Here's How to Get Through a Workday on No Sleep
You couldn’t put down the awesome new book you’re reading. Your kids aren’t at an age where they realize how precious sleep is. You split a few bottles of wine with friends and your body doesn’t react the same way it did in your early 20s. No matter the reason, you’re exhausted and you have to make it through a full day of work. Annoying, but it happens. Follow these seven steps for getting through the day in one piece.
Drink Coffee—But Not Too Much
You might be tempted to guzzle coffee like there’s no tomorrow, but research has shown that two cups gives you about as much alertness as you’re going to get. Dr. Jeffrey Durmer of Atlanta’s FusionSleep Center told WebMD that when you're sleep deprived, “[sleep hormones] collect in the brain all day and drinking excessive amounts of caffeine isn't going to stop that process.” Drinking more than two cups can also make you jittery, which is often just as much of a bummer as being exhausted.
Fatigue is an easy (and, if you’re like us, frequently used) excuse for eating like crap, but that’s actually counterproductive. Sure, that giant doughnut makes the thought of getting to work a little more palatable in the short term, but sugar and simple carbs make you crash and feel even worse. Instead, stick to protein-rich foods like eggs, whole grains, lean meat and healthy fats like avocados. Also, try to eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than larger, main ones, which are more likely to make you feel sluggish and ready for a nap.
Take a Power Nap
Speaking of naps… We know this is a major luxury, but if there’s any chance you can sneak in a quick, 20-minute snooze (say, if your building has a nap room or you have an office with a door that locks), take advantage. Short naps can be restorative, but be sure not to go over 20 minutes—after that point, you’ll wake up groggier than before.
If you can’t sneak away for a quick nap, build breaks into your day. Short, 10- to 15-minute breaks allow you to step away from whatever you’re working on and rechannel your energy and focus. Take a quick walk outside: being in the fresh air will wake you up and, if it’s sunny, make you feel more alert (bright, natural light has that effect).
Drink a Ton of Water
As if water didn’t have enough benefits (hello, clear skin), it can also help keep you alert. Dehydration and exhaustion are closely linked, so if you’re already sleepy, not sipping on H20 will only make you feel worse. Keep a water bottle on your desk and keep refilling it. In addition to hydrating you, it’ll make you get up from your desk for periodic walks to the water cooler and restroom. Two birds, one stone.
Lighten Your Workload
You don’t need us to tell you that when you’re tired at work, mistakes happen. If you can put off really important stuff for the next day, do so. If at all possible, wait until you’re firing on all cylinders to tackle crucial tasks that require your full attention and brainpower.
Don't Go to Sleep the Minute You Get Home
Congrats, you’ve made it through the workday. You’re going to want to overcompensate for last night’s lack of sleep by turning in the second you walk in the door, but resist the urge. Switching up your sleep cycle too much will cause more harm than good. Instead, try to keep yourself awake a bit and fall asleep no more than an hour earlier than you normally do. Do this and you’re well on your way to feeling human again.