How to Survive a Day at Work after an All-Nighter?

By  | 

You’ve had a tough night – either the neighbor’s cat decided it was time for a concerto at 2 in the morning or you were cramming a paper due the next day. The last thing you want to do is wake up early the next day and head off to class or work. But let’s face it, you’re in the real world and one of the two aforementioned things is bound to happen.

Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

So what do you do? Whatever it is, don’t start your day by hitting the snooze button. It’s tempting, we know, but hitting the snooze button will set you up for more grogginess than you bargained for. That’s because the extra three to five minutes of sleep you sneaked in before the alarm goes off means that the second alarm will most likely catch you in between sleep cycles. A normal sleep cycle runs from anywhere between 70 to 100 minutes (approximately 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes) and snoozing your alarm and going back to sleep is just going to disrupt your sleep cycle leaving you groggier than when you first woke up.

Eat a Healthy and Well Balanced Breakfast

Most adults and college-aged kids will have no time nor desire to have breakfast, but if you’ve just woken up from a really long night, it might be worth considering it.

Research after research has shown that breakfast improves short-term cognitive function and mood. Believe me you’re going to need that if you’re only running on two hours of sleep and a cup of coffee. However not just any kind of breakfast will do. Most to-go breakfasts are high in fat, carbohydrates and sugar and are missing one key nutrient that will help fuel your day – protein. Protein raises your tyrosine levels in the brain. Tyrosine is involved in the formation of norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters that give you some extra energy and keep you alert.


Schedule Your Cup of Joe

You will obviously need coffee if you have plans of being productive at all after a sleep deprived night. Get a cup of joe just after waking up, this will give you a jolt and provide enough clarity to at least last you through the early morning. The next cup should be when your energy starts to dip, usually after lunch, but never after 3PM. Drinking coffee after 3PM could just set you up for another sleepless night.

Get Outside

Just like plants, most humans often feel quite energized under the heat of the morning sun, just try napping under all that heat and you’ll see what I mean. Research has shown that direct sunlight has a positive effect on our energy levels through the day. Researchers from the University of Liege in Belgium scanned the brains of 21 participants after they were exposed to 21 minutes of bright white light. The images showed increased activity in parts of the brain related to cognition and it was observed that the participants were more alert. 

Do Difficult Tasks First and Simple Tasks Later

Taking your lack of energy into consideration, you should do difficult tasks first and reserve menial tasks for later. Do not waste your precious energy reading emails and sorting through files at the start of the day. Prioritize tasks that are physically and mentally demanding in the morning and slowly work down to easier tasks as the day progresses.

Have a presentation? Having another cup of joe 30 minutes before the meeting can help you stay focused and alert.

Have a Light Lunch

Reserve the big servings for breakfast. Having a light lunch is more strategic than you think. Aside from keeping your waistline in check, having a light lunch of complex carbs, high quality fat, protein and fiber could help fuel your body until you collapse in your bed straight out of work.

The key here is to keep your meal light. Stuffing your stomach full at lunch will require your digestive system to exert extra effort. This means increased blood flow dedicated to digestion, which doesn’t leave much blood flow for increased brain function. This could leave you sleepy and groggy.