Rough Night? Here’s Your No-Sleep Survival Guide
In a perfect world, you would have ample time to unwind each evening, sleep soundly for eight hours, and wake up feeling refreshed to the smell of fresh coffee.
But this is not a perfect world—it’s one in which your kid gets a stomach virus and you spend the night rubbing his back on the bathroom floor; you get inexplicable insomnia; or your chronic back pain, snoring husband, or the Mexican food you had for dinner keeps you tossing and turning. Life happens, and sleep is one of the first things to take a hit when it does.
Resilience gives you the ability to navigate a stressful situation without losing your cool—and the day after a sleepless night can be filled with stressors. Next time, follow these no-sleep survival tips to get you through until bedtime.
Do: Eat a protein-packed breakfast.
Don’t: Load up on sugar and simple carbs.
Research shows that eating within an hour of waking up can boost your energy and cognitive performance. This is a good opportunity to fuel up and avoid running on fumes all day. However, you should try to avoid grabbing a donut on your way out the door. While you’ll probably crave sugar and simple carbohydrates—sleep deprivation is shown to make you crave sweet, salty, and high-calorie foods—they make your blood sugar spike and then crash, leaving you even more drained.
Instead, keep your blood sugar steady by consuming a high-protein breakfast. Two scrambled eggs, whole grain toast with avocado, or a healthy protein shake will do the trick. This simple swap will pay off in spades as you move through your day.
Do: Realize that things will seem worse today than they usually do.
Don’t: Take on your heaviest issue today, if you can help it.
The light of day can be harsh after a tough night. Your boss’s demands seem totally outrageous. Your favorite lunch spot messes up your order and it’s all you can do not to cry. Just sitting upright at your desk is a challenge.
The best thing you can do in these moments is acknowledge that you are starved for sleep—and your body is struggling from a physiological standpoint. You might have trouble focusing, regulating emotions, or even remembering things; this is normal and you just have to ride it out. If you can, avoid anything that could potentially worsen your psychological stress (that long-deferred phone call to your mother, raising a heated issue with your spouse). And don’t make today the day you begin a new project or make any high-stakes decisions—research shows that you’re likely to make more errors. If it’s unavoidable, take a little extra time to think things through.
Do: Get outside for a short walk.
Don’t: Guzzle coffee all day long.
We get it—you don’t want to move very much when you’re feeling groggy and lethargic. You’d prefer to just nurse your extra large coffee until you can go home. But taking a short walk has two energizing effects on the body.
First, scientists have found that natural light (even if it’s overcast) can boost alertness and help reset your circadian rhythms, especially if you’re exposed to it earlier in the day. This bodes well for when you next crawl under the covers. Beyond that, it gets your blood pumping and can stave off sleepiness without the dehydrating effects of coffee.
Head outside in the morning or during your afternoon slump and you’ll get a small (but powerful!) boost.
It’s no fun to face a day filled with to-dos after a sleepless night—as much as we’d like it to pause so we can take a much-needed nap, the world keeps on turning. A resilient approach puts you in a better position to face the day with a clear and calm mind.