Let’s get this out of the way first: not getting any sleep makes you irritable, unfocused, and immoral. But sometimes due to sick kids, tight deadlines, or killer parties, we’re left with no option but to plow through a workday with little to no sleep.
This is how scientists say to do it.
Don’t hit that snooze button.
The problem with the snooze button is that while it feels good in the short term — those are the sweetest nine minutes you can buy — they don’t actually help you feel more alert.
The reason: your endocrine system fills your body with alertness hormones when you first wake up, and putting your head back on the pillow slows down that mobilization process. See the snooze button for what it really is: deceitful.
Don’t sweat the inertia.
Scientists call the groggy feeling you get when you wake up “sleep inertia.” It’s natural to have that within 20 or 30 minutes of waking up — so don’t yield to it and get back in bed.
Sugary junk will give you an energy spike and then a crash, so stick to the good stuff, like whole grains and protein. And don’t wait too long to break your fast — research suggests that eating within an hour of awaking gives a cognitive boost.
Get some sunlight.
Get natural light as soon as possible after waking up.
“First thing in the morning is one of the most important times,” says Sean Drummond, a sleep scientist at the University of California, San Diego. “It will boost alertness, it will up your body temperature, it will reset your circadian rhythms.”
Don’t underestimate that sun: It’s so powerful that getting first-thing rays fights seasonal depression.
Do you most important work first.
Buxton tells New York Mag that you need to do your most difficult work in a specific window: between one and three hours after you wake up, since that’s when you’ll have the best energy all day.
Research shows that tired people can’t sustain attention for more than ten minutes, so don’t put your focus-heavy tasks off to the afternoon.
Find a way to nap.
Whether you need to sleep in your car, book a conference room, or lie under your desk, wedging a nap into your afternoon can help you get through the rest of the day.
“Even a 20-minute nap’s restorative powers can last for hours,” Buxton says.
If you’ve got a powering-through tip, tell us in the comments.
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