A large meal before bed, too much on your mind, or a crying baby that keeps you awake all night: sometimes it is simply impossible to get enough sleep. In the morning, we feel wiped out and sleep-deprived, and the thought of a day full of work, meetings, and errands may make us break into a cold sweat.
But before you break into that cold sweat, let’s learn about what sleep deprivation is and how you can still get through the day when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation occurs when your body doesn’t get enough sleep, specifically speaking in time and quality. For adults, it is recommended to get anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep every night to avoid feeling tired the next day.(1,2)
How long you go without getting proper sleep can lead to other forms of sleep deprivation, such as acute sleep deprivation or chronic sleep deprivation.
Acute sleep deprivation refers to a reduction of sleep for a short period of time, usually just a few days. But if you are constantly not making or having time to sleep seven to nine hours every night, this can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.
Chronic sleep deprivation, also known as long-term sleep deprivation, is when a person does not get enough sleep for three months or longer.
How Do You Know if You’re Sleep-Deprived?
Besides counting the number of hours of sleep you get every night, there are other ways your body will let you know it’s not getting enough sleep. The most common symptoms of sleep deprivation are drowsiness, inability to concentrate, and mood changes.
But the less sleep you get, the more symptoms you may encounter. Other common lack of sleep symptoms you may experience are:
- Lack of energy
- Slowed thinking
- Memory problems
- Poor decision making
- Worsened reaction times
You should always listen to your body and acknowledge your symptoms, and if you suffer from a constant lack of sleep, it may be time to consult a healthcare professional.
But if you just had one sleepless night and need to get through the day, here are six tips (besides the classic uppers like coffee) to boost your energy when you lack sleep.
What to Do When You Didn’t Get Enough Sleep
1. Keep your body hydrated
If you feel exhausted in the morning, it’s time to hydrate! When our body is dehydrated, we feel even more tired. Always drink a large glass of lukewarm water with a squeeze of lemon juice in the morning. You’ll see how it really boosts your energy.
Do you know how much water you should drink every day? Enter your data now and find out about your liquid requirement:
2. Take a cold shower
Another recommendation to start the day right is to take a cold or contrast shower (alternating between hot and cold water) to stimulate your circulation. Increased circulation requires higher oxygenation levels in the body, which help wake up your brain.
If you don’t have access to a shower, you can also splash some cold water on your face or put a cool, wet cloth on your neck for a similar effect.
After your shower (or throughout the day), rub some peppermint essential oil on your palms, make your hands into a little “tent” and take a few deep breaths. You can massage the rest of the peppermint oil into your neck or wrists for a guaranteed energy boost!
3. Movement and light help wake you up
Even if you feel completely exhausted after a short night’s sleep, it’s important that you move enough:
- Ride your bike to work
- Get off the bus or subway one stop earlier and walk the rest
- Park your car farther away from your workplace.
Movement will help wake you up.
Being exposed to enough sunlight can also help: light helps block the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. While indoors, you can make sure that your workspace is well-lit with a good desk lamp or open the blinds to let the sunlight in.(3)
4. Eat the right foods
Naturally, it’s tempting to drink tons of coffee when you haven’t had enough sleep; just be careful not to have too much. After all, caffeine has a “crash” effect once the energy boost has worn off, and too much of it can also make you restless and edgy.
On days when you don’t get enough sleep, grab a refreshing piece of fruit, drink plenty of water, or opt for foods rich in protein. Foods like almonds or cashews, yogurt, chicken, or fish are just a few of the things that can give your body some of that much needed energy.
It’s important to avoid large meals that force your body to use a lot of energy for digestion. Fast food like burgers and fries or meals high in carbs should be a no-go for you on days like this.
Did you know…
…that chewing gum helps relieve sleepiness? This was the conclusion of a US study on the effect of chewing gum on alertness.(4)
5. Recharge with a power nap
6. Add variety to your day
When you haven’t had enough sleep, you may not be able to concentrate or feel very productive the next day. So if you can, do things that are easy to manage and don’t require too much thought.
If you still have important tasks to handle that require your attention, it’s a good idea to try and break one big task into smaller, more manageable tasks. Concentrating for a shorter amount of time is easier and could still help you finish the tasks you need to get done.
In A Nutshell: Try to Get Enough Sleep
Although missing a few hours of sleep now and then can be normal, don’t forget to check in with yourself and listen to your body if you experience lack of sleep symptoms. With our six natural ways to stay awake, you can find short-term relief to make you feel more energized, but the best way to treat sleep deprivation is by getting enough sleep every night.