Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Sleep is so elusive to some of us, yet so essential to a productive, healthy day. Experts recommend getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night — and for good reason!
Sleep can strengthen your heart. Lack of Zzz’s can cause your body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers your heart to work 10 times harder.
Sleep can also boost your immune system because while your head is on that pillow, your immune cells and proteins rest. Then, they’ll be at the ready when it comes time for fighting off a cold or flu. Moreover, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that proper sleep can make vaccines more effective.
Now that we know how important sleep is, how do we recover when we’ve gotten zero of it?
Don’t hit the snooze button. It might be tempting to sleep in late considering the night you had, but experts from the UCSD Sleep Medicine Center say it’s one of the worst things you can do to recover properly. You shouldn’t change your routine, regardless of how much you slept. A consistent wake-up time is essential for a healthy circadian rhythms (physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.)
- Don’t try to fix the situation with tons of caffeine. If coffee is part of your usual routine, then by all means, enjoy your Joe. However, guzzling caffeine might not only lead to headaches and nausea, but you’ll disturb the following night’s sleep cycle yet again.
Take a nap if you must. A 25-minute nap around mid-afternoon is OK’d in an article by Sonia Ancoli-Israel, an expert with a PhD in sleep. medicine. This is only if you’re able to resist crashing for hours. Set an alarm and cut the power nap short when time is up, otherwise you’ll feel groggy for the rest of the day.
Get outside. Exposing yourself to natural light cues your body clock to suppress melatonin production, which is responsible for making you tired. Sunlight also encourages the release of serotonin, a feel-good hormone. You’ll feel a little calmer after taking a quick walk in the afternoon sun.
When you’re crawling back in bed, remember to put down the electronics, limit late-night snacking and try your hand at quiet meditation. Good luck and sweet dreams!