The other night I stayed up until three o’clock in the morning because I was so enjoying the book that I was reading that I couldn’t put it down. (It was Sisterlandif you’re wondering.) The next morning I woke feeling dead tired, exhausted, with my head pounding. I had known better than to stay up so late, but I did it anyway, and the morning light brought the head-throbbing, blurry-eyed repercussions. You’ve probably had some of those nights too — where you couldn’t (or didn’t want to) sleep — and you’ve probably faced the blinding, regret-laden mornings as well. Even if you were up doing something you enjoyed (which, as adults, is rarely the case), the hazy, drunk-on-lack-of-sleep feeling isn’t pleasant, and it makes it really tough to stay positive.
You’re probably no stranger to the notion that sleep is important. It’s an opportunity for our bodies and minds to recharge, and without it, we can suffer some pretty negative side effects. Lack of sleep diminishes alertness and attention, increases appetite, impairs judgment, and prompts microsleep (when you’re sleeping and you don’t even know it, like when you drive somewhere and then have no recollection of the drive). And, of course, lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your mood. If you’re sleep deprived, you’re likely to feel one (or all!) of these emotions: irritable, angry, sad, hostile, forgetful, distracted, stressed, guilty, or even depressed.
Clearly, no sleep is no good, but it happens to all of us. There are times when you choose something else over sleep. And there are times when your mind or circumstances chooses for you (like when you’re really worried or have a new puppy). Whatever the reason, if you’re fighting the battle against fatigue, here are some ways to stay positive:
STREAMLINE YOUR DAY.
Start your groggy morning off by asking yourself: what really needs to get done today? The more you can push off to a day when you’re feeling like your normal self, the better. It’ll probably be tempting to plow on through the day as you normally would, but if you do whatever you can to make your schedule easier for yourself, you’ll be able to handle whatever tasks really must get done with more effeciency and attention. Also, the less you put on your place, the less you’ll have to drive, and driving when you haven’t had any (or little) sleep is extremely dangerous. Don’t do it if you can avoid it. No errand or to-do list item is worth getting in an accident for.
EAT + DRINK NUTRITIOUSLY.
This is the hardest one for me. When I’m tired, I’m ravenous. I want to eat everything in sight — and all of those things better be salty, sweet, or fried. Of course, eating unhealthy food is never a good idea and it’s especially bad when you’re tired. On extra-tired days, strive to eat well-balanced meals and incorporate healthy, energy-boosting snacks (like nuts or fruit). Drink lots of water and avoid sugar. Apparently it’s not a bad idea to indulge in a little caffeine, too — as long as you realize that you will crash after it. (On a really tough day, though, sometimes that energy high is worth the low of the crash…)
LIMIT SOCIAL INTERACTIONS.
Let’s face it: when you’re exhausted, you’re not at your peak communication capacity, which means the day after a sleepless night is not the time for an important meeting, a difficult conversation, or connecting with new people. If at all possible, cancel or reschedule anything important. It might be a pain to adjust your schedule, but it’s way better than dealing with the repercussions of your potential irritability, forgetfulness, or inattentiveness. Even with the little events in life — chatting with your partner or kids, talking with a close friend, or conversing with a coworker — try to shorten your interactions to avoid becoming irritated or saying something your un-exhausted self wouldn’t normally say.
GO FOR A WALK OUTSIDE.
When you’re exhausted, a big dose of exercise isn’t recommended (so don’t feel guilty about skipping the gym), but a brisk walk in the sunlight can work wonders. Moving around can encourage alertness and sunlight (with sunscreen!) can be an excellent mood booster. Being in nature can really help your mood too, so if there’s somewhere you can walk with lots of trees and flowers, even better. When you’re really tired, walking around might seem like the last thing you want to do (sitting sounds so much better), but it’s really useful to get moving, particularly when it comes to boosting your mood — one of the most essential elements of making the most of sleep-deprived day.
TAKE A (SHORT) NAP.
Not gonna lie: I’m not a fan of napping. I didn’t care for it as a kid, and I don’t care for it now. It always seems to throw my whole day off, and I hate the confused feeling I typically have when I wake. That being said, I’ve read over and over again that taking a nap (less than 25 minutes) is recommended when you haven’t had any sleep. Even if you’re not a nap-taker, give it a try, and even if you can’t fall asleep, just resting for a little bit might help your body gain a bit of extra energy to get through the day. If you are a nap-taker, consider this a free pass to sneak a midday snooze.