Choose a body part:
Feel as if you’re not as sharp after a fitful sleep? Even getting only five hours of sleep instead of your usual seven is enough to impair your memory and concentration, says Kimberly Cote, director of the sleep research laboratory at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. The sleepier you are, the more likely it is you’ll have difficulty with tasks that require your sustained attention, such as driving (see Don’t drive drowsy). And if you woke up at dawn for your daughter’s hockey practice, you probably missed restorative rem sleep, which predominates the second half of the night, thereby impairing your ability to process new memories and information.
Grab a nap Getting 10 to 20 minutes of sleep is the best thing you can do to stimulate your brain. “Short naps have been shown to improve alertness, mood and performance during the workday,” says Cote. But make it a catnap because “any longer than 20 minutes and you’ll feel even groggier.” If you don’t have a lounge where you can sleep undisturbed, close your office door to steal a little shut-eye or hunker down in your car for a nap. And resist the temptation to collapse into bed when you get home: hitting the sheets even one or two hours earlier than usual may throw your sleep schedule off track.
You may be tempted to choose mundane tasks that are less taxing on your brain. But carrying out boring jobs, such as organizing your files, will probably make you even sleepier – possibly due to boredom, says Linda McLean, an assistant professor of physical therapy at Queen’s University’s school of rehabilitation therapy in Kingston, Ont. “To stay alert, you’re better off doing work that requires a lot of thought and attention, such as writing a report,” she says.
One recent study in the journal Sleep found that people who went for a five-minute walk were more alert afterwards than those who rested for five minutes.
You’re not imagining that you’re clumsier after a poor night’s sleep. “Your motor performance is slowed when you’re tired,” says McLean, which means you may make more typing mistakes or become more accident-prone in the kitchen.
Exercise in the a.m.
Take a brisk walk before work or get off the bus a number of stops early. It will get your blood flowing and improve your co-ordination and performance by helping your brain send messages to your limbs more efficiently, says McLean.
Do ankle circles
To maintain good circulation, draw circles in the air with your toes using your ankle as the centre of your circle. Try 10 to 15 ankle circles per hour with each foot.
“When you sleep lightly or intermittently, your eyelids may be slightly open,” says Neema Patel, an optometrist in Fredericton. “That dries out the tear film, which in turn dries out the eye and irritates the blood vessels.” The result: eyes that are red, heavy and irritated.
Contact lenses can dry out eyes, making them feel even more fatigued.
While there’s no cure for heavy lids other than a visit to the Land of Nod, over-the-counter artificial tears, such as Visine Tears, lubricate the blood vessels in your eyes and make them feel refreshed, says Patel. If you use them two to three times during the day, most of the redness should dissipate by mid-afternoon. She warns against using drops that claim to get the red out since they merely mask the problem – by shrinking blood vessels in the eye – rather than treat it. So, once the drop dries up, the redness returns and you need to use more drops.
Surprisingly, pulling an all-nighter may leave you feeling euphoric or cheery the next day because sleep deprivation has an anti-depressant effect. However, you’re not alone if you’re snapping at your spouse after a crappy night’s sleep. “People feel cranky because they catastrophize the fact they didn’t sleep well,” says Dr. Leonid Kayumov, director of the sleep research clinic at Toronto Western Hospital. “Having insomnia once every few weeks is normal, especially just before and after your period.”
Bask in the sun Start the day by reminding yourself that missing one night’s sleep is no big deal, then lace up your walking shoes. “Exercise and exposure to sunlight naturally increase levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin,” says Dr. Kayumov. “Exercising for 30 minutes before noon will boost your energy and improve your mood.”
“When you don’t get enough sleep, your body tissues don’t get a chance to fully repair themselves from the stresses and strains of the day before,” says McLean. “And because you’re mentally tired the next day, you’ll tend to sit still longer than you should and in a slouched position, which can lead to neck, shoulder and back pain.”
Change position Moving around is the best thing you can do to prevent muscle and back pain, says McLean. “When you change positions, your muscles help pump blood back to the heart, picking up fresh oxygen and delivering it to the tissues. This improves circulation and makes you feel more awake.” Try walking a flight of stairs to use the photocopier on another floor, and keep a glass of water on your desk, which will encourage you to get out of your chair for refills and washroom breaks. “When you’re seated, change your position every 30 minutes by raising or lowering your chair or adjusting the tilt by 10 degrees,” says McLean.
Craving a cinnamon bun even though you just ate? Because the sleep and appetite centres of your brain are thought to be closely linked, your tired mind may get confused and send a signal that you need to eat more, says Dr. Kayumov. And even if you munch more than usual, it will take longer for you to feel satisfied.
Steer clear of sugar
Avoid the quick fix of chocolate, cookies and sweetened sodas. “Sugary foods make your blood sugar rise quickly, dumping insulin into your bloodstream, which then leaves you with low energy and feeling sleepier,” says registered dietitian Diana Steele in ancouver. Other no-nos: steamed milk or turkey sandwiches because both warm milk and turkey contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that acts as a natural sedative.
Eat every two or three hours
Regular munching will keep you energized. Choose foods from at least three of the four food groups at every meal, such as whole grain toast with peanut butter and a glass of juice for breakfast and a roast beef sandwich on rye with an apple for lunch.
Fill your cup
Caffeine gives you a temporary mental boost, but even regular drinkers should limit their daily caffeine intake to 300 milligrams (three cups of coffee); more may make you irritable, jittery or nauseous.
You may feel like the walking dead when you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, but you don’t have to look like a zombie. Wake up your face and wardrobe with these five essential makeup and fashion tricks from Tracey Ho Lung, Chatelaine’s fashion and beauty editor.
Mask your fatigue
Perk up dull tired skin or puffy eyes by applying a sticker mask such as Karine Joncas Derma-Relaxing Eye Masks or High-Intensity Hydrogel Patches (available at drugstores). These masks work their magic while you make your toast, and they don’t need to be rinsed off – a time saver when you’re scrambling out the door.
Skip the foundation
When you miss out on sleep, your skin looks pale and dull, especially if you’re dehydrated from last night’s martinis. Instead of applying foundation, which may make your skin appear even duller, use a tinted moisturizer to add a bit of colour to your face and balance out your skin tones.
Don’t be a bag lady
To deflate puffy eyes, dab on an eye cream containing aloe. Then hide dark circles with a concealer in a shade lighter than your skin colour – a yellow-based tone works for most people. Avoid red, pink or orange eyeshadow, which only emphasizes the redness of tired eyes. Instead, counteract redness with neutral shadows such as taupes, greens or blues. Finish off by curling your lashes and applying mascara to open up your eyes and make you look wide awake.
Put bloom in your cheeks
Blush is the best pick-me-up for your face. Peachy pinks work well for most women. On dry skin, a cream blush looks smoother and more natural than powder. Try M.A.C Cheekhue or Stila Convertible Color. See more tips.
Dress for energy
Resist the temptation to slip into comfy yoga pants. Trick your mind into thinking you’re not tired by putting on a stylish suit or pretty dress with heels (although teetering on stilettos is a bad idea when you’re fatigued and clumsy). Avoid greys, browns and blacks, which will make dull skin look even more washed out, and reds if your eyes are bloodshot. Stick to vibrant colours, such as aqua blue, to perk up your complexion and draw attention away from your tired face.
don’t drive drowsy
Would you drive drunk?
Get someone else to drive
Pull over to sleep
Choose a body part: