Whether it’s because you’ve had an overnight flight, big night out or just a rough night’s sleep, we’ve all stared down the barrel of a long day at work when we’re sleep deprived. Suffice to say, it’s not fun! When all you want to do is dive back under your doona, the thought of actually having to be productive feels insurmountable. Luckily, there are a few natural, science-approved ways you can make it through the day without face-planting your computer or making any major mistakes. And then, once you’re done, give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to some Netflix time (lord knows you’ll be asleep within minutes, anyway!)
Read on for our top tips for surviving a day at work on minimal sleep.
The best thing you can do when you’ve barely slept is make sure you’re getting plenty of natural light. The second you wake up, open your curtains to send a powerful message to the brain that it’s time to rise and shine. If you work in an office where there’s limited natural light, make sure you get out for breaks as often as you can. In a 2012 study, artificial light was linked with more sleepiness and worse performance on certain cognitive tasks. Getting outdoors will also give you a vitamin D boost—which has been proven to work wonders for your energy levels and mood!
No, cold showers aren’t fun—unless it’s 35 degrees and you happen to be in one of those cool outdoors Balinese showers. But we guarantee it’ll make you feel a helluva lot better when you’ve had a crappy night’s sleep. There’s a good reason Silicon Valley entrepreneurs swear by a cold shower to start their day—nothing wakes you up quite like that first blast of icy water! “When an icy shower hits your skin, the natural reaction is to breathe much more heavily and deeply,” says sports psychologist Melinda Nicci. “This increases oxygen intake and speeds up circulation. Blood travels to your limbs and organs faster — and brain function gets a boost.” A 2017 study found that a blast of cold water in the morning was linked to higher energy levels and fewer sick days.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest you slave over a three-course breakfast when you’re sleep deprived. But it’s important to start your day with a complex breakfast that contains at least two food groups. According to dietitian Caroline Passarrello, opting for a combination of protein, fibre and nutrients is going to help you power through your day (or at the very least, make it through!). She recommends Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, wholegrain cereal with milk and dried fruit mixed in, a wholegrain waffle with peanut butter and banana or a yogurt smoothie with fruit and greens. The protein in these options will help keep you full for longer and allow you to make healthier decisions throughout the day, while the fibre gives you steady energy and the fruit provides vital nutrients and vitamins. It’s also a good idea to try to eat within an hour of waking.
When you’re exhausted, it’s tempting to drink coffee after coffee. And while caffeine will help you get through a long day, it’s important to time it wisely (and not go overboard). Believe it or not, it’s best to not reach for coffee as soon as you wake up after a poor night’s sleep. Caffeine inhibits the production of cortisol and interferes with the body’s natural rhythm, which will leave you feeling worse. So, it’s better to wait for mid-morning before you have your first coffee, and have your last one before 2 pm to ensure you can actually sleep properly that night!
A lack of sleep has been found to cause dehydration. Plus, caffeine can be incredibly dehydrating, which will only contribute to the feeling of fatigue. Make sure you’re downing plenty of h20 throughout the day (1 litre for every 20 kilos of body weight is a good rule of thumb), as it’ll help keep you alert and focused. Water bottles with measurement markings are handy for keeping track of how much you’re actually drinking.