yet it’s not complicated. “The only reason you need to sleep, is if you physiologically need to,” she says. “Not just because psychologically you feel you need to. That means unless you are feeling sleepy, accept that your body doesn’t need sleep right then and there, and enjoy yourself! Life is short and sleep will come!”
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