How to survive the day when you've struggled to sleep the night before

15th Mar 19 | Lifestyle

One of the aims of World Sleep Day is to 'lessen the burden of sleep problems'. Jenny Stallard asked experts how.

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When you have trouble sleeping, most people want to give you advice on how to drop off, and you’re probably keen to hear of anything that’ll help. But what about when you need to be more alert – when the morning comes and it’s time for work or your daily routine?

According to a study by Aviva, as many as 16 million UK adults are suffering from sleepless nights as a third (31%) say they have insomnia. Today is World Sleep Day, and one of the aims is to help ‘lessen the burdens of sleep problems’.

Surviving the day after a bad night’s sleep is a personal thing but it can be tackled, say experts. Sleep issues affects celebs too – George Clooney, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Aniston have all spoken about their struggles with insomnia. Aniston reportedly likes to try yoga poses to help her sleep, but here are a few things to try when dawn comes around and you have to get on with your day.

Bear in mind that if you have any serious sleep issues you should go and see your GP.

Take a cold shower and get some fresh air 

Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click says starting the day with a cold shower can help. “This can help to shock your body and can leave you feeling energised.

He adds: “Walk to work or to the station. Take deep breaths of fresh air to get a good supply of oxygen around your body.”

Try singing

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Yes, really. Emma Baylin, founder of Shared Harmonies CIC, which organises community and workplace choirs and singing workshops, says: “Singing has loads of benefits, including helping you sleep better or overcoming the negative side effects of a restless night the next day.

“When we sing, we use our throat and palate muscles, which strengthens them and reduces the risk of snoring and sleep apnoea.Singing is also a natural stress reliever; it boosts endorphins, which can reduce our perception of pain, raises serotonin, which regulates our mood, and increases dopamine which gives feelings of bliss.

“Any singing is beneficial – whether you’re belting out a tune in the shower or having a sing song to the radio in the office.”

Watch your breathing

“Being tired is one thing, being stressed another. So whenever you remember, bring your awareness to your breath (for example noticing the air on your upper lip) and with each out-breath, allow yourself to relax,” says Karin Peters from Inner Pilgrim. “Whatever the reason for the lack of sleep, treat yourself gently and have an overall attitude of ‘good enough will do’.”

Transformational breath coach Stuart Sandeman, founder of Breathpod adds: “The optimal way to breathe to energise yourself and recover from a terrible sleep would be to make sure your breath is full and open to get enough oxygen to all the cells in the body.

“The best way to do this is by using the primary breathing muscle – the diaphragm. When we breathe with the diaphragm, the displacement of the air and organs downwards forces the belly to expand before the chest.”

Make sure you’re hydrated 

You will be temped to reach for some caffeine with a side order of caffeine, and coffee will give you an immediate boost because it’s a stimulant, but  remember that you need to balance that out with some good old fashioned water, too.

“Drink water. Especially if you are using caffeine to help keep you stimulated, you will need water to hydrate you. Dehydration can drain your energy levels and make you tired, so keep hydrated to help you to stay awake,” says Kanani.

Find some light

Battling tiredness when you haven't slept
Seek out sunshine when you’re tired (Thinkstock/PA)

Chris Brantner, certified sleep science coach at SleepZoo, says: “Get in the light. The sun is crucial for signalling your body that it’s time to wake up and get moving. And not only does the sun energise you, but it also helps regulate your circadian rhythm. So the more you can expose yourself to sunlight, the more awake you’ll feel, the better chance you’ll have of resetting your sleep/wake cycle, also getting a better night’s sleep the following night.”

Try a power nap

Brantner is a fan of the power nap if you can find time. For some this might mean finding a space where you can be alone and quiet – not always easy.

“Try to sneak away early afternoon for a quick nap. This could give you the boost you need to make it through the rest of the day,” he says. “However, a couple of caveats: Don’t sleep too long, or you’ll wake up feeling groggy and out of sorts. And make sure not to nap too late in the afternoon. Doing so can make it more difficult to fall asleep that night, perpetuating an already-disrupted sleep/wake cycle.”


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A post shared by Self Care For The Soul 📚 (@jodyshield) on

You might not have heard of this one, but it’s a technique where you literally tap your fingertips or hand against specific places on the body, and according to success coach and author of Self-Care for the Soul Jody Shield, it can help you focus.

“When we wake up in the morning sometimes we wake up with anxiety for the day ahead or from a terrible night’s sleep,” she says. “Tapping is amazing because it starts the energy flowing around the body and it gets you into your body and grounded. It helps you feel more awake faster – great if you feel like you haven’t had that much needed rest!

“If you tap on your collarbone with your hand in a fist and breathe in at the same time it allows you to get oxygen into the blood stream faster, which is really awakening in the morning especially.”

For more information or help with sleep issues, visit 

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