Well+Good

How to power through your day after a sleepless night like a total boss

Photo: Getty Images/Mallika Wiriyathitipirn EyeEm

Is there anything worse than rolling out of bed after not sleeping well the night before, only to realize you have to get it together and be a functioning member of society for what feels like an infinite number of hours ahead? There’s no rolling over and going back to sleep. You can’t just turn off your responsibilities for the day. Instead you have to put on your brave if not totally bleary-eyed face to take on your to-do list, regardless of how much you want to curl back under that weighted blanket.

But when you’re coming off a night plagued by a particularly wicked case of insomnia, how can a productive day even be possible…like biologically? Because needing shut-eye is a straight up, scientific fact of life. Well luckily, there are a few ways to ensure you get through the rest of the day (even if you do feel a little drunk at work) without collapsing into a pile of goo.

Check out 5 experts tips to keep your sleepless night from ruining today.

Photo: Getty Images/People Images

1. Change your attitude

Truthfully, a lot of the bad feelings you have about taking on your day can be completely mitigated by one simple thing: your mind-set. “The most important thing to remember is that everybody has a bad night’s sleep now and then,” says Nathaniel Watson, MD, an advisory board member for SleepScore Labs. “Perception is reality. If you go into the day positively, then you’re going to be fine and be able to function.”

I know, it’s easier said than done, but Dr. Watson is clear that sleepiness is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you beat yourself down about how tired you are, the worse you’re going to feel. So after a bad night’s sleep, get yourself out of bed, take a stretch, and tell yourself you’re still going to have a productive day. Hey, what do you really have to lose by speaking these good vibes into existence? You’ll be amazed by how much just that simple step can transform your outlook.

2. Stick to the plan

If you have a typical schedule in the morning, it’s important to stick to it, Dr. Watson says. (Read: Don’t become a snooze-button addict.) “Unless you’re physically ill, there is no reason to not wake up and do your normal routine in the morning,” he says. That means that if you typically go for a run first thing, then try to get yourself out the door for it even on your sleepiest mornings.

“Unless you’re physically ill, there is no reason to not wake up and do your normal routine in the morning.” —Nathaniel Watson, MD, sleep expert

Sticking to your schedule goes for all aspects of life—from getting out of bed at a certain time to walking your dog and having a cup of coffee. It also means you shouldn’t skip breakfast in the name of “five more minutes!” Which brings me to the next tip…

3. Make sure you’re eating healthy

“It’s important to not skip meals,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com. “That could make you more tired, even though you may feel too tired to throw something together.” She suggests easy-to-prepare foods, like almond butter on toast or a Greek yogurt. “That will give you protein and carbs, which will help give you energy to get through the rest of the day,” she says. Of course, if you’re intermittent fasting, the whole no-breakfast-because-I’m-tired thing works in your favor—but only if you’ve worked out a nutrition plan that feeds your body everything it needs.

It’s also important to ensure that the foods you’re eating are actually healthy. Sure, a big bowl of pasta for a desk lunch may seem comforting when you’re not feeling great or alert, but it could have you napping under your desk in a half hour. Not ideal. And as much as you may want to reach for sugar to help give you a buzz, Taub-Dix says it’s a terrible idea. “You’ll crash later and feel even more tired than you did before,” she says.

4. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can make you feel fatigued on its own. But if you add a terrible night’s sleep on top of it, you can wind up feeling even worse. So Taub-Dix suggests sipping throughout the day. “You can reach for water, sparkling water, coffee, or tea,” she says. And keep in mind that many fruits and veggies are also high in water. Soups are another good source of hydration, depending on the ingredients list (read: homemade bowls of butternut squash tend to be best). “Canned soups contain a lot of sodium, which can make you even more dehydrated,” Taub-Dix says.

A note on coffee, for all you caffeine lovers out there: Both Dr. Watson and Taub-Dix say it’s a great idea to sip some throughout the day to keep your eyes open. But try your hardest not to stray from your typical amount, since the added caffeine will likely just make you feel jittery, not awake. And don’t drink coffee or caffeinated teas late in the day if it’s not part of your schedule, since it can mess with your sleep for a second night in a row.

5. Try to maintain your sleep schedule

It may be tempting to crawl directly into bed as soon as you get home, but Dr. Watson says you should try your hardest to go to sleep at your regular time. “If your eyes are shutting and you can’t stay awake, that’s one thing,” he says. “But if you can manage, try to stay awake.” This will help to keep your circadian rhythm on track, ensuring you won’t be tossing and turning for another night in a row.

And if you still can’t sleep, Dr. Watson says forcing it is the worst course of action. “Sleep is something that happens given the right circumstances,” he says. “It’s not something you do.” In other words?

The best way to deal is to listen to your body. Acute insomnia tends to clear up on its own, but if you’re having issues with your sleep for three months or longer, it’s time to see a specialist.

To make sure insomnia lightning doesn’t strike twice, try this tip to fall asleep in two minutes flat. Also, consider taking a magnesium supplement—it could be just the sleep aid you need.