5 Ways to Boost Your Energy After Getting Zero Sleep

First off, I am a major advocate of making sure that you get enough sleep. Sleep is the way our body restores itself from sickness, enhances cognition and focus, and even helps our bodies maintain a healthy weight. Consistently getting good sleep is probably the single most important step we can take toward health and vitality.

And as much as I attempt to practice good sleep habits and get a full eight hours every night, let’s be honest: sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Especially amidst running a small business and the collective uncertainty that keeps many of us up at night.

Featured image from our interview with Riley Reed by Jenn Rose Smith.

Image by Michelle Nash

Tips to Ensure You Get Enough Sleep

But this feeling is unfortunately not new for me, either. Whether I stayed up too late ticking off my to-do list, took an overnight flight for work, or experienced one of my occasional bouts of insomnia, I’m all too familiar with that foggy feeling of my alarm going off and realizing that I’m headed into a busy workday on far too little sleep.

I used to get anxious when this happened. (What if my brain can’t function on that conference call? Am I going to be cranky with the kids all day?) But over time, I’ve learned a few hacks that help me get through the occasional restless night’s sleep without missing a beat.

Ahead, I’m sharing five things I always do to help me feel energized when I’m sleep-deprived.

P.S. Here are some great tips on how to fall asleep faster.

Image by Teal Thomsen

1. Drink a Ton of Water and a Moderate Amount of Coffee

Dehydration equals major fatigue, so I try to keep a huge water bottle within arm’s reach when I’m running on a lack of sleep and refill it throughout the day. It will rehydrate and wake up your organs and generally just make you feel more refreshed.

And people: now is not the time to stick to your no-caffeine goals unless you’re one of those people who truly doesn’t react well to it. Studies have shown moderate amounts of caffeine to be mood-lifting, stress-reducing, and obviously a quick way to put a pep in your step.

If you’re not into coffee, try black tea, matcha, or yerba maté for smaller yet still potent doses of caffeine. Have a cup in the morning and maybe one around midday. Just be sure you don’t overdo it! Cut yourself off by 2 p.m. so you don’t have trouble falling asleep that night.

Image by Michelle Nash

2. Eat a Meal That Includes Greens, Protein, and Healthy Fat

On a recent work trip, I had to take the redeye flight from San Francisco that arrived in New York City at 7 a.m. the next day. Just enough time to check into my hotel, take a shower, eat breakfast, and then head into a high-pressure client meeting! I barely slept on the plane and was a bit panicky when I arrived at my hotel feeling awful and so sleepy.

Thankfully, my breakfast changed all that. I ordered a combo of a kale salad with hazelnuts topped with two soft boiled eggs and avocado. Good fats, especially avocados, have been shown to repair cognitive function, which we could all use a little help with when we’re sleep-poor. Leafy greens flood your body with hydration and minerals, and protein provides energy and makes you feel satisfied. I headed out into my day feeling like a new woman!

3. Get Some Exercise, Preferably Outside

Getting your blood pumping first thing will increase circulation, oxygen, and energy levels. Even a 10-minute walk will go a long way toward helping you feel more energetic. Sunlight increases your vitamin D levels, and even more importantly, it boosts your mood, helps you focus, and reminds your body that it’s daytime so WAKE THE F UP.

Image by Belathée Photography

4. Fake It Until You Make It

A couple years ago, I had a tough bout with insomnia that left me feeling anxious and for the first time ever, a little depressed. The experience made me realize in an entirely new way the importance of solid sleep for total well-being. As I was navigating all this, I realized something: the more I talked about how tired and sleep-deprived I was to the people around me throughout the day, the worse I felt. My talking about it served as a constant reminder that I wasn’t on my A-game, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I decided to do a little experiment, and even on those nights when I’d slept terribly, I would just show up to work acting like everything was normal and not mention my sleepless night. And you know what? Even though I didn’t feel great necessarily, I found that I’d mostly forget how sleep-deprived I was and just get on with the rest of my day!

5. Simplify Your Schedule

Today is not the day to try and be superwoman. Take a look at your schedule, cross out the things that aren’t essential, and cut yourself some slack. When you’re running on suboptimal sleep, you’re not going to be your most productive.

Don’t try to give a suboptimal version of yourself to activities that could wait for another day.

I’ve found that making an extra effort to ditch multitasking and focus on a single task at a time goes a long way when I’m feeling tired. Keep it simple and go to bed early tonight!

This post was originally published on March 27, 2020, and has since been updated.

Power Nap Like a Pro—8 Tips to Getting the Energy and Rest You Need

Love a mid-afternoon nap? You’re in impressive company. Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Aristotle, and Leonardo da Vinci weren’t shy about getting their afternoon shut-eye. From revolutionary thinkers to astounding artists, these leaders prove that power napping is far from a lackadaisical personality trait. In fact, it might *just be* the secret sauce. Entrepreneurs swear by this unconventional productivity hack to beat fatigue and maintain focus throughout the day. Because time is of the essence (ahem, my power nap is calling), let’s dive into how to power nap like a pro. Plus, get the secrets for your best night’s sleep. The days of feeling tired all the time are a thing of the past.

Featured image from our interview with Megan Roup by Michelle Nash.

Why Sleep Is So Important

There’s no denying how important quality sleep is. Our sleep-wake cycle (also known as our circadian rhythm) impacts everything. Think: appetite, blood sugar, metabolism, hormone health, and more. This is no surprise, but most of us aren’t getting enough sleep. Nor, for that matter, are we getting enough sunlight. Distractions abound throughout the day, putting many of us in a sleep deficit. Instead of prioritizing a good night’s sleep, we reach for multiple cups of coffee throughout the day to keep us going.

It bears repeating: our current lifestyle habits aren’t doing us any favors. Working at night and being exposed to artificial light before bed disrupts our circadian rhythm. In turn, this disruption downgrades our overall health and well-being. Ultimately, an inconsistent and dysregulated circadian rhythm causes stress on the body. One way to relieve this stress and get your energy levels back into check? A solid midday nap.

How the Circadian Rhythm Works

As mentioned, our circadian rhythm influences everything from our eating habits to our body temp, hormone release and digestion. It’s our internal timekeeper. The circadian rhythm maintains our sleep-wake cycle, helping us fall asleep and wake up in the morning. While it differs from a woman’s infradian rhythm (also known as our ‘second clock’), the circadian rhythm deserves just as much love and attention as any other facet of our self-care routine. This rhythm ebbs and flows during the day, but it is best supported by sleep-promoting habits.

Image by Michelle Nash

7 Tips to Maintain a Healthy Sleep-Wake Cycle

When it comes to a healthy circadian rhythm, look no further. The following habits create a nourishing environment for the tiny yet mighty part of the brain that controls our sleep-wake cycle.

1. Get sunlight—especially in the morning

Even if it’s overcast, head outside! Research shows that (bright) morning light can be effective against insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, and seasonal affective disorder. The melatonin precursor, serotonin, is also affected by exposure to daylight.

2. Eat a healthy breakfast within 30-60 minutes of waking

This keeps our blood sugar happy, metabolism revved, and takes the body out of fight-or-flight mode. The energy from what we eat also wakes us up.

3. Incorporate movement throughout the day

It’s a crucial part of any healthy daily routine. Exercise has a myriad of benefits, but it’s also been shown to improve sleep efficiency and duration in both kids and adults.

4. Keep naps short

While we’ve all been tempted to indulge in a longer nap, a quick snooze is often best. More on this, below!

5. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol before bed

Caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock and alcohol disrupts our sleep architecture. Learn more about the best time to drink coffee to optimize your caffeine rituals.

6. Limit electronics in the evening

Or, be sure to wear blue-blocking glasses. Blue-blocking glasses, specifically, encourage your body to produce optimal melatonin levels close to your desired bedtime. That way, you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.

7. Build a consistent sleep schedule

We are creatures of habit. Routines—including a bedtime routine—offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization. Having a routine can greatly improve your health. Experiment with different tools that can support a solid night’s sleep. Splurge on a sleep mask you love, try out a weighted blanket, invest in an alarm clock, and explore the best earplugs on the market.

Image by Michelle Nash

What is a power nap?

Armed with an understanding of why sleep is so important, let’s talk about the ever-coveted power nap. Even if it’s not something you can prioritize during the week (or even in this season of your life), it’s helpful to know what it is, how to implement it, and why it could be a total game-changer.

While there’s no medical definition of a power nap, in general, the term refers to short naps ranging from about 10 to 30 minutes. It isn’t long enough to make you groggy or interrupt your sleep cycle—rather, it’s meant to encourage a full-body reset.

What are the benefits of power napping?

Even if you aren’t sleep deprived, a power nap can be beneficial. In essence, they help refill your tank. An efficient (yet effective) afternoon nap has many benefits. If you’re a seasoned power napper, you know the perks. An afternoon nap can help you feel less sleepy and lead to improvements in: mood, alertness, productivity, creativity, reaction time, short-term memory, focus, concentration, and more.

While there aren’t many cons to power napping, it’s important not to sleep too long during the day. (Or to view power napping as a substitute for a good night’s sleep.)

How long should you power nap for?

Depends, but most agree that over 60 minutes can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Furthermore, studies show that a 10-minute afternoon nap is the most effective in improving alertness and productivity. Many experts advise a 15-30 minute nap, as anything longer gets you into deeper stages of sleep, making it that much harder to wake up. If you’re looking for restorative sleep and have the time to spare, see how you feel with an hour-long nap. Compared to a shorter nap, 60 minutes can lead to greater improvement in cognitive functioning.

All of that said, if you only have five minutes to spare, just close your eyes! A brief rest is better than no rest.

Image by Michelle Nash

Is power napping for everyone?

The hard truth: power napping might not be for you. Be it your work schedule, parenting responsibilities, or the stress it causes (because you’re ruminating over your to-do list), consider a different reset activity. Rather than napping, you may reap the benefits of a brisk walk, a minute of squats and pushups, or brewing a cup of calming tea. Furthermore, if you tend to wake up feeling disoriented—or more tired than before the nap—focus on clocking your zzz’s at night.

How Power Napping Boosts Productivity

A study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that a 40-minute nap improves productivity by 34%. Relatively speaking, that’s not a small percentage. Are you an employer? If so, consider how a power nap could work its way into your company’s handbook. With sleep deprivation negatively influencing the global economy—and studies showing that instituting sleep-friendly policies can improve productivity by over 30% (and alertness by up to 100%!)—allowing employees to rest in the workplace is a win-win. A power nap could drastically change your workplace and directly influence profits. You heard it here first.

Napping During the Workday

Speaking of napping at work, did you know that a weekday nap is encouraged in countries around the world? For example, there is the tradition of the siesta in Spain. In China, people take an hour break midday to rest. In Japan, inemuri means napping while present and is seen as a sign of hard work.

In the United States, the CDC recommends dedicated physical space—as well as scheduling—to allow for napping. Many organizations have already incorporated nap rooms into their offices. Google, NASA, and Ben & Jerry’s support napping by providing specific spaces like “napping pods” for their employees. 

Image by Teal Thomsen

4 Steps to Becoming a Power Napper

Ready to take the perfect power nap and wake up feeling refreshed? Follow these four rules to get the most bang for your power nap buck.

  1. Get the time right. The circadian rhythm is low between 2-4 p.m. To improve your alertness, productivity, memory, and function, aim to take your nap in the early-to-mid afternoon. There are many activities you can do to beat the afternoon slump, but a quick power nap could be the golden ticket.
  2. Recharge with the ideal duration. One of the keys to successful power napping is its length. Too much takes you into deep sleep mode, leaving you tired and groggy afterward. Too little is not enough. Experts explain that the maximum power nap recharge is achieved by going from stage one sleep (that lovely ‘drifting off’ feeling) to stage two (slowdown of brain activity). In most people, that’s 15-30 minutes.
  3. Create a dark environment. Just like ideal nighttime sleep comes from a cold, dark room, so does your afternoon nap. The fewer intrusive sounds, the better.
  4. Turn your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ Because we all know how easy it so to get distracted by messages, alerts, etc., block your calendar during nap time and silence your messages. Trust that you can clock 15-30 minutes of rest without tending to other people’s needs. In fact, I bet you’ll tend to their needs with extra enthusiasm after your power nap.

The Best Products to Help You Power Nap

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