Of course, staying in your comfy bed would be the most attractive solution. Most often though, life won’t wait for us to be rested. In this case, we can still make use of several strategies that will help us to power through and function as productively as possible on little (or no) sleep. Psychologist Eva Rüger takes us through the most effective ones.
“…cause science says so!”
Remember when as kids we used to whine because we had to go to bed early? What we wouldn’t give for that right now! Plenty of research shows that the average person needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Through sleep, we recharge our minds, recover from sickness, enhance our memory, and maintain a healthy weight. While an occasional sleepless night might happen, in the long term, lack of sleep has negative effects on our body and brain.
“When we don’t get enough sleep, our body has less energy, which leads to having less focus”, explains Eva. “Other consequences are being in a bad mood and being more short-tempered compared to when you sleep enough.”
Staying up late appears to strongly affect our productivity as well. Research shows that the gains you have from skipping sleep to prioritise work are only temporary and soon overtaken by cons of sleep deprivation on your mood, focus, and higher-level brain functions.
That said, if you just had a bad night of sleep not all is lost! The following tricks will help you function at an acceptable level.
5 tips to get through the day
If you occasionally experience a sleepless night, whatever is the cause, you might wonder what you can do to better function the next day. Eva takes us through certain actions you can take to boost your energy and get the job done.
1. Good ol’ coffee? It could help, but water is your best friend!
Ah, espresso…the morning saviour! After a sleepless night, coffee is a valid tool to boost your energy. But be careful to not overdo it. Up to two cups during the morning can help compensate for sleep deprivation, however, too much caffeine won’t make you more alert. Instead, it may cause trouble with falling asleep and prevent you from having a healthy sleep schedule. Differently, drinking more water is never a bad idea! Dehydration causes tiredness and moodiness, so staying hydrated during the day helps you to keep your energy levels up.
2. Squeeze in a power nap
The temptation to take a nap can be high on sleepy days. Research suggests that the physical and mental relaxation that comes with a power nap (shorter than 30 minutes) can reduce stress and leads to higher alertness and improved mood after the nap. So generally, power naps help.
“On some days it may be necessary, and a power nap can relax and give you the extra energy you need to get through the day or evening,”, says Eva. “In the long term, however, you should avoid relying on napping too frequently, as it can mess with your sleep pattern. Better not make it a daily habit.”
Frequent napping can lead to difficulties falling asleep in the evening, which in turn leads to another night of poor sleep. If you notice you need a nap very frequently, it may thus be a better idea to look into how to increase or improve your night’s sleep.
💤 Would you like to improve the quality of your sleep? Check out our online program on how to sleep better.
3. Prioritise your to-do’s
After a rough night, you probably won’t feel at your sharpest and your energy may be more limited than on other days. That is why you should consider postponing non-urgent tasks, if possible. Keep it simple and ditch multitasking. Focusing on a single task will allow you to face the day with less stress until you are fully back on track.
💡 This might also be helpful for you: How To Sleep Well Even If You’re Stressed
4. Get some fresh air
“Take small breaks to get a breath and regain your focus. Consider a short walk or a mindfulness exercise to ground yourself.” advises Eva.
Movement has proven to stimulate alertness in the brain and taking some fresh air is beneficial to make you feel more awake. Also, research shows that natural sunlight exposure helps maintain the circadian rhythm, and improves your mood and cognitive performance. So, take a big stretch and get outside! This will help you make it through the day, other than improving your general well-being. Win-win!
Everyone is tired every now and then and knows the consequences of little sleep. The motto “Fake it until you make it” won’t really do here, so be honest if colleagues ask you about it. Your worth is not in question.
“Some people are reluctant to explain they feel less well at the workplace because of a bad night of sleep, as it may feel like complaining or excusing less productivity or focus”, explains Eva. “Nonetheless, it’s a valid explanation for having less energy or struggling with daily tasks more than on other days. It just means you are human.”
The day is coming to an end, and you can soon enjoy the moment to finally recharge. Although we are sure you powered through at best, it is important to remember that the strategies we provided are only useful in the short term.
In the long term, it is necessary for your mental and physical health to get the appropriate amount of sleep most nights. While each of us has slightly different sleep requirements, overall, we should try to maintain a stable and regular sleep cycle.
Have you ever thought about and observed your sleep patterns? On which nights do you sleep well or less well? Which factors on the day before the night or the upcoming day may influence your sleep? A psychologist can help you to dive into your sleeping habits and optimise where needed.
“Just by paying attention, we can learn so much about ourselves and more understanding can lead to more kindness towards our mind.” concludes Eva.
Still here, night owl?! Switch off your phone and get some good zzz!
😴 Need something to relax your mind before bed? Try this guided 5-min meditation to wind down