Strategies for Managing the Day After a Bad Night’s Sleep

sleep management of day

Most everybody has experienced at least a night or two of poor sleep. And many millions of us do so on a regular basis. A bad night’s sleep can leave us feeling anxious about making it through the next day. Will we have the energy, the focus, and the emotional wherewithal to do so? Is it even possible to have a good day after a bad night?

Yes, it is. I’ve frequently been surprised by people reporting okay days after seriously sleepless nights. In large part, this is a testament to the human capacity for resilience. But it’s also a direct result of using sensible strategies to manage the day after.

1. Adjust your attitude. Begin by accepting and even forgiving last night’s sleeplessness and today’s sleepiness. Judging yourself about poor sleep will only further sap your energy. Can you think of a time when you or someone you know did all right despite little sleep? Stay open to that possibility. Let family, friends, or coworkers know you had a rough night and ask for their support.

2. Go with the flow… and slow with the ebb. Like all living things, humans are biologically programmed to ebb and flow through cycles of energy and rest throughout the day. Our energy levels will naturally fluctuate even after a good night’s sleep. And, of course, these fluctuations will be more pronounced after a challenging night. Use energy when it flows and let yourself slow and rest when it ebbs. Resisting or actively battling waves of tiredness will only squander more of the limited energy we have. When we yield to our need for rest, we’ll likely experience a refreshing buoyancy.

3. Plan to procrastinate. When our energy is compromised, it makes sense to minimize any and all non-essential activity. Get clear on your objectives for the day and let yourself put off until tomorrow anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be done today. Yes… this is a day when procrastination can actually be helpful. As Ellen DeGeneres once said, “Procrastinate now — don’t put it off!”

4. Get creative. Ebbing energy does not necessarily mean you’ll be drawn to sleep — it’s simply an invitation to rest. In rest we become less focused and attentive. We loosen our rational hold on the mind, allowing it to meander, get dreamy, and be more creative. When feasible, engage in activities that call for creativity. Highly creative individuals such as Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali actually facilitated their creativity by intentionally depriving themselves of sleep.

5. Follow your usual routine. Get up and out of bed at your typical rising time and set your sights on adhering to a normal schedule. Prepare for your day as you usually do, get some gentle exercise, and have regular, healthful and light meals. A cup or two of green tea might be helpful. It has only one-fifth the caffeine of a cup of brewed coffee and also contains L-theanine, a naturally soothing compound. And make sure to stay hydrated.

6. Light up your day. Get exposed to bright light for about 30 minutes as soon as possible after rising. Morning light energizes us and improves our mood by boosting serotonin levels. It also resets our circadian clock, contributing to better sleep in the future. Even on a cloudy day, it’s significantly brighter outdoors than in a well-lit room. If you can’t get out, brighten your indoor space as much as possible by allowing light through windows and turning on electric lights.

7. Avoid ups and downs. Try to stay away from energy spikes caused by excessive caffeine, energy drinks, or sugary foods. Although consuming these might temporarily increase our energy, doing so inevitably triggers a rebound of sleepiness. Unless it’s essential, try to avoid going down for a nap. Napping will likely draw you into deeper stages of sleep, leaving you with sleep “drunkenness” and potentially disrupting your circadian rhythms. And avoid using alcohol to slow down before bed. It can interfere with the quality of our sleep and dreams.

8. Breathe briskly. If you need to boost your energy and alertness at any point during the day, consider using a stimulating yogic breathing technique known as the Bellows Breath. With your mouth closed, inhale and exhale rapidly through the nose with very short in-and-out breaths of equal duration. Imagine your belly is a bellows pumping one to three full breaths per second. Limit this practice to rounds of 15 seconds to begin with and gradually increase it by 5-second increments to a maximum of one minute. (Check with your physician prior to using the Bellows Breath if you have any health concerns.)

9. Be extra careful. Maybe it goes without saying that certain precautions are in order. It’s now common knowledge that even minimal sleep loss can impact our physical and mental abilities. Even during periods of energy flow, our reaction time and judgment are compromised by poor sleep. Exercise due caution in all matters that require careful attention, especially driving and operating machinery.

10. Finishing your day. Take time to wind down and relax in the evening. Eat a light dinner and stick to your regular bedtime. Of course, your chances of sleeping better the night after are improved because absence does, indeed, make the heart grow fonder. Let this heightened awareness of sleep’s value strengthen your resolve about systematically doing all you can to heal your sleep. Promise yourself that you will make healthy sleep a priority.

Credit: Huffington post

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Midday naps boost learning in preschoolers

kids sleep
A new study finds that midday naps boost learning in preschoolers, suggesting if policymakers eliminate classroom naps for young children to allow more time for educational activity, it could backfire.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst write about their findings in the current online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS.

They explain in their study background that despite the fact midday naps are common in early childhood, we know little about their structure and function.

However, we do know that sleep boosts memory in young adults, so perhaps naps do the same for young children.

Pressure to eliminate midday naps
Meanwhile, numbers of publicly funded preschools and enrollments in them are increasing in the US, driven by copious studies that show the long-term health and educational benefits of early education.

And parents and administrators are debating whether to eliminate daytime naps in the classroom to make way for more curriculum activity.

A possible argument in favor is that since children begin to drop their daytime sleep in early childhood anyway, these classroom naps cannot be that important – perhaps they only contain light sleep stages and do not contribute much to memory and learning by this age.

New study shows naps have learning value
But this new study fills a much-neglected gap in scientific understanding about the value of daytime naps in young children.

Based on observations and measurements of more than 40 preschool children, research psychologist Dr. Rebecca Spencer, with students Kasey Duclos and Laura Kurdziel, suggest daytime naps are important for memory consolidation and early learning.

They found that the children who appear to benefit the most are those who nap habitually, regardless of age.

mid day nap pix

Also, subsequent nighttime sleep does not help recover performance losses in nap-deprived youngsters.

Learning losses greater in nap-deprived preschoolersChild sleeping, hugging a teddy bear
The researchers found that children who did not have a regular daytime nap forgot more of what they learned that day, compared with days when they did have a nap.
For their study, the researchers taught the children – who were attending six preschools across western Massachusetts – a visual-spatial memory game in the mornings.

In the morning game, the children saw a grid of pictures and then had to remember where each one was located.

The researchers then tested the children’s memory again in the afternoon under two conditions.

In one condition, the children were encouraged to have their regular daytime nap in the classroom. The naps lasted about 75 minutes on average. In the other condition, the children were kept awake for the equivalent amount of time.

The researchers tested the children’s ability to remember the picture locations after the nap and wake periods, and also the next day, to see whether having a night’s sleep affected their performance.

The results showed that after a night’s sleep, nap-deprived children forgot significantly more picture locations, compared with when they did take a nap.

The authors explain that while the children performed about the same in both conditions, when tested just after learning the locations, their ability to remember the picture locations was significantly better the next day if they had taken a nap after learning the previous day.

“That means that when they miss a nap, the child cannot recover this benefit of sleep with their overnight sleep. It seems that there is an additional benefit of having the sleep occur in close proximity to the learning,” 

day time nap pix
Sleep spindle density correlated with memory benefit
In a separate experiment, the researchers invited another 14 preschoolers to a sleep lab so they could monitor their biophysiological changes during their daytime naps using a polysomnograph.

They found correlations between sleep spindle density – a burst of brain activity that is linked to integrating new information – and the memory benefit of sleep during the nap.

Dr. Spencer says they hope their findings will help policymakers and administrators make “educated decisions regarding the nap opportunities in the classrooms.”

“Children should not only be given the opportunity, they should be encouraged to sleep by creating an environment which supports sleep,” she urges.

Credit: Medical News

The researchers suggest preschools should have policies on napping and call for more studies to look at how to protect and encourage naps to help young children boost their learning.