If you missed a few hours of sleep, you’re definitely going to feel tired the next day. And with that fatigue will likely come all sorts of ideas for staying awake, such as guzzling caffeine, taking a long nap, or going to bed super early. But even though it all seems like a good idea when you’re tired, these are things you should avoid at all costs.
The only real cure for fatigue is getting a good night’s sleep, every single day. And that means creating a healthy sleep schedule, one night at a time. “Resetting your sleep schedule or establishing good sleep hygiene is a process and takes more than a few days,” licensed psychologist Nicole Issa, PsyD, tells Bustle.
And yet, the sooner you can start, the better. “It will begin with having a consistent wake up time and sticking to it,” she says. “Your bedtime will gradually shift to an earlier time to allow you to get enough rest.”
Creating a relaxing evening routine can come in handy, too, such as slowing down, putting away your phone, reading a book, and even getting ready for bed beforeyou’re tired. As Dr. Issa says, “That way you can just go to bed when you are ready and not get woken up by washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc.”
These are things you should do for good sleep, as opposed to the things listed below, which experts say you should try to avoid if you’re tired.
1. Drinking Tons Of Energy Drinks
Even though they can give you a quick boost of energy, it’s not a good idea to load up on these drinks as a way to stay awake.
“[They] often have a lot of B vitamins, which can be stimulating, and then cause insomnia, which perpetuates the cycle of being tired and reaching for more energy drinks,” Catherine Darley, ND, from the The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, tells Bustle.
Instead, stick to one caffeinated drink in the morning, so it has plenty of time to wear off before bed, when you can officially catch up on your rest.
2. Taking A Nap
If you can, try to resist the urge to take a nap. Or at least try to time it right.
“Avoid taking a nap longer than 30 minutes to ‘catch up,'” Doug Hale, a sleep expert from Brooklyn Bedding, tells Bustle. “Just as important, don’t take a nap late in the day as that will disrupt your normal sleep cycle, leading to insomnia at night.”
3. Going To Bed Super Early
While it might be tempting to pass out the moment the sun goes down, try to stay awake as long as possible, or until your usual bedtime.
“Going to bed too early […] can result in what is essentially a long nap late in the evening,” Dr. Darley says, “which then causes the inability to sleep through the night.”
Do this, and you’ll likely wake up at 3 a.m., and be just as tired the next day.
4. Staying Inside
When you’re tired, you might want to hide away from the blinding light of the sun. But stepping out can actually be a good thing.
“Get outside in bright sunlight for 20 minutes soon after getting up, then continue with light bursts of 10 minutes every couple hours,” Dr. Darley says. “Full spectrum light naturally increases alertness.” And that can help get you through the day.
5. Doing A Strenuous Workout
“It might seem like a good idea to burn off energy in order to get a restful sleep, but working out later in the day can cause cortisol to spike which can prevent some people from being able to fall asleep,” health coach Rachel MacPherson tells Bustle. Instead, do your workout in the morning. Or skip it entirely until you’ve caught up on sleep.
6. Snacking To Stay Awake
Fatigue can make you feel hungrier than normal, and lead to cravings for simple carbohydrates. And while that’s fine, keep in mind that eating sugary snacks can crash your blood sugar, and make you feel even worse. Instead, “eat a healthy balanced diet so your blood sugar levels remain steady,” Dr. Darley says.
7. Drinking A Night Cap
A night cap may seem like a good idea, if you want to fall asleep faster. But if you want that deep sleep, you may want to stick with water.
“Alcohol interferes with your deep sleep cycles and REM cycles,” Jason Piper, a sleep and nutrition coach, tells Bustle. “These are the restorative phases we go through at night. Alcohol keeps you mainly in a light sleep phase.”
8. Cramming For A Test
If you have a big test tomorrow, and plan to stay up all night studying, it may be smarter to just go to bed. “You may feel like you are making progress, but when you finally go to sleep and it is a short duration, you will miss out on a lot of your REM sleep,” Piper says. “REM sleep is when the brain moves short-term memories into long-term memory, so a lot of what you were studying becomes lost.”
9. Sleeping In
Just like going to bed early, sleeping in always seems like a good idea in the moment. And yet, “it can shift [your] circadian rhythm for the day, making it harder to fall asleep at night,” Piper says.
Basically, sleeping in — even for just one hour past your usual wake time — throws off the timing of the sleep hormone, melatonin. It’s best to stick to your normal sleep and wake times, to help your body get back on track.
10. Eating Right Before Bed
While it’s OK to have a light snack before bed, keep in mind that eating a big meal can make for a rough night.
“Your body needs to digest the food,” Piper says. “So it will raise your internal core [temperature] as it metabolizes the food and also will divert energy away from sleep to digesting the food.”
With all that going on, it’ll be hard for the body to slip into a deeper, more restorative sleep cycle, Piper says, and you’ll feel even more tired come morning.
11. Checking The Clock
If you ever find yourself in bed, tired, and yet unable to fall asleep, do yourself a favor and avoid staring at the clock. Or worse, wondering when (or if) you’ll ever fall asleep.
“Doing this isn’t going to change anything,” Dr. Issa says. “In fact, it will only make you feel more anxious which will increase your physiological arousal and make it harder to fall asleep.”
12. Relaxing With Your Phone
However tempting it may be, don’t lay in bed and scroll through you phone, as the “blue light from it will interfere with your ability to fall asleep,” Dr. Issa says. If you want to fall asleep easily, and wake feeling rested, avoiding electronics before bed will be key.
13. Willing Yourself To Sleep
Have you ever had that moment where, despite how tired you feel, you just can’t fall asleep? When that happens, it’s actually best to get out of bed, instead of lying there wishing for sleep.
“Doing that will probably come with a lot of other thoughts about your lack of sleep,” Dr. Issa says, including anxiety about how tired you’ll feel the next day.
“Instead, get out of bed and take a break,” she says. “Get up and go in a different room until you start to naturally feel tired. Then go back into your bed.”
14. Making Important Decisions
If a big decision can wait, do yourself a favor and wait. “Whether financial, relationship, or anything important, you would be much better off making that decision in the morning when your mind and body are fully rested,” Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck, tells Bustle. When you’re fatigued, you just won’t have the capacity to think clearly.
15. Soaking In A Hot Bath
In order to fall asleep quickly, it may be a good idea to avoid warm showers and baths right before bed, and instead opt for a quick (and cool) rinse.
According to MacPherson, since your core body temperature drops at night in preparation for sleep, taking a hot bath can disrupt that cycle, increase your heart rate, and make it difficult to sleep.
Even though it often seems like a good idea, doing these things when you’re tired tends to be anything but helpful. The best and only way to feel less fatigued is to get a good night’s sleep, which includes sticking to a bedtime routine, and getting the right amount of rest every day.