There can be little dispute about the benefits of 7 to 8 hours of unbroken sleep. Indeed, the downsides of missing out are quite scary, with claims of longer lives for those regularly hitting the target.
But what about the times when those hours elude us through no fault of our own? What about the parents of newborn babies, or the times a work or project deadline forces a shift into the night? Then there are the late night social engagements and the unexplained 4am wake ups that never return to sleep.
Here are 7 ways we can minimise the fall out of such times:
- Anticipate and be ready for how we are going to feel
Whilst it may seem obvious that a lack of sleep is going to make us feel less than our best, the effects are significant and do we ever really consciously allow for it? A sleep deprived new mum will often find herself doubting her abilities as a parent based on the fact that she is walking around in a strange fog. It’s important to be conscious and mindful of the fact that we are feeling bad for a very clear cut reason and at these times, we need to cut ourselves some slack.
- Build a defense for the hit to our immune systems
Our immune systems are affected by sleep loss, so it’s a good idea to build up a nice strong line of defense. In times of reduced sleep include lots of foods that are high in antioxidants and vitamins like leafy greens and berries. Warm water with freshly squeezed lemon first thing is a great way to get a dose of immune boosting vitamin C.
- Soak up some solar power
Getting outside will make you feel more alert and catching some rays of vitamin D will give you a natural boost. Exposure to daylight will also help reset and regulate our body clocks, giving us the best chance of improved slumber on subsequent nights.
- Eat carb-tactically
Avoid big heavy meals that are going to weigh you down and increase your sluggishness. Instead, eat fewer smaller meals based around plenty of natural, complex carbs such as whole grains and leafy veg. These will give you a supply of sustained energy along with other valuable nutrients. Read our article, Must We Fear the Carbs, for more information and great tips on making carbs work for you.
- Ride the waves of our natural rhythms
Give some consideration to the times of the day we are naturally at our best and structure the days accordingly. Whilst this may seem like something we should do at anytime, in periods of sleep deprivation, it can be particularly useful. If you’re a morning person, avoid a lie in, invest those hours how you need industry and get back to bed nice and early when you’ve nothing left to give.
- Have a power nap that can include sleep… or not
New mums are often told to sleep when the baby sleeps. This is fine and dandy advice if you are one of those types who can sleep to order. New mums will often find themselves spending such times gazing at their offspring or panicking about how best to spend the time. Find yourself a relaxing time out for moments when the pressure is off – anything from a book to a bath, to staring into space. It will all help (washing up and doing laundry probably won’t).
- Resist the caffeine crutch
When excessively tired, it’s tempting to keep chasing a fix. It’s key to remember that in terms of energy levels, this is really just robbing Peter to pay Paul. The effects of caffeine will become less apparent the more you consume and ultimately will leave you with a headache as well. It’s a much better strategy to stay hydrated with plenty of plain water.
So, whilst it’s highly recommended to aim for 7 hours of unbroken sleep as often as possible, little old life is certainly going to get in the way some of the time. If it’s a great party, a successful presentation or best of all a whole new little human, then it’s all worth it.
After all, sometimes in life if you snooze, you lose.