4 easy ways to offset a bad night’s sleep in just 20 minutes

group of people doing pilates, which can help with bad sleep
A 20-minute pilates session might do the trick if you're sleep deprived. (Getty Images)

A bad night’s sleep can set you up for a terrible day ahead. If you were up all night tossing and turning, whether it's due to insomnia or just one of those nights, not getting quality sleep can leave you feeling grumpy and unhappy during the day.

Britons don’t get enough sleep as it is, with 2022 research from Direct Line showing that nearly three-quarters of UK adults do not have the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night. One in seven (14%) are getting by on less than five hours of sleep, which doctors warned can threaten both mental and physical health.

So getting a solid night's sleep is really important to maintain your wellbeing. Sleep deficiency has been linked to a number of health issues, like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. It can also lead to depression, anxiety and distress.

While we should all be working towards improving our sleep habits, sometimes a bad night can't be helped – maybe you just can't get comfortable, or something's on your mind that's bugging you all night. In these instances, there are some things you can do during the day to help perk you up.

Recently, a study found that doing just 20 minutes of exercise can help give your brain the wake-up call it needs after a bad night's sleep. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Portsmouth, suggested that doing a short session of moderate intensity exercise can significantly improve brain function – even if you're running on little to no sleep.

A young woman wrapped up in a winter coat and beanie walks her fluffy white dog in a park
A 20-minute walk can do wonders if you've had a bad night's sleep. (Getty Images)

It found that people who were given maths tests and basic puzzles to do before and after riding a bike for 20 minutes performed better after the exercise. It's no replacement for a proper night's sleep, but it can certainly help you feel better and get through the day.

Gavin Cowper, exercise expert and owner of Exersci, has outlined four 20-minute activities you can do to help offset the negative impact of a bad night’s sleep.

1. Brisk walking

Cowper says: "Walking is a straightforward workout that has a lot of force and can improve mental clarity. Walking vigorously for thirty minutes can improve blood flow to the brain, supplying oxygen and nutrients necessary for the best possible cognitive performance.

"A dull mind can be revitalised by rhythmic exercise, stress reduction, and exposure to nature or alternative environments."

2. Pilates

Practitioners of pilates often sing its praises, and for good reason – it's a great way to exercise the body and mind. Cowper says spending 20 minutes in a moderately-paced pilates class can "help you reset your mind and feel refreshed".

"Pilates provides a special method for improving mental acuity as well as physical strength. This exercise promotes a mind-body connection that can help reduce mental tiredness by emphasising regulated movements, core strength, and flexibility."

3. Cycling

two friends laugh and enjoy a day with mountain bikes in nature while walking with the bike pushed by hand
Heading out for a bike ride can help with grogginess. (Getty Images)

"Riding a bike, either outside or on a stationary cycle, provides a cerebrally stimulating, moderately intense aerobic workout. The brain receives more oxygen from the elevated heart rate, which improves cognitive abilities. Cycling, in addition, may be a fun diversion from cerebral exhaustion, enabling the mind to refresh while involving the body in rhythmic action," says Cowper.

If you are too tired and drowsy, however, you should probably stay off the roads. Instead, riding a stationary bike in your home or gym is a safer way to offset a bad night's sleep.

4. Dancing

Feeling groggy? Perhaps what you need is a little kitchen disco time to get your body moving. Cowper recommends dance as a way to "reenergise a fatigued brain, in addition to being a means of artistic expression".

"Dance classes with a moderate level of intensity, like salsa or Zumba, integrate coordination, music, and physical exercise, activating several brain areas. Dancing's creative and emotional elements can improve mood and cognitive function, while the brain's motor pathways are activated when movements are timed to music."

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