Didn’t sleep at all

Didn’t Sleep Much Last Night? 10 Ways to Function Today.

November 9, 2016 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This article originally published September 9, 2015.

Need to get a better night’s sleep so you can work harder tomorrow? It will happen to you at some point: The kids kept you up all night. You toss and turn until 4 a.m. because you’re worried about bills. You just wrapped up a project, and now it’s 2 a.m.

Related: Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You and Your Career

No matter the culprit, we’ve all had those nights when we don’t get enough sleep. So, what’s person to do when that alarm clock annoyingly goes off in the morning? Aside from drinking caffeine (in moderation), try these 10 other techniques in order to function on that suboptimal amount of sleep you had the night before.

1. Drink lots of water.

We get fatigued when we’re dehydrated. So, the more water we drink, the more alert and wake we feel. Besides, drinking all of that water requires more restroom breaks, which in turn is a simple way to be more active and not fall asleep at the desk.

Bonus tip: Add some lemon to your water. The zest should pep you up.

2. Get your blood moving.

Speaking of being active, a workout is great way to wake up. Exercise boosts energy and adrenaline levels through circulation and a speed-up to your metabolism. And those changes should help you survive the day. Exercise will also help you sleep better at night.

If you don’t have time for a complete workout, just run up and down a set of stairs or go for a walk during a break.

3. Cut back on large meals.

Avoid eating large meals, junk food or a ton of carbohydrates. Those types of foods will make you drowsy. Instead, munch on a series of lighter meals that are lean and contain plenty of proteins: specifically, foods that contain tyrosine.

Whole grains, fruits and veggies, yogurt, chicken and fish are examples of food that won’t slow you down and will keep you alert.

Related: This Is Your Brain on Not Enough Sleep (Infographic)

4. Go outside.

Sunlight helps you battle afternoon sleepiness because it increases the levels of vitamins D and B. On top of that, sunlight in moderation will improve your mood, help you focus and give your immune system a little boost, which is needed because you put your immune system in danger when you don’t get enough sleep.

If you can’t make it outside during a break, try sitting next to a window or installing high-intensity light bulbs. However, the fresh air and change of scenery that the outdoors provides is preferable.

5. Take a cold shower.

A cold shower stimulates your body, and the sudden shock will often help wake you up. Of course, you may not be able to take a cold shower multiple times throughout the day.

If you’re at work, try splashing some cold water on your face in the restroom or placing an ice cube on your wrists or temple.

6. Change things up.

Monotony won’t help you stay awake. Throughout the day, change things up so you have some variety to keep you going.

Whether that means joking around with co-workers, making phone calls, watching movie trailers on YouTube, playing a computer game or doing a little yoga in your office, spicing up your day will keep you stimulated when you’re extremely tired.

7. Have a piece of gum.

Researchers have discovered that chewing gum can reduce sleepiness, probably because it enhances cerebral activity. If you want to get the most out of your gum-chewing experience, stick with mint-flavored gum because mint has more of a rousing effect.

Chewing gum will give you only a temporary burst, so rely on it at those rare times when you really need a boost.

8. Prioritize and simplify your day.

When you’re tired, you probably aren’t at your most productive. So, why would you stress yourself out and try to complete ten different tasks? Chances are, you can get away with shaving down that list by crossing off your most important ones and leaving items that can wait until another day. In other words, simplify your day as much as possible.

Bonus tip: If you can, delegate some of these tasks, both professional and personal, to other people.

9. Avoid driving.

Driving when you’re tired is extremely dangerous. Instead of taking this risk, rely on public transportation or carpooling.

Not only will you prevent a severe accident, you may even have a couple of minutes to close your eyes.

10. Take a catnap.

If you’re able to, take a catnap in the early afternoon — around 2 p.m. Taking a 20-to-25-minute nap is a great way to recharge your mind and body. If you aren’t fortunate to work in a place with quiet areas or don’t have your own office, be creative.

If you drive to work, take a nap in the car on your lunch break.

While getting enough sleep should be a goal for us all, in reality it just isn’t going to happen every night. These tips will help you get through the day. What works for you? Share your tips in the comments section!

Related: To Really Shine at Work, How Much Sleep Is Required?

3. Befriend Caffeine
The powers of caffeine are well known—and since it’s a stimulant, its very purpose is to wake you up. If you need a little more to finish that project, that’s usually okay, says Paruthi. To keep a steady stream of energy, you could also try small doses (around 50 to 100 milligrams) sprinkled in at 9:30 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2:30 p.m., suggests Breus. Just look out for signs like a racing heart or a headache that signal you’ve overdone it, says Paruthi.

4. Try the Nap-a-Latte
Breus uses this technique he created with many of his Fortune 100 execs: “If you only got five to six hours of sleep and really need more, get yourself a 6 to 7 ounce cup of drip coffee, and put two to three ice cubes in it to cool it down,” he says. Then drink the entire glass quickly and take a 25-minute nap. “You will get enough Stage 1 to 2 sleep to help lower your sleep drive, and the caffeine will kick in at around the time you wake up,” he says. “It will give you the energy boost you need and is good for about four hours.” Make sure to try the trick before 2 p.m. as to not mess with your next night’s sleep.

5. Or Just a Regular Short Nap
“A quick power nap is also a good idea (without the caffeine) on the days you’re sleep deprived,” says Breus. Shoot for mid-morning for 15 to 20 minutes—but not too much longer or you’ll feel worse (unless you can score a full sleep cycle, which is 90 minutes, he says).

6. Skip the Serious Talks
Ever notice when you’re sleepy you’re also annoyed with everyone? Research suggests when we’re lacking sleep, we’re more likely to be overly emotional—and not handle our feelings as well as we might when we’re well rested. So push back the big talks, suggests Breus.

7. Make an Early Bed Time
If you’re running on five hours of shuteye, do your best to catch that up to seven or eight hours in the next night or so, suggests Paruthi. Normally in bed by 10:30 p.m.? Try to make that 9:30 p.m. It probably won’t be too difficult.

Cassie Shortsleeve Freelance Writer Cassie Shortsleeve is a skilled freelance writer and editor with almost a decade of experience reporting on all things health, fitness, and travel.

You Didn’t Sleep At All Last Night? Actually, Maybe You Did: Insomnia, Reconsidered

Every year, I see many patients who tell me that they get only a few hours of sleep each night. In fact, I have had several swear they barely sleep at all. In most cases, they honestly believe this to be true. Interestingly, if we bring them into our sleep lab, many of these individuals will insist that they slept only a few hours when their electroencephalogram (EEG) indicates that they actually slept much longer.

This type of insomnia, called Paradoxical Insomnia, is also referred to as Sleep State Misperception. Previously it was considered a rare condition, present–or so we thought–in no more than five percent of insomnia sufferers. We now know this estimate to be incorrect. Furthermore, in several recent studies, the incidence is closer to 50% when defined as misperceiving-sleep-as-wake-time by at least one hour or more per night.

As a result, we are now coming to realize there are two basic types of insomniacs:

1) Those who sleep greater than six hours a night but perceive they sleep less;

2) Those who actually sleep fewer than six hours, but accurately estimate their sleep time.

Why is it important to differentiate between the two groups of insomniacs? Because those who actually sleep fewer than six hours a night are much more likely to develop hypertension, diabetes, and suffer earlier death than those who misperceive their sleep time. These findings are potentially revolutionary when it comes to our understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of insomnia. Consequently, we need objective data in order to differentiate these two types since effective treatment approaches are different.

What I find fascinating is that those with the misperception of their sleep cycles are more likely to respond to CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), while those who actually sleep fewer than six hours–the short sleeper type–are more likely to require pharmacological therapies. Why? It appears that the short sleepers have an underlying level of physiological hyperarousal. They have elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, while the misperception group seems to demonstrate more of a psychological basis for their insomnia.

The good news is that in sleep medicine we now have accurate tools for differentiating these two types. We have a device called an actigraph that is worn like a wristwatch on the subject’s arm. It correlates movement with wakefulness and its absence with sleep. Even more astonishing is a new form of technology called the Sleep Profiler. It records the subject’s brain waves during the night at home, accurately differentiating sleep from wake and also the distinctive stages of sleep. In fact, I have used this form of technology in my own practice with great success.

Due to our new understanding of insomnia and these technological advances, we can offer our patients evidenced-based therapies. As with many other things in medicine, we are learning that in the treatment of insomnia, one size does not fit all.


So, you couldn’t sleep last night. You’d like nothing more than to go back to bed, but you’ve got a long day of work staring you in the face. How do you power through?

Science of Us talked to sleep researchers to figure out how to get through a day after you’ve had a sleepless night. Each of them wanted to be incredibly clear, up front, about this: You really, really need seven to eight hours of sleep to function like a proper human being (unless you’re one of those short sleepers — but look, you aren’t). Still, they acknowledged, sleepless nights happen, and sometimes they happen to busy people who’ve got stuff to do the next day.

Consider this a template: Maybe not all of their advice will directly apply to you, because you work nights, or you work from home, or you work extremely long days. But, very broadly speaking, here’s the best way to structure a very sleepy day so you can make it to the end.

7 a.m.: Your alarm goes off. You will want to hit the snooze button. Resist this urge. “Oh my God. No snooze,” says Orfeu Buxton, a professor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Don’t insult yourself like that.” It feels good — no, it feels awesome — in the moment, but those seven-minute extra increments of dozing aren’t actually restorative sleep and won’t make you any more alert. You’d do better to set your alarm for the latest possible moment — when you actually have to get out of bed and start getting yourself together — in order to get the most sleep possible.

7:30 a.m.: Eat breakfast. Research suggests that eating within an hour of waking up will boost your mood and cognitive performance for the early part of your day. Like with your snooze button, you’re going to have to exercise some willpower here, too; sleepy people tend to crave simple carbs and sugar, Buxton says, but those are a bad bet for the sleep-deprived. “Anything that causes that sugar spike and insulin spike is followed by a crash, so it’s going to make you more sleepy later,” he said. Stick to whole grains, protein, maybe a little fruit. “The junk will help, but only for about 20 minutes. It’s exactly like the snooze button,” Buxton said.

Also: Have (a little) caffeine. Experts recommend no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. (For reference: One eight-ounce cup of regular coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine.) Use it wisely. You’ll be feeling very groggy just after waking up — this is something researchers call sleep inertia — but after 20 or 30 minutes, the fog will clear a bit. “After that sleep inertia phase, there’ll be a rebound period of alertness,” Buxton said. “There’s the least reason to have coffee then. That coffee will be much more helpful midday.” His own personal early a.m. caffeine routine, if you’d like to borrow it, is a small espresso.

8 a.m.: Get outside. Surrounding yourself with as much bright light, especially natural light, as possible will help you feel more alert, explains Sean Drummond, a psychiatrist at the Laboratory of Sleep and Behavioral Neuroscience at University of California, San Diego. “First thing in the morning is one of the most important times,” he said. “It’ll boost alertness, it’ll up your body temperature, it’ll reset your circadian rhythms.” But don’t wear sunglasses. “If you wear your sunglasses, the right frequency of sunlight can’t get into your eyes,” which means you don’t get as much of the cognitive boost as you could, Drummond said. So within the first hour or so of waking up, get outside and get some natural light, if you can.

And you get bonus points for an a.m. jog, says Lauren Hale, a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University and a spokesperson for the National Sleep Foundation. “The evidence is mixed, but there are theoretical reasons that you should exercise earlier in the morning, especially if you’re going to be outside doing a run,” she said. “You want the light effects, which are the alerting effects.” If that’s not going to happen, though, and you live and work in New York City, your morning walk to the train will suffice.

9 a.m.: Get your toughest tasks done first. You will want to procrastinate your creative work in favor of your busy work, telling yourself that you’ll get to the thinky stuff after you’ve had some time to wake up. Again: Resist this urge. “That’s the path for despair,” Buxton said. Because, unfortunately, this is it; it’s the most alert you’ll be all day. Best take advantage of it, because it’s a very small window for the sleep-deprived brain, opening about one hour after waking and closing two hours later. “So get critical tasks out of the way first,” Buxton says. “A different construct would be: I’m almost totally out of gas; I need to use all of that for the most important things, and nothing else.”

10 a.m.: Have another cup of coffee. A caffeine pro-tip for the sleep-deprived: The attention-boosting and alertness effects of caffeine may not kick in until 30 minutes after you’ve consumed it. So if you’re grabbing a cup of coffee on your way to a morning meeting, you could already be too late.

11 a.m.: Maybe lie low today, as much as you’re able. Okay, this isn’t really a time-specific task. But if you’re really out of it, you might consider rescheduling meetings or phone calls, if possible. “Sometimes, positive interactions with others are rewarding and alerting,” Buxton says. “The problem is the sleep-deprived person in that interaction. It’s been shown that sleep-deprived people are less able to detect others’ nonverbal cues, that they are more curmudgeonly, and not the most communicative in team situations.

“So if you’re feeling surly, maybe you should avoid people, and not set yourself up for failure,” he continued. “It’s really best to interact with others when you can be your best.”

Noon: Have a (light) lunch. Again, stick with the healthy stuff: whole grains, veggies, lean protein. Stay away from the simple carbs and sugar. You’ll naturally feel sleepier in the afternoon, anyway, but eating a too-heavy lunch will make it even worse.

1 p.m.: Have some more coffee. Or tea, or whatever your caffeine mode of choice may be. Even when you’re operating on a good night’s sleep, your drowsiest time of the day tends to be six to eight hours after waking. But cut yourself off from the caffeine no later than 3 p.m.; the alertness effects from caffeine can stay in your system up to seven hours, and you don’t want to suffer through one sleep-deprived day only to set yourself up for another tomorrow.

2 p.m.: Best-case scenario: take a nap. This is usually the part in a sleep story where the writer urges you to take a nap, which always seems a little absurd. Who has time for that? If you can squeeze a quick nap in — maybe behind your closed office door or in your car if you drive one to work — your afternoon will be better for it. “Even a 20-minute nap’s restorative powers can last for hours,” Buxton said.

Second-best scenario: Get back outside. “If you’re feeling really groggy, but can’t take a nap, just go outside for a few minutes,” Drummond said. But, again, leave the sunglasses behind.

3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.: Power through some busy work. You know the things you’ve been meaning to do but have been putting off forever? Replying to emails, organizing your inbox — that kind of stuff? Do it now. These tasks don’t require as much focused attention, and by the afternoon, you’re not going to have much of that. A very sleepy person, in fact, has trouble concentrating for more than ten minutes at a time, Drummond said. Then, when you’re done, sneak out a little early, if at all possible. Say sleep scientists told you to.

Sleepless nights happen to the best of us. Maybe you tossed and turned all night long, were up working on an urgent deadline or had a bit too much fun celebrating last night and it ate into your shuteye. Whatever the case, the reality is that you still have to face the next day on little to no sleep and still function at an acceptable level.

“When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain doesn’t function at optimal speed,” says Leigh Winters, a neuroscientist and wellness expert. “Brain imaging research shows that sleep deprivation results in reduced blood flow to areas of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex responsible for higher level thought processes like working memory. It’s also likely to make you more irritable and prone to mood swings.”

Getting through the day is bound to be a struggle. That said, it’s still possible to power through, and do it as productively as possible, until you’re finally able to crash into the sweet softness of your mattress.

Sit by a Window or Step Outside

“Nature is one of our most underutilized self-soothers both physiological and psychologically,” notes Winters. “Connecting with nature and being in fresh air can make you feel more awake. Also, getting some natural sunlight helps maintain circadian rhythms, which will help get your sleep schedule back on track.” She added that while blue-wavelength light — like that emitted by our phones and computers — can mimic natural light, actually being in nature can reduce your heart rate and stress levels and mentally invigorate you.

Get a Better Night’s Sleep With This iPhone Trick

Oct. 13, 201700:45

Resist Sugar, Carbs and Processed Foods

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Your tired body will crave an easily digestible and quick high, but with that high comes a gnarly crash, warned registered dietitian Maya Feller. “Skip the ultra-processed foods and beverages,” she advises. “They may sound good in the moment but will likely provide a rush of unsustained energy that may leave you more tired and hungry. It’s a cycle that your already tired body does not need.”

Prioritize Balanced Meals and Snacks

You should eat balanced meals every day, but doing so becomes doubly important on days when you’re completely wiped. “Create meals that supply all of the macronutrients from whole and minimally processed sources,” says Feller. “A great lunch would be a serving of fish — or really any protein of your choice — with a heaping side of greens topped with nuts and seeds.” An optimal afternoon snack, she adds, could be a slice of traditional dark pumpernickel bread topped with avocado and hummus. “The lunch is providing lean protein along with a boost of phytonutrients from the greens; the snack is providing a fiber-rich whole grain with plant-based fats and vitamins and minerals,” she explains.

Don’t Skip Meals

On that note: Don’t forget to eat altogether. It may slip your already groggy mind, so create an alert on your phone if you have to. “Skipping meals leads to glucose dips and increased moodiness,” notes Feller. Spare your officemate and family the extra dose of crankiness and carve out time to chow down.

Power Nap, If You Must

“A power nap can be of value when there is an occasional interruption from the normal schedule of sleep,” says Dr. Steven Olmos, who is board certified in sleep-related disorders. “The greatest pressure to sleep is 4 a.m. and 4 p.m., so if you are feeling an afternoon dip in energy, a quick nap can restore the body fatigue that is felt with the previous night’s interrupted sleep.” A power nap is simply 20 minutes of uninterrupted, comfortable sleep — no more, no less.

Stay Active

It may seem counterintuitive to hit the gym when you’re already low on energy, but all three experts say staying active can keep you alert. “Starting the day with your blood pumping is the best formula for energy for the day. Exercise increases your core metabolic rate and will sustain for hours after you stop exercising,” notes Dr. Olmos. Winters adds: “It can be a walk or dancing around — just make sure to move your body. It’s a bonus if you get your fitness on outside.”

Caffeine Is OK, but Don’t Overdo It

“Go easy on the caffeine,” Feller warns. “Yes, it will give you a boost, but for those that are sensitive to the side effects, having too much can lead to the decreased desire for food, the jitters and difficulty sleeping.” Coffee or tea should be your moderated caffeine of choice, she says, adding that you should stay far away from sugar-doused energy drinks because “the additives are more harmful than helpful.”

Press Pause on Big Projects or Decisions

The quote “Don’t push off what you can do today until tomorrow” does not apply when you’re sleep deprived. “If you pulled an all-nighter or have an enormous sleep debt, think twice about making any big decisions or engaging in high-level thought processes, like analyzing, evaluating and planning,” says Winters. “Sleep deprivation not only slows your cognitive speed but also decreases constructive thinking skills and logical reasoning.” So refine your to-do list, push off non-priority tasks until tomorrow and allow yourself an easier day.


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6 Ways to Get Through the Workday When You Got No Sleep

Source: Thinkstock

In a perfect world, a sleepless night would be followed by a lazy day at home in bed. Unfortunately, real life and responsibilities often mean that just taking a day off to recover isn’t an option.

Yet going to work bleary-eyed is no joke. Not only are you likely to be tired and cranky, but you’re also more likely to be involved in an incident that hurts yourself or others, either at work or while driving. Overall, insomnia has a serious negative effect on work performance. Our collective lack of sleep leads to an estimated $31 billion in extra costs at work due to errors and on-the-job accidents, Psychology Today reported.

If you’re one of the more than 40 million Americans who experience insomnia at least occasionally – or if you just pulled an all-nighter or stayed out a little later than you should have – knowing how to function on fewer than eight hours of sleep is essential. We’ve pulled together this list of six tips that will help you get through the work day even when you’re not well-rested.

Keep in mind that the tips below are stop-gap measures designed to help after the occasional night of little or no sleep. Chronic insomnia, which the National Sleep Foundation defines as disrupted sleep at least three nights a week for three months, is a serious health problem. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you should look into improving your sleep hygiene. Try avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening, for example, and turning off your phone or tablet at least 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. For persistent sleep problems, see a doctor.

1. Avoid driving, if possible

Source: Thinkstock

Drowsy driving causes between 5,000 and 6,0000 fatal accidents every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If you stayed up all night, you should not be driving, period. You are impaired,” Mark Rosekind, PhD, a fatigue management expert and member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told WebMD.

If keeping your eyes open is a struggle consider taking public transportation to work, if it’s an option, or calling a cab. People who are able to work from home might want to skip the trip to the office entirely, though you’ll also need to be able to resist the lure of your bed if you do.

2. Eat a healthy breakfast

Today is not the day to skip your morning meal. If you’re operating on little sleep, you’ll feel better if you start the day with a healthy breakfast. Healthy is the key word here. Your body may be telling you that you want a doughnut, but you’ll be better off with eggs.

“Anything that causes that sugar spike and insulin spike is followed by a crash, so it’s going to make you more sleepy later,” Orfeu Buxton, a professor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, told New York Magazine. “The junk will help, but only for about 20 minutes.”

3. Grab a cup of joe

Source: Thinkstock

Fifty-four percent of adult Americans drink coffee every day, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Even if a cup of java isn’t part of your morning routine, you may get a boost from the caffeine in coffee, which can make you feel more alert because it blocks the chemicals in the brain that trigger sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Too much caffeine can make you jittery, so start with just a single cup, especially if you’re not a habitual coffee drinker. Avoid caffeine later in the day, since it can take hours to work through your system and make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

4. Get some exercise

Squeezing in a workout may be the last thing on your mind when you’re sleep deprived, but getting your body moving can help you stay alert when tired, according to Everyday Health. Morning or early afternoon is the best times to hit the gym if you’re fighting off sleepiness.

Don’t have time for an all-out workout? Even a small burst of activity can help. “You don’t have to spend hours at the gym,” Lisa Shives, MD, medical director at North Shore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Ill., told WebMD. “A brisk 10-minute walk, or some vigorous stretching, will give you a quick pick-me-up.”

5. Enjoy the sunshine

Source: Thinkstock

Really need some help staying alert? Take your energy-boosting exercise routine outside. Exposing yourself to sunshine can help you feel more awake, especially in the morning, say experts.

“Getting bright light in the morning syncs the nucleus and enables the brain to remain more awake,” Clete Kushida, MD, MPH, the director at the Stanford Center for Human Sleep Research in California, told Everyday Health.

A lack of sun exposure may even be one of the causes of your sleep problems. If you spend all day stuck indoors, your body may get confused about when it’s supposed to be awake and when it’s supposed to be asleep. Spending some time outdoors everyday is one easy way to improve the quality of your sleep.

6. Take a power nap

Just a few minutes of shut-eye could help you get over the mid-afternoon hump. If you’re lucky, your office has a nap room (Zappos, Google, and Nike are among the companies that offer this perk). If not, try sneaking away to your car or shutting the office door for a few minutes to catch some z’s.

“Power naps are a good way to compensate for sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness, especially for shift workers. It is very helpful for improving their performance and reducing hazards at work as a result of sleepiness,” Yue Leng, a sleep epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge, told the Huffington Post.

Beware, though: A brief power nap might help you get through the day, but a doze longer than 20 minutes or one that happens late in the day could make it more difficult to fall asleep at night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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