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Sleep Deprived? What to Do When You Pull an All-Nighter

When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?

We've all done them at some point, right? Whether you're in college, or have a big project at work, or just want to relax and catch up on a bunch of tv shows, every once in a while you can find yourself hitting the sack after the sun comes up the next day.

Sleep Deprived? What to Do When You Pull an All-Nigher

That's what happened to me today, so I guess you can say I'm in experiment mode seeing if what they say and what I learned in the past few months actually works.

Last night I was bound and determined to get my new Facebook Fan page up and going. Maybe that would be nothing to a lot or even most of you, I was having issues with finding what to put up as a cover photo.

Around 8 am this morning, I discovered a YouTube video that showed exactly how to do it in PicMonkey.com. I actually made a couple cover photos within minutes of finding that video.

How to Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, you've probably heard about your circadian rhythm. What you need to do when you've stayed awake all night is to reset your circadian rhythm.

First thing is if you haven't yet slept, eat something with tryptophan in it so it can start its process of converting the tryptophan to serotonin. It takes about 90 minutes to work its way thru your body to the brain and to do its thing, but after turning into serotonin, it proceeds to turn into melatonin.

Long story short, trytophan helps to make you sleepy.

Why You Need Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that your body cannot make. Without enough of it, you could experience "serotonin deficiency," with symptoms such as depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, nervousness, obsessive-compulsive behavior,  migraines, or slow growth in children.

Some of the anti-depressant medications are actually designed to increase serotonin levels.

Don't go out and buy tryptophan as a supplement because the FDA has warned that this supplement is not safe to take and could cause illness. So go for the foods with tryptophan in it, such as turkey, spinach, oatmeal, almonds, walnuts, bananas, etc.

Sleep Deprived? What to Do When You Pull an All-Nighter

So, after you've had some sleep (try to get at least a couple REM cycles which would be 4 hours minimum) get out into the sunlight. That tells your brain basically that it's daylight and time to be awake.

Then, about an hour or so before it's getting close to a normal bedtime, make things darker in your room. Dim the lights, cover any blue lights such as on appliances, and generally let your body get the message that it's time to hit the hay!

Summarizing, here's what to do to kick start your body so you can sleep better tonight if you didn't get much sleep last night:

1. Have some tryptophan enriched foods:

  • chicken, (actually has more than turkey)
  • turkey
  • spinach,
  • almonds
  •  walnuts
  •  oatmeal
  •  red meat

2. Get some sleep to get you through the day

3. When you wake up, get into the sunlight for a while to tell you body "wake up!"

4. About 90 minutes before bedtime have foods full of tryptophan again.

5. Around that same time, start dimming the lights in your area

6. Night-night!

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Reset Your Brain For Better Sleep. Retrieved October 1, 2013. http://chemistry.about.com/od/foodcookingchemistry/a/Tryptophan-Facts.htm.

Wikipedia. Tryptophan. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tryptophan

Bouchez, Colette. Retrieved October 1, 2013. Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers.  http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/serotonin