How To Get Through Work If You've Had A Terrible Night's Sleep

If it was socially acceptable to nap during the working day, we’d all be doing it. Britain is a sleep deprived nation, after all, with more than half of us getting six hours or less each night.

So if we wake up feeling exhausted, how can we survive a day of work?

Long-term sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of depression, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, while short-term problems can include fatigue, lack of focus, and irritability.

While it’s essential to visit your GP if you have consistently poor sleep – in case it’s a symptom of an underlying medical condition – for the occasional bad kip, the show (or business meeting) must go on.

(Photo: Malte Mueller via Getty Images)
(Photo: Malte Mueller via Getty Images)


What Happens To Your Brain And Body When You Only Get Six Hours Sleep?

Don’t knock back too much coffee

It might be tempting to chain drink caffeine all day, but that probably won’t solve your tiredness – even if a morning coffee temporarily makes you feel more alert.

A lack of sleep can leave you feeling dehydrated, which leads to fatigue and reduced concentration. Caffeinated drinks make the body produce urine more quickly and are therefore not the best way to keep the body hydrated, states to the NHS.

Similarly, sports drinks or energy drinks may provide you with a short-lived energy boost, but studies have shown they might even make you more sleepy. Your best bet, therefore, is to drink water. It may seem unexciting, but at least it’s cheap.

Eat energising foods like porridge

Fuel your body from the get-go with energising food, rather than hitting the snooze button and skipping breakfast.

“Food gives you energy, so making sure you’re not skipping meals and you’re giving yourself plenty of filling and wholesome foods at each meal can help,” registered nutrition consultant Charlotte Stirling-Reed previously told HuffPost UK. “Foods such as porridge, whole grains, nuts and seeds can help top up energy levels.”

For snacking and lunch, she added: “Don’t forget to include plenty of fruits and veggies for extra hydration and a boost of vitamins and minerals, too.”

Keep your body moving

It may sound even more tiring, but going for a walk or morning jog can counteract the impact of poor sleep, says Dr Chris Alford, an associate professor at the University of West England and founding member of the British Sleep Society. If morning exercise simply feels too painful, be sure to get out at lunchtime at least.

(Photo: nadia_bormotova via Getty Images)
(Photo: nadia_bormotova via Getty Images)

“Exercise and bright light help get us out of ‘sleep mode’, so get your body going and raise your core temperature,” he tells HuffPost UK. “Seeking out bright natural light will help switch off the sleep promoting systems in your brain and enable you to feel more alert.”

Chat to colleagues

The temptation after a poor night’s sleep is to hunker down silently, but try to be sociable instead – even if it is in a virtual work meeting. “When we are tired, we can be a bit dull – so talking to people, as well as friends, can help perk us up and get us thinking,” says Dr Alford.

But, he adds, beware that we can be quite irritable when tired, so avoid challenging discussions and arguments – “The behaviour control centres in the brain are amongst the first to suffer from sleep loss and we know what the result is…”

Break up your day, then reward yourself

The thought of making it until the end of the working day might seem daunting, so pace yourself and focus on a reward, says Dr Alford.

“Break up what you have to do into manageable chunks – avoid marathons when very tired – and alternate to different things if you can, [work is] more interesting that way,” he suggests. “Try and do more bite size tasks and congratulate yourself each time you complete one.”

And have an end goal in mind – “That nice warm bath and an early night with a warm milky drink curling up in front of the telly, that can help see you through.”


How To Take The Perfect Nap

Why Am I Tired All The Time? We Asked A Doctor When To Seek Help

Christmas Gifts For People Who Love To Sleep

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.