Sleepless Night? 6 Steps To Repair (Some) Of The Damage

If diving back into bed isn't an option, obviously.

06/06/2016 5:16 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
"It is imperative I get through this chapter."

As anyone who's battled through a sleepless night can attest, the day that follows is no fun for you, your brain, or your colleagues.

"Without sleep, your body isn't getting the psychological or physical recovery it needs. But not just that, your cortisol levels are elevated which can be detrimental to the body," Robbie Clark, accredited practising dietitian and co-founder of told The Huffington Post Australia.

Sure, we know a sleepless night can't be good for us. But what does it mean for our performance the next day?

In the short term, you'll experience a host of issues: lapses in concentration, short-term memory loss, your problem solving skills and creativity will suffer and you'll just generally be a moody person.

But in the long term, poor sleep suppresses the immune system which causes you to be more susceptible to things like cold and flu. Plus, people who sleep too little are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as depression, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

In today's society, so many industries function on shift work or exist in a culture where working long hours is seen as a badge of honour. If that's happening regularly, it absolutely becomes a concern.

It gets worse. Continued sleep deprivation leads to ongoing fatigue and sleep debt: any time we get less than seven to eight hours of sleep per night, we accumulate this debt that affects our overall health and ability to function at our optimum.

"In today's society, so many industries function on shift work or exist in a culture where working long hours is seen as a badge of honour. If that's happening regularly, it absolutely becomes a concern," Clark said.

As one study puts it, 24 hours of continuous wakefulness induces impairments in performance equivalent to those induced by a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent. To put it plainly, you wouldn't be legally allowed to drive your car, so why are you going to work?

Of course, sometimes diving back into bed just isn't an option. So here, a 6-step guide to repair (some, not all) of the damage.

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1. Hydrate

"One of the symptoms associated with dehydration is fatigue. Try to have regular sips of water throughout the day, instead of a single, big dose. Even splashing your face with water can help as a quick tool," Clark said.

2. Good news! Caffeine

While it's not encouraged to reach for a stimulant to get you through the day, a small hit of caffeine in the morning will help in the short term. "Caffeine increases alertness and will be beneficial if you have a meeting first thing," Clarke said.

3. Power nap

In a study that looked at men who'd got only two hours' sleep, researchers found a 30-minute nap could reverse the hormonal impact of a poor night's sleep.

"After a night of limited sleep, the men had a 2.5-fold increase in levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the body's fight-or-flight response to stress. Norepinephrine increases the body's heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar." However, researchers found that after a nap following the night of limited sleep, there was no change in norepinephrine levels.

4. Get outdoors

Whether during a lunch break, or whenever you get the first opportunity, take a walk outside. "If you're sitting all day, you'll become more tired. Light exercise will increase oxygen circulation around the body and particularly to the brain," Clark said.

5. Choose protein, not sugar

"When we're sleep deprived our appetite suppressant hormones are affected, which means we are more likely to overeat as our brain isn't getting the message we are full," Clark said.

On top of that, someone who hasn't got enough sleep is more likely to make poorer food choices, which only works to make you feel more tired.

"The best thing you can do is make sure your main meals and snacks consist of protein, whether plant or animal-based. Protein ingestion helps produce hormones that are specific to alertness. Look for lean meats, eggs, nuts and seeds plus dairy and legumes," Clark said.

6. Complex B Vitamin

If a bad night's sleep is proving to be a regular thing, Clark said it could be worth discussing a complex B Vitamin supplement with your GP or health professional. "This helps to maintain healthy nervous system functioning as well as supporting cellular health and energy production," Clark said. This isn't a quick fix, rather something to consider if sleep problems are becoming persistent.

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