Bounce Back After a Bad Night's Sleep
Rise and Shine
In case you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years (and if so, you're probably well rested, so this wouldn't apply to you), Americans need more sleep. Seven to nine hours is the sweet spot for waking up refreshed, and as anyone who has pulled a late-nighter with her Netflix queue knows, getting less than that can leave you groggy, cranky, and way worse. Just one night of insufficient shut-eye can slow your job performance, derail your gym routine, and even sabotage your relationships, new research shows. But worry not, weary eyes. We've pinpointed exactly what suffers when you're sleepy and how to sidestep those problems and feel wide awake.Your Waistline
One bad night's sleep reduces the body's ability to process sugar the next day and leads to greater fat storage, a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found. According to Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you can thank a triple threat of hormones that go haywire with too little slumber: ghrelin, which makes you crave fatty and sugary foods; leptin, which regulates how much you eat; and cortisol, which tells your body to hold on to visceral fatty tissue around the abdominals.
Wake-up call: As tempting as it may be to reach for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich or a chocolate-chip muffin, giving in to cravings can backfire. Fatty foods require a lot of energy to digest, leaving you even more sluggish, and sweet treats and processed carbohydrates cause your blood sugar and energy levels to spike and crash. "Counter the bulge by choosing foods that keep blood sugar steady throughout the day for lasting energy," Jamieson-Petonic says. A mix of complex carbs and protein is your best bet: oatmeal and an apple for breakfast, grilled chicken on whole wheat bread with a salad for lunch, a banana with two tablespoons of peanut butter as a snack, and salmon with brown rice and veggies for dinner.
Your morning run or Spinning class is also great for middle management: Not only does exercise help reduce cravings, but it also moves excess sugar from your bloodstream to your muscles instead of converting it to fat and storing it in your fat cells, according to Michele S. Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science. So if you do sneak those chips, they're less likely to end up on your hips.Your Exercise Routine
A restless night may make you hit "Snooze" on your workouts. Men and women who slept poorly were 57 percent less likely to exercise the following day, a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation found. A few wakeful nights strung together can seriously spiral. "Because exercise helps you sleep better, letting your gym routine slide until you're less sleepy will make it more difficult to fall asleep, setting you up for a vicious cycle," says Shawn Youngstedt, PhD, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Wake-up call: Even if you're dragging, it's crucial to do something. "Tell yourself that you'll work out for 15 minutes," Youngstedt says. "Studies show that once people start exercising, they want to continue and often feel more energized when they're done." In fact, adults who did 20 minutes of low-intensity bike riding experienced a 65 percent decrease in fatigue, according to a study from the University of Georgia. An earlier review from the same research team found that exercise had a more powerful effect on a person's level of energy than stimulant drugs did.
But moderation is key. Exercising too hard can make you more tired and increase your risk of injury, because fatigue can hamper concentration and form. "When you're feeling sleepy, back off a little from your workout status quo; reduce the intensity and duration of your exercise," Youngstedt suggests. And toss the old idea that working out before bed makes it harder to fall asleep: People who exercise, no matter the time of day, sleep better than those who don't exercise at all, according to the same National Sleep Foundation survey.
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