A late night out, a restless night’s sleep because of anxiety of something weighing on your mind, getting up to use the bathroom only to find yourself unable to get back to sleep or even the anticipation of something exciting happening the next day that keeps you up for most of the night only BUT eventually you find yourself 

falling asleep only to be violently jolted awake by your alarm clock and thinking to yourself

“I swear I had two more hours before I had to get up.”

Sleep debt happens to the best of us for any one of these reasons and it results in brain fog, forgetfulness, irritability, and the general feeling of just not being ourselves that results in as low as 10% of our productivity potential. BUT all this not lost if this happens to you..

According to new research, there may be a way to reverse some of the negative effects of a bad night’s sleep beyond slamming endless cups of coffee, and this isn’t just some motivational pep talk.

A recent study published in Physiology & Behavior titled, “The effects of sleep deprivation, acute hypoxia, and exercise on cognitive performance: A multi-experiment combined stressors study,” dives deep into the impact of sleep debt and offers a surprising hero: exercise.

Turns out, those bleary-eyed mornings aren’t just in your head. Sleep deprivation messes with your brain’s executive functions, the cognitive powerhouses responsible for everything from focus and memory to critical thinking. Think of it like trying to play Tetris with boxing gloves on – things get clumsy and frustrating.

But here’s the good news: the same study found that a quick burst of exercise can be like a mental caffeine shot. Even a moderate-intensity workout, like a brisk walk or a jog, can significantly improve those executive functions, even after a night of tossing and turning. It’s like rebooting your brain, shaking off the cobwebs, and giving your cognitive gears a good old-fashioned oil change.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “But I feel like I can barely lift my own head, let alone do jumping jacks!” I hear you, But trust me, a short sweat session is all it takes. 

Aim for 20-30 minutes of activity, something that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping. Don’t worry about going full gym rat – a brisk walk in the park, a bike ride around the block, or even some energetic dancing in your living room can work wonders.

And hey, it doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. A midday workout can also bring that much-needed cognitive boost. Just remember, the key is to get moving, not break a sweat like Rocky climbing the Philadelphia steps.

A word of warning to those in chronic sleep debt…The exercise effect protocol is meant for an occasional sleep debt situation. If you are chronically sleep deprived, consult your doctor because long term sleep deprivation has been shown to have serious health consequences and there are treatments that will get you back on track.

For the rest of you….

The next time you wake up feeling like a sleep-deprived sloth, remember, your brain isn’t broken, it’s just a little dusty. 

Grab your sneakers, step out the door, and let the fresh air and movement work their magic. You might just surprise yourself with how much more productive and awake you feel, even after a rough night’s sleep.

Your move.

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