How to bounce back when you are beyond exhausted. 

By Stacey Colino
Updated November 22, 2016
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“Missing out on sleep deprives your brain synapses, muscles, ligaments, and joints of the chance to reset and renew,” says Matthew Edlund, M.D., the director of the Center for Circadian Medicine, in Sarasota, Florida. This could compromise your reaction time, coordination, strength, balance, judgment, and mood. Research published in 2000 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that going 17 to 19 hours without sleep—say, being awake from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.—can impair judgment and motor reaction time as much as if a person were legally drunk.

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Stack of clocks all showing 6:15
Credit: Tom SchierlItz

1 Beware Carbs and Caffeine

Make healthy choices even when your body is crying out for doughnuts. (Lack of sleep triggers a surge of cortisol, which triggers appetite.) Sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., the author of The Power of When, suggests that you enjoy your usual cup of coffee—but just one. And eat protein, rather than carbs, for steady energy. Also, get outside so the sunlight can help reset your body clock and shake off the sluggishness.

2 Use Aromatherapy

For a quick alertness boost, inhale peppermint or rosemary oil. Research from the University of Northumbria, in England, found that the scent of peppermint increases alertness and memory function. And a study published in International Journal of Neuroscience found that being exposed to the scent of rosemary for three minutes alters brain-wave patterns in ways that increase mental agility.

3 Have a Chat

Even if you feel beat, talk to your neighbor at the train station or call a friend for tea. “Social interactions improve alert- ness and have a positive effect on your body’s clock,” says Edlund. In fact, research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that when people cooperatively engage with others for even 10 minutes, they experience a lift in cognitive functions, such as attention and flexible thinking.