First off, I am a major advocate of getting adequate sleep. Sleep is the way our body restores itself from sickness, enhances cognition and focus, and even helps our bodies maintain a healthy weight, so consistently getting good sleep is probably the single most important step we can take towards health and vitality.
And as much as I attempt to practice good sleep habits and get a full 8 hours every night, let’s be honest: sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Especially with all the anxiety and uncertainty I’m feeling surrounding COVID-19 that’s keeping me up at night.
But, this feeling is unfortunately not new for me, either — whether I stayed up too late ticking off my to-do list, took an overnight flight for work, dealt with a toddler who had a nightmare and wet the bed all in the same night, or experienced one of my occasional bouts of insomnia, I’m all too familiar with that foggy feeling of my alarm going off and realizing that I’m headed into a busy workday on far too little sleep. I used to get really anxious when this happened (what if my brain can’t function on that conference call? Am I going to be cranky with the kids all day?), but over time I’ve learned a few hacks that help me get through the occasional missed night’s sleep without missing a beat. Read on for 5 things I always do to help me feel energized when I’m sleep-deprived.
ps – Here are some great tips on how to fall asleep faster.
1. Drink a ton of water and a moderate amount of coffee.
Dehydration equals major fatigue, so I try to keep a huge water bottle within arms reach when I’m running on a lack of sleep and refill it throughout the day. It will rehydrate and wake up your organs and generally just make you feel more refreshed. And people: now is not the time to stick to your no caffeine goals unless you’re one of those people who truly doesn’t react well to it. Studies have shown moderate amounts of caffeine to be mood-lifting, stress-reducing, and obviously a quick way to put a pep in your step. If you’re not into coffee, try black tea, matcha, or yerbe maté for smaller yet still potent doses of caffeine. Have a cup in the morning and maybe one around midday, but don’t overdo it and make sure to cut yourself off by 2pm so you don’t have trouble falling asleep that night.
2 – Eat a meal that includes greens, protein, and healthy fat.
On a recent work trip, I had to take the redeye flight from San Francisco that arrived in New York City at 7am the next day. Just enough time to check into my hotel, take a shower, eat breakfast, and then head into a high pressure client meeting! I barely slept on the plane and felt kind of panicky when I arrived at my hotel feeling awful and so sleepy, but thankfully my room service brekkie changed all that. I ordered a clean combination of a kale salad with hazelnuts topped with two soft boiled eggs and an avocado… and I ate it ALL. Good fats, especially avocados, have been shown to repair cognitive function, which we could all use a little help with when we’re sleep-poor, leafy greens flood your body with hydration and minerals, and protein gives energy and makes you feel satisfied. I headed out into my day feeling like a new woman!
3 – Get some exercise – preferably outside.
Getting your blood pumping first thing will increase circulation, oxygen, and energy levels, so even a 5 minute round of jumping jacks and burpees in a hotel room will go a long way towards helping you feel more energetic. And bonus points if you can go for a power walk or a run outside: sunlight increases your vitamin D levels, and even more importantly it boosts your mood, helps you focus, and reminds your body that it’s daytime so WAKE THE F UP.
4 – Fake it til you make it.
A couple years ago, I had a tough bout with insomnia that left me feeling anxious and for the first time ever, a little depressed. The experience made me realize in an entirely new way the importance of solid sleep for total well-being. As I was navigating all this, I realized something: the more I talked about how tired and sleep-deprived I was to the people around me throughout the day, the worse I felt. My talking about it served as a constant reminder that I wasn’t on my A-game, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I decided to do a little experiment and, even on those nights when I’d slept terribly, I would just show up to work acting like everything was normal and not mentioning my sleepless night. And you know what? Even though I didn’t feel great necessarily, I found that I’d mostly forget how sleep-deprived I was and just get on with the rest of my day!
5 – Simplify your schedule.
Today is not the day to try and be superwoman. Take a look at your schedule, cross out the things that aren’t essential, and cut yourself some slack. When you’re running on suboptimal sleep, you’re not going to be your most productive, so don’t try to give a suboptimal version of yourself to activities that could wait for another day. I’ve found that making an extra effort to ditch multitasking and focus on a single task at a time goes a long way when I’m feeling tired. Keep it simple and go to bed early tonight!