Pep Talk: You Can Survive the Workday on No Sleep

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Teething toddler? Too much fun at last night’s happy hour? Run-of-the-mill insomnia? We’ve all been there. And for those of us with small children, we often don’t have control over how often we visit the land of five hours of sleep (or less).

But you will survive! Tonight you will go to bed early, the stars will align, and you will get a full 7-8hrs and awake refreshed (positive thinking helps, people). Until that blessed time comes, here are some tips for surviving the workday:

Keep your morning routine – No matter how tempting, do not hit snooze. Get up at your normal time, or if you have flexibility, at a reasonable time that allows you to keep a healthy morning routine – shower, breakfast, morning workout, etc. Snoozing will just make you groggy, and you’ll run out the door feeling like a rushed disaster, rather than pulled together and sleepy. “Act as if” you got a full night’s sleep, and it will help to trick your body into thinking that is true. You’ll also be more likely to brush your teeth and wear a matching outfit, which helps.

Watch what you eat – Today is not the day to eat a ton of sugar or grease, even if that is what you are craving. Eat something energizing, drink a huge glass of water, and add a reasonable amount caffeine (if you usually do). Binge on sugar and the sugar crash will hurt later. Binge on heavy foods and you’ll want to climb right back into bed. This applies to both breakfast and lunch. Once you have survived until dinner, eat whatever will help you get to bed the earliest.

Apply caffeine and water strategically – Avoid pounding a venti triple latte right off the bat. Experts interviewed by Melissa Dahl for New York Magazine recommend spacing out your caffeine intake, as it is often much more helpful mid-morning or early afternoon, rather than first thing (when presumably water, food, and a little adrenaline will get you out the door). Multiple experts also recommend drinking extra water to stay alert (here, here, and here). I know chugging a full glass of ice water will often give me the boost I need to get through a meeting, while being a lot more gentle on my stomach than yet another cup of coffee, tea, or diet coke.

Get some natural light and move – Maybe you aren’t up for a sunrise run, but even just a quick walk outdoors will remind your body that it is daytime and help you to feel more alert. Ideally, sprinkling some natural light throughout your day will help you avoid late morning or late afternoon crashes. Frequent trips to the water cooler do double duty – keeping you hydrated and keeping you from zoning out and falling asleep at your desk.

Work carefully – We’ve all seen the reports about how tired drivers are almost as impaired as drunk drivers. Keeping that in mind, approach each work task knowing that you are not at your best. Your emails need at least a second, if not a third, read before sending. Everything you write should be proofread, preferably by someone else’s fresh eyes. And whenever possible, remove distractions from your work space so that you can mono-focus on the task at hand. The extra caution may slow you down a little, but it will be much quicker than making mistakes.

We’ve all been there before and will likely be there again. These are the tips that work best for me. Share yours in the comments below or via Twitter @RachelLColello!

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