4 Strategies for Getting Through a Day When You Didn’t Sleep Well

BY Lindsay Tigar · July 26, 2016

Ever had the Sunday Scaries? If so, you know they’re no joke: You realize Monday is only a few hours away and your mind suddenly decides it’s not interested in sleeping. You try meditation exercises, you take some all-natural melatonin and you even count backward from 100, but nothing seems to transport you to dreamland. If you’re like nearly 50 to 70 million Americans who struggle with sleep—regardless if it’s on Sunday or any other day of the week—you’ve dealt with being exhausted at the office more times than you can count.

But just because you didn’t get enough shut-eye, it doesn’t mean that your whole day is wasted. It can mean that it’s tougher to do things that normally bring you joy. “Lack of sleep has many long-term and short-term consequences,” Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, CHWC, author of The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition, says. “Being sleepy has a way of distracting us from our health and fitness goals and weakening our resolve. If you feel lousy, just how likely are you to make it to your exercise class or prepare a healthful meal? Probably not so likely.”

But before you worry too much about your exhaustion, experts agree there are many ways to make it through the day—even when all you can think of is running as fast as your tired feet can take you to your bed.

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1. Exercise.

When you’re sitting at your desk, staring at you computer and feeling exhausted at 10 a.m., the thought of your 6:30 p.m. workout class might seem daunting. But certified personal trainer and creator of HIIT IT! Daphnie Yang says sweating can boost your energy fast. And the best part? It doesn’t have to be a long run, a bootcamp class or a long set of strength training. The only thing you have to do is move! “When you didn’t sleep well, do your best to squeeze in a workout. Even a 20-minute jog, a 4-minute Tabata or 15-minute yoga video will increase circulation and bring blood and oxygen to the brain, thereby waking it up,” she explains.

2. Hydrate.

It’s normal to reach for a cup (or three) of coffee when you haven’t slept well, but Rene Ficek, registered dietitian and lead nutritionist expert of Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, says that oftentimes, dehydration is confused with fatigue. And, sorry to break it to you, but if you’re already dehydrated, drinking java isn’t going to make your ongoing yawning stop. “Dehydration reduces blood flow to your organs, leaving you sluggish. Abide by the general fluid recommendation of drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of liquids (preferably water) each day—and more if your urine is on the darker-yellow side,” Ficek says.

3. Talk to people.

You might feel the urge to hide behind your computer screen (or sneak into a conference room for a nap) when you didn’t have a good night’s rest, but Yang says that’s the worst thing you could do for your body. Instead, talk more than you normally would on days you’re tired: “Nothing wakes up the brain like interacting with friends and colleagues! Go outside for lunch with your co-workers, attend a group fitness class or take a walk around your office to say ‘hi’ to people on other teams,” she advises. “Plus, it’s rude to be grumpy and tired in front of others.”

4. Eat smaller meals.

On holidays—like Thanksgiving—when you eat a large meal, you’re naturally more tired, right? It’s not only the turkey to blame: eating heavy foods will make you crave a siesta, and if you’re already sleepy, the added weight will only make it more difficult to keep your eyes open. “Eating one or two large meals per day requires a significant amount of energy focused on digestion of food and less on other things,” Ficek says. “Smaller, more frequent meals will help keep metabolism and energy up throughout the day. Energy levels often dip in the afternoon, so it’s a great time to add a small healthy snack to your routine, such as some fruit, a handful of nuts or a combination of both as in trail mix.”

Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay Tigar is a writer and editor in New York. She writes lifestyle content for Bustle, YourTango, AskMen, Woman's Day, Women's Health and many more. She’s an aspiring boxer, wannabe yogi and lover of cardio dance ... Read More >