Even though the benefits of solid 8 hours of sleep per night have been proven by, like, a million studies, there are days when we can’t get any sleep at all, no matter how hard we try.
And the worst thing is, we still have to deal with our life, work, and everything else, which could be quite challenging even after just one sleepless night.
Thankfully, the tips below have got you covered. Try some of them, and you will make it through even the roughest workday.
1) Sit by the Window
If you have your office desk located by the window, your problem is almost solved.
Natural sunlight is the most powerful circadian rhythm regulator, so getting exposed to it will make you more alert. It can also lower the chances of getting stress-induced insomnia the next night.
Another reason to sit near the window is that you can open it and get some fresh air. Studies prove that high levels of carbon dioxide can be linked to drowsiness due to hypoxia, and may even lead to fainting in some cases. If your workplace isn’t properly ventilated, your drowsiness caused by a bad night can get worse. So, letting more fresh air in will help you stay more concentrated and focused during the day.
You can take a walk at the lunch break for the same effect. Along with exposing yourself to the sun and fresh air, mild physical activity can also make you feel more energetic.
2) Resist Over-Processed Foods
Having no sleep at night means that your body hasn’t had time to properly absorb nutrients and replenish energy levels. And the brain — the organ that takes the biggest share of glucose among all — will suffer the most.
Have you ever noticed any cravings for deep-fried foods or sugary desserts after a night of poor sleep? That’s the way your brain tells you it needs energy. Sweet foods are an excellent source of fast carbohydrates, and deep-fried fat meals are perceived as the most filling option.
Top it with the fact that sleep deprivation elevates the levels of ghrelin, our hunger hormone, and you will see where all the urges to visit the vending machine or get a Big Mac for lunch root from.
If you didn’t manage to get good sleep, prepare your lunch meal at home and pack it with you. Opt for such foods as lean meat, fatty fish, veggies, and whole-grain bread or porridge, all processes as little as possible. Alternatively, you can try to find some time to meal prep on weekends so that you’ll always have your lunch-to-go. This will also save you a few bucks on lunch at the restaurants near the office.
3) Manage Stress
Even a single night without sleep can wreak havoc on your hormonal system. The first negative consequence of insufficient sleep is the elevated level of cortisol, your stress hormone.
Because, you know, a lack of sleep is a huge stress for your system.
Now, cortisol overload has a lot of unpleasant symptoms, including:
- racing heart;
- elevated blood pressure;
- difficulty paying attention;
- focusing on bad thoughts.
Actually, the impulsive eating behavior mentioned earlier is also linked to the increased cortisol levels.
So, if you need to make it through the day, having a few proven ways to wind down in your pocket won’t hurt. A 5-minute guided meditation session or deep controlled breathing exercises typically work best and are easy enough to perform right at your desk. If there’s a gym in your office, you could use that too. A simple short workout during the lunch break can do wonders, really.
And don’t forget to take some time to relax after working hours. The inability to switch off the thoughts about work can result in anxiety-driven insomnia, which can become chronic and result in more nights without sleep.
Thankfully, there are many science-backed techniques to switch off your brain after work and help it relax. You can choose the one to your liking or come up with your own soothing method; the goal here is to stick to it daily.
4) Revise Your Bed
Now, if your wandering around the office like a zombie after a night without sleep is becoming a regular thing, maybe your bed is to blame, literally.
Here’s what you need to check to find out if it’s your case:
- Is your mattress old? Beds older than 7 years (or even 4-5 years in case you’ve bought a cheaper model) can be considered worn out, by default. Even if you don’t see it with your eyes yet, the layers have probably gone flatter and the support is probably uneven. This happens to all mattresses as they age.
- Does your bed have saggy spots? If you often sleep in one particular spot on the mattress, the surface may gradually start forming indentations there. When that happens, your bed loses its ability to properly support your spine. As a result, you spend more time tossing and turning, trying to find a comfortable position. And you might also wake up with pain and stiffness.
- Did you choose the right bed initially? ‘The right’ here means the one that matches your body’s needs and is able to maintain proper spine alignment through the night. Multiple factors, such as material, firmness, thickness, size, and so on, should be taken into account when you’re choosing a mattress. And if you happened to end up with the wrong one, you may have difficulty falling asleep on it.
It’s also important to know that each type of mattress wears out a bit differently. For example, coils in innerspring or hybrid mattresses may start poking through the upper layers, causing you pain, or start to squeak, waking you upon every movement your partner makes.
Foam mattresses tend to lose their resiliency and may become softer than they used to be in the first place.
If you’re not ready to buy a whole new mattress yet, you may want to consider adding a mattress topper and mask indentations or use other ways on how you can make your mattress firmer or softer. But note than this can work as a temporary solution only, and you’ll still need to get a new bed sometime later.
5) Plan Out Your Schedule (And Delegate If Needed)
If you’re sleep-deprived, you hardly have enough power to work at your usual pace. But you’d a better hurry, and here’s why.
Even your sleep-deprived brain has some sort of productivity window you can stay more or less focused within. Some sleep experts suggest that it opens up about an hour after awakening and closes a couple of hours after, giving you enough time to get the most important things done. After that, you can take on tasks that don’t require your full dedication and work through them at a slower pace.
If there’s anything you can delegate to your subordinate or kindly ask your co-worker to do for you, do that. However, be careful with determining which tasks can be delegated and which have the top priority.
6) Use Caffeine Strategically
Caffeinated beverages are the easiest way to get through the working day after a sleepless night.
But make sure that you consume them wisely.
The invigorating effect of caffeine lies in its ability to bind with the adenosine receptors in your brain. Adenosine is one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters and its job is to induce sleepiness. After sleep, the levels of adenosine drop and you feel energetic. With caffeine, though, you only feel energetic while it inhibits adenosine.
Here’s how you can make the most of your caffeine boost:
- Split your intake into small doses. It’s better to drink a small cup of americano every 3-4 hours than a Grande Flat White with double espresso at once. With small servings, you can maintain a stable level of caffeine in your blood and hence, be consistently alert.
- Do not drink coffee past 4 p.m. The thing is, even though caffeine reaches its peak concentration after 1-2 hours after ingestion, it has about 6 hours of half-life, meaning that six hours after you drink your last cup, you’ll still have half of that caffeine in your system. So, if you’re a late-night coffee drinker, be no more.
- Avoid additives. Syrups and whipped cream are good-tasting additives, but they can have some unwanted calories, making your blood sugar levels pop up, which results in even more pronounced sleepiness.
Finally, if your work requires you to make big decisions or involves a ton of strategic thinking, it’s better to press pause until you get your portion of healthy sleep. The thing is, being sleep-deprived, you will hardly come up with any reasonable solutions. In fact, your ideas might even harm the company.
So, work at a relaxed pace and postpone the important stuff until you return to your normal functioning. And what’s most important — do not let sleep deprivation become a regular part of your life. It’s detrimental not only for your career but for your health overall.