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Although we do our best to avoid occasional sleepless nights, it’s hard to escape them altogether. Perhaps you worked late to stay on top of work, dancing all night, or awoke in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back asleep. Whatever the case, getting caught in a sleep snag can make the next day extremely difficult. The sleepiness caused by a singular all-nighter, however, does not last more than a couple days. It depends on your mental perspective, as well as the cause of your sleepless night, how long it takes you to recover.
Firstly, there is a big difference between how you get over a single sleepless night and how you deal with chronic insomnia. Sleep debt follows the pattern of not getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night for quite a while, which then needs to be repaid fully on the weekend (if you’re lucky).
Sleepless nights, on the other hand, are not always worth losing sleep over. The importance of control cannot be understated, says Tal. Are you staying up all night or would you rather sleep but cannot? In both scenarios, regaining sleep takes a different amount of time.
It is really possible to feel tired the next day while feeling in control of your sleep and being at peace with your decision that you stayed up all night. However, you will most likely be able to get to sleep with ease at their usual time that night, and you will be able to recover from the sleep loss within one to two days after returning to that normal schedule, says Dr. Tal.
When you don’t have control over your sleep, you worry, and because you worry more, the next night is more likely to elude you. – Joshua Tal, PhD
People who attempted to sleep but not only tossed and turned but had trouble sleeping have a different recovery process and experience. You become anxious when you lack control over sleep, and the more you worry about sleep the next night, the more likely it is to evade you as well. When you delay your bedtime the next night and for several nights afterward, too, because of anxiety, you’ve moved into the realm of circadian-rhythm issues, says Dr. Tal, making it more difficult for your body to realign to a healthy sleep schedule.
Therefore, reducing the recovery time after a bout of sleeplessness is best accomplished by not being stressed out. Dr. Tal offers more advice about how to minimize the recovery time from a night of sleep deprivation, below.
There are 3 ways to recover quickly and efficiently after a single sleepless night:
1. Reposition sleep as a positive experience.
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated-particularly with how it impacts so many parts of your body-but you should avoid overprioritizing or elevating it. Sleep shouldn’t be turned into an unrequited love, advises Dr. Tal. Sleep is something you can’t always have, and the more you chase it, the more you scare it away.”
Rather than giving up sleep every now and then, make an active mental decision to accept fitful or sleepless nights from time to time and view each night as another chance to get enough sleep. (Insomnia associated with chronic or comorbid conditions should be treated with support from a medical professional.)
2. The next afternoon, take a power nap.
You might consider taking a power nap the next day after an all-nighter (which will rarely be the case, by the way). This will help reset your body and get some alertness back.
The payment can be delayed up to 30 minutes between 1 and 3 p.m. This is the maximum amount of time you should nap; however, staying awake too long could rob you of what we call your sleep drive, the urge you feel to sleep at night, says Tal. Contrary to this, a brief 30-minute nap can help you fight fatigue and even boost your mood without preventing you from falling asleep later.
3. Get back on schedule with your sleep the next night, and don’t overdo it.
You will preserve your circadian rhythm if you return to your normal sleep pattern the night after feeling sleep-deprived (as your internal clock causes you to feel sleepy at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning). During the evening after a sleep-deprived night, you can sleep a bit earlier, but we recommend that you don’t adjust it by more than an hour.
Dr. Tal compares sleep to chocolate cake so we can understand why overcompensating can make matters worse. It is not appropriate to ask someone if they want two slices of chocolate cake after dinner the next day if they didn’t eat chocolate cake the previous night. The next night’s cake will simply be offered, just as it will the next night’s sleep.”
Regarding how long it actually takes to recover from sleep deprivation, there’s something to be said about sleep quality, versus mere quantity. Even if you fail to achieve your sweet spot of seven to eight hours of sleep per night, Dr. Tal says that your body will naturally try to make up for the lost sleep by giving you better sleep the following evening.
“Sleep is self-correcting, so whenever you miss out on some of those deeper stages of sleep, your body can over-correct by giving you a higher prevalence of that high-quality Regardless of how much time you sleep over the next few nights, your body will adjust in (almost) no time. If you fall short on sleep for a single night, don’t worry: your body will correct it quickly.
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