Exhausted? Here’s How to Cope with Lost Sleep—and Get More of It

exhausted looking woman


So many of us have issues in the sleep department. We're in a non-sleeping cycle, waking up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning; we can't turn our brains off. We might even have a little one around crying to be held or fed at 3 a.m. A lot of us are struggling against too-late coffee intake or being revved up from replying to emails until we hit the pillow. We finally drift off. And then in about 60 seconds (or what feels like it) the alarm bell rings. It's time to start all over.

Is there a way to cope with loss of sleep during the day? Can you get through it without being an irritable mess? You can use the methods listed below to help you fake a good night's sleep and say goodbye to the glib, curt sleep-deprived you your coworkers dread. Oh, and of course, we've listed a few tips to help you actually catch some better zzzs, so you can eventually stop faking it all together.

How to Cope

Water. Water. And then…drink some water. 

Not only is it great for your overall health and your skin. But switching to water after your first cup of coffee, and then continuing to drink it throughout the day, will keep you feeling awake. It will give you something to grab for while you work and it'll get you up out of your chair and moving, if only to the bathroom or for refills. The colder the water the better, so keep the ice fresh, too.

Bring in the Sun. 

Vitamin D is an essential part of mental health. If you can get outside for a 10- or 15-minute break and soak up some rays, do it! If you can't get outside, hit up amazon and purchase a light therapy or energy lamp for your desktop. The lamps are said to have anti-depressant properties with the clear white-bluish light they emit, mimicking the high voltage of the sun. These are way brighter than just any lamp, you're even directed not to look directly at them. But a quick view of the reviews on Amazon and you can see satisfied customers say they work for giving energy and alleviating cloudy day blues. Lightphoria 10,000LUX Energy Light Lamp $69.67 at Amazon

Faux Rest It. 

20-minute power naps are all the rage. We're instructed to close our office door (thanks, but what if I have a cubicle?) kick our feet up and just nap on command. Or we're told to rent space during our lunch hour for the privilege. But the truth is, those are rare options. What you can realistically do is close your eyes for 10 or 15 minutes, take deep breaths and consciously clear your head. If you'd like you can turn it into a full-on mediation session, you can use it to daydream, you can just focus on empty space. No matter what, deep breaths pulls in extra oxygen into your body and brain, which in and of itself can be a mini wake-up call.

Whole-Grain Breakfast. 

Today is not the day to have your favorite sugary cereal. You need food that provides real energy-giving carbs. Try whole-grain oatmeal, bananas or a whole-wheat muffin. You might also try a midmorning snack of cheese and an apple. It's tasty and will fill you up longer than, say, that pre-packaged granola bar filled with preservatives and fake sugars.

Cold Shots. 

This is going to sound painful, impossible even. But desperate times… When you're in your morning shower, turn the water cold for a few seconds. You will literally be shocked into a more wakeful state. Bonus: Cold water is also good for your hair and skin. 

Avoid Driving If Possible. 

This may sound like a tall order until you see the stats for yearly accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel. But perhaps more prescient is that driving is often a stressful situation, adding exhaustion to your already exhausted body. That's no way to start a day on a night of little sleep. If possible, arrange a carpool, take public transportation. See if someone can even pick you up from work so you don't have to drive home, it might help you get better sleep tonight.

How to Get More Sleep

Keep Your Bedroom Sacred. 

That means be mindful about the activities you do in your room. It really should be for sleeping. Commit to leaving your electronics at the door. Over time your brain will be trained to start calming down when you enter that hallowed room. 

Soak Up the Warmth. 

Just like drinking and showering in cold water can help you feel and stay alert, warm and hot water does the opposite. Warm and hot baths right before bed are almost always a sure bet to inducing sleep. You can even add to its power by using soothing bath salts and aroma therapy bath accessories.

Hit the Reset Button. 

Have some vacation time built up? Good. Take a day off to rest and relax. Turn off your computer, don't check your email. Just rest. Just relax. 

Keep the Lights Low. 

Start a routine of dimming your lights after a certain time in the evening. This will be another signal to your body that sleep is near. 

Wear Socks. 

Seriously. Keeping your toes cozy improves overall circulation, helping you relax and fall asleep.

Distract Yourself from Your Worries. 

It helps to have a distraction right before you try to go down for the big sleep. Some advice says no stimulation. My personal advice says stimulate in a way that leaves your thoughts away from your worries. For example, a hidden object game on your phone or tablet, watching a documentary about ancient history before you turn in, or reading a novel that lets you live in someone else's head for a change. All of these allow my mind to relax, so my body can.