Sometimes, you just can’t beat insomnia. There are nights when you won’t be able to get to sleep no matter what you try. So, what do you do when you have to get out of bed and function the next day? I know from experience – it’s not easy. But there are some things you can do to get by when you haven’t slept a wink.
How can you function when you’re running on no sleep? Focus on making it through the day, taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally as best you can. There are a lot of things you can do to feel better as well as things to avoid so you don’t feel worse.
Dealing with life when you’ve been up all night really is a two-pronged approach. You have to know how to help your body deal with the exhaustion while simultaneously avoiding things that make you feel worse. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between the two. Let’s take a look.
What Not to Do If You’ve Been Awake All Night
When you’re tired, there are a lot of things you’re going to be tempted to do because they feel good or are convenient. Most of them are not good for you and a few can even be dangerous. Let’s talk about the things you should definitely not do after you’ve been up all night.
1. Don’t drive.
In my research, I learned that being staying up for 18 hours straight makes you feel the same as a blood alcohol level of 0.05. Being awake for 24 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol level of 0.1 which is legally drunk. Your coordination and memory are impaired so it’s definitely not a good time to get behind the wheel.
If you have to go to work, consider public transportation, carpooling, or a ride-sharing service. Even if you feel like you can drive to work safely, remember that you have to drive home again at the end of the day when you’ll be even more tired. It’s not worth the risk.
2. Don’t hit the snooze button.
If you manage to get even the slightest bit of sleep, it’s always tempting to hit the snooze button after your alarm goes off. Those extra few minutes might seem like a good idea at the time but they’re not really doing anything for you. The short periods of extra sleep aren’t restorative and won’t give you more energy. Your best bet is to set your alarm for the latest possible minute so you get as much deep sleep as possible.
3. Don’t fill up on quick, processed, or sugary snacks.
I don’t know about you but, when I’m exhausted, I want the best tasting, quickest thing available. Sugar can deliver a quick burst of energy but the inevitable crash makes it even more difficult to cope with exhaustion. Plus, when you eat unhealthy food, it usually makes your body feel even worse.
4. Don’t overdo it on caffeine.
It’s tempting to keep throwing back cups of coffee but too much caffeine won’t help you feel any more alert than a few cups and can even affect your sleep at the end of the day. Two cups of coffee are good. Three is okay, just space them throughout the day. You shouldn’t constantly have a cup of coffee in your hand. Try to have your last cup of the day before 3 pm to make sure it doesn’t keep you up at night.
Here’s What You Should Do to Get Through a Long Day on No Sleep
When you’re trying to make it through a day on no sleep, it’s best to try to stick to your routine as much as possible. It might be tempting to call off sick from work to stay home and sleep all day but, honestly, that’s probably only going to lead to more sleep problems the next night.
Get up at your regular time and start your routine. It isn’t going to be easy but there are some things you can do to make it through the day and back to your warm, comfy bed.
1. Eat balanced, nutritious meals.
Avoid sugary foods and heavy carbs. Instead, aim for foods rich in fiber and high in protein. Smaller meals and snacks are usually better than larger meals because they help spread the energy boost throughout the day and prevent anything heavy from sitting in your stomach, making you feel worst.
2. Go outside and take a walk.
If you regularly go to the gym, you can still give it a go just be sure to keep it light. If you can’t possibly imagine working out on a day when you’re so tired, try to at least get outside and take a walk. Moving around helps you feel more alert, as does the sunlight and fresh air. Being outdoors also helps cue your body that it’s time to be awake.
3. Take a nap if you can.
Eat at your desk and use your lunch break to take a nap. Believe it or not, a quick 20- to 25-minute nap can be just enough to take the edge off. Sleeping longer could make you feel even worse.
You can also try quickly drinking a cup of coffee before you rest. It takes about a half hour for the caffeine to get into your system which means it will begin working just as you’re waking up from your power nap. This combination can give you a pretty good energy burst to get you through the rest of the day.
4. Make Your Day as Simple as Possible
When you’re exhausted, it’s really hard to focus and think clearly so it’s definitely not the time to be making any big decisions. Try to reschedule any meetings if you can and avoid deep, important conversations. Lack of sleep makes you grumpy and over emotional and shortens your temper. It’s not a good time to deal with other people about sensitive matters.
If you have a long to-do list, figure out what tasks absolutely have to be done and what can wait. Focus on doing one or two of the items really well and put off what you can until you’re more rested.
Sleep Carefully the Next Night
You might be tempted to crash as soon as you get home from work but trying to catch up on a night of lost sleep all at once isn’t a good idea. Going to bed too early might mean an early wake up that could throw off your sleep schedule for another night.
The best thing to do is head to bed about an hour earlier than your normal bed time. This helps you catch up on your sleep deficit without risking ongoing sleep problems.
If it’s a weekend and you don’t have to wake up at a set time, you might be tempted to sleep the day away. Again, trying to catch up in one day isn’t ideal. Let yourself sleep an hour or so past your usual wake up time then get up and start your day. Instead of trying to get 10 hours or more to make up for a sleepless night, try to get around eight hours a night for a few nights in a row to rejuvenate.
Take Care of Yourself
The hardest part of making it through a day on no sleep is how mentally crushing it can be. It takes a lot to keep yourself going and, at times, it can leave you feeling hopeless. You’ll probably keep looking at your watch, counting down the hours until you can go home, trying hard to make it through the next one.
When those moments hit, get up, take a walk outside, have a cup of coffee, and push through. It might seem like the day will never end, but it will. Before you know it, you’ll be crawling into your bed at the end of the day, ready to catch up on lost sleep. And believe me, there’s no better feeling than when a long day of running on fumes is over and you finally get to rest again.