Roy Upton, RH, executive director, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Scotts Valley, California
Support adrenals with adaptogens.
When you are sleep deprived, the adrenal glands’ stress response produces the hormone adrenaline, leading to nervous energy and lack of focus. Adaptogenic supplements help pacify adrenaline so you can regain mental equilibrium. Take 1–3 grams of dried powdered reishi per day or 1 gram of high-quality Asian ginseng as tea, extract, or powder between meals to increase long-lasting energy. Results may take up to a week.
It’s easy to reach for coffee when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, but stimulants can make you distracted and jittery. Instead, choose nervines, herbs used to calm nerves, support the nervous system, and provide sustained, relaxed energy. Taking 2–4 ml of avena extract (from fresh fruiting wild oat) per day can improve mental performance and increase stress resistance.
Elevate heart rate.
Exercise increases circulation and speeds up your ability to process and eliminate adrenaline. Morning is best for exercising because it prepares your body’s metabolism for the day, improving efficiency, digestion, and respiratory function. Aim for at least 20 minutes of heart rate–boosting exercise daily.
Janet Solyntjes, cofounder, Center for Courageous Living, Boulder, Colorado
Pause your work.
Inactivity stagnates energy, especially when you’re behind a computer. Mindful movement and energy awareness help synchronize your mind with your body, reawakening natural energy. Reach arms above your head and stretch deeply. Take a break from opening emails. For more relaxation, place hands at the base of your head and gently stretch your neck.
Stimulate the senses.
When you miss sleep, artificial light from computers, televisions, or fluorescent office tubes can be draining, interrupting circadian rhythm—physical, mental, and behavioral changes from light and darkness. Being outside is valuable because you are exposed to sunlight and can engage your senses with the natural world. Go for a 20-minute walk and focus on what you see, smell, and hear.
Enhance sleep you do get.
When you’re exhausted, there can be a disconnect between mind and body. Try gentle yoga, at-home stretching, or a body scan—devoting moment-to-moment attention to your body as it is. Focus on calm breaths and stretches, rather than challenging poses. Breathe deeply before bed, noticing where you feel tension.
Edward Bixler, PhD, Penn State Hershey Medical Center
- Understand your sleep needs. Six to eight hours of sleep per night is an average figure. Some people need more; others perform optimally with less. Figuring out how much sleep you need is the first step to handling sleep deprivation. Ask yourself your probability of falling asleep after lunch, while riding as a passenger in a car,reading a book, or watching television. If the likelihood is high, you’re not meeting your sleep requirements.
- Boost immunity. Lack of sleep can impair your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flus and even more tired. To prevent sickness, eat smart. Choose unprocessed foods as much as possible, including vitamin C–rich fruits and vegetables like strawberries and broccoli.
- Develop a pattern. Some studies suggest people, especially women, can replenish lost sleep.For example, if you sleep six hours per night during the week but need more, make up some of the hours over the weekend. Developing regular wake and sleep schedules helps your body adapt to the rhythm of snoozing less during the week and more on the weekend. This can increase mental performance and reduce long-term stress.