The Worst Ways to Make up for a Bad Night of Sleep

May 5th 2017

Mike Rothschild

According to a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 40 percent of Americans aren't getting enough sleep.

Defining a healthy night's sleep as at least seven hours, the CDC found that chronic sleeplessness cuts across all racial groups, economic disparities, and locations.

And Americans have a lot of bad ideas about how to make up for that lack of sleep.

Answering the question of what you should do to get trough the day after a bad night's sleep has led to a flood of tips, dodgy natural products, and super-caffeinated drinks that can cause serious health problems. "Sleep has become so elusive to people," Nancy H. Rothstein a sleep educator and author, told ATTN:.

Rothstein runs seminars and speaks to large groups about sleep hygiene in a role she calls the "Sleep Ambassador."

As for the worst ways to get through a day after a bad night of sleep, Rothstein gives a clear answer: "do the same crap again that gave you the bad night's sleep."

But before you can go to bed, you have to get through the day — and many people's survival mechanisms are only making their problems worse.

Caffeine is fine in a moderate amount, but experts advise that you cut back after a certain time of day. "Caffeine can stay in the system for 12 hours," Rothstein warns.

She also strongly advises against using caffeine as a crutch to drive drowsy. "Having a boost of caffeine is not the answer when it comes to driving, she says. "If you need to get somewhere and are drowsy, DO NOT DRIVE! Either take public transport, get a ride, or change your plans. Driving drowsy is a huge risk for you and anyone on the road around you."

Energy drinks are a popular fix to get past a sleepy stretch, but Rothstein advises that they might make you feel worse in the long run by disrupting your sleep cycle and bringing on a crash after a jolt of energy. This is the same reason experts recommend against large amounts of sugar to stay awake. Rather, it's recommended that you eat small meals with B-complex vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein.

Finally, there are a variety of alternative medicine and natural products with claims of delivering endless energy, including various roots, herbs, and essential oils. But none have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and few have any scientific study to back up their promises. Experts that ATTN: spoke to advised extreme caution with them.

One popular sleep supplement, L-tryptophan, was recalled by the FDA in the late 80's after it was linked to a rare neurological condition. Another, a combination of L-tryptophan and two other natural products called Dream Water, was sued multiple times for failing to deliver on its promises.

So that's what doesn't work. What does work?

If you can somehow take a nap, especially around midday, do it. "The best way to take the edge off of a poor night's sleep is to take a properly timed 'power nap' during the day," sleep expert Jenni June told ATTN:. "20 minutes is just short of the slow wave sleep phase in our sleep cycles. I like to add 10 minutes for sleep onset, making it a 30 minute total nap break."

But June cautions not to go past 30 minutes, to avoid "that groggy feeling afterward that comes with longer naps."

One counterintuitive trick suggested by WebMD blogger and sleep specialist Dr. Michael Breus is to combine a nap and cup of coffee into a "nap-a-latte."

"Cool down a cup of drip coffee, which has the highest caffeine content," Breus told CBS News. "You drink it very quickly and then you take a 20-minute nap. The caffeine hits your system in 20 to 25 minutes ... and you're good for four hours."