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Advice

7 productivity hacks for when you don’t sleep a wink

No matter which way you toss and turn, how many melatonins you pop or sheep you count, there are some nights when sleep is more of a pipe dream than a reality. Considering the CDC estimates one in three Americans doesn’t rest the recommended eight hours per night, you’re definitely not the only one battling the Sandman. Regardless though, there’s nothing more taxing — or overwhelming — than attempting to get through your workday when you’re #exhausted.

As career expert Wendi Weiner explains, following a restless night, your body’s energy is sucked dry, leaving not only your body, but your creativity sluggish. “If your brain hasn’t been given ample opportunity to shut off, it can’t re-charge its internal batteries,” she explains.

This makes it far more likely that you’ll give into distractions — like your phone, Facebook, post-work plans, and the list goes on. Until the clock ticks to 6 (or 7) though, focusing on the task at hand is your priority. Before your boss catches you napping in your cubicle, read these tips on how to maintain steam at the office, no sleep required:

Get your heart rate up

Hitting up your beloved indoor cycling studio or trekking to the park near your apartment for a quick jog is likely the last priority on your mind when you’re sleepy, but licensed psychotherapist Melody Li stresses the major perk of endorphins. When you get your heart-rate up, you automatically receive a boost of serotonin that will help you feel more energized — and ahem, less cranky — in the office.

If a morning workout is simply out of the question, she suggests setting an alarm on your phone for every hour where you complete 20 jumping jacks, 20 air squats, and 20 push-ups. Even this mini sweat-sesh will have you better prepared to tackle your to-do list.

Don’t focus on your lack of sleep

Consider when you miss a deadline, deal with an unhappy client or receive a poor review from your manager: how much time do you waste going over every little thing you could have done differently? More often than not, professionals are our own worst enemies, since we engage in negative self-talk that impacts our confidence and perspective. The same goes after a night of insomnia, according to yoga therapist and natural health expert Dr. Lynn Anderson.

While it might seem like it doesn’t make a difference, if you concentrate on the night before, you’ll feel that much more tired. “Get up and get moving without focusing on the amount of sleep you got the night before. If you dwell on the lack of sleep it will chase you around all day, you’ll be in a bad mood and this will reduce productivity,” she explains.

Each time you start to discuss your lack of rest with a co-worker — or even silently to yourself — take a deep breath and dive into something that requires your attention instead.

Choose three tasks

As much as you’d like to hit all of your daily tasks out of the park when you’re tired, you might not be able to perform at your highest level. That’s why Weiner suggests taking the pressure off yourself by choosing three major, important, pending tasks that you can’t delay. And do them ASAP, when you’re still reaping the benefits of the morning. “When you are sleep-deprived, those first two hours that you are actually awake will tend to be the most productive.

Tackle those major tasks and non-negotiable projects first. Do not wait until the end of the day when the 3 p.m. fatigue sets in and you lose your mojo,” she explains.

Eat a healthy breakfast

When you’re feeling down — or merely sleepy — you might convince yourself a sugar high is just what you need to improve your spirit. Though sure, a doughnut will fulfill you at the moment, Dr. Anderson warns of the crash that’s sure to come. Because you’re already operating at less than 100 percent, the pitfall of that sweet A.M. treat will be that much more detrimental to your work. Instead, she suggests a nutritional combination of proteins and carbs, like eggs, a protein and a piece of avocado toasts. “Lack of sleep is similar to low blood sugar, so keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day by eating a healthy diet,” she suggests.

Drink cold water

You already know water is a must-have for your body, no matter how tuckered out you are. But Weiner says cool H20 is even better. “It awakens the body and enhances your internal energy. It is great for when you are exercising as well as the cold water is a jolt to your body as well as an excellent way to nourish it,” she says. “Consider exercising and drinking cold water to provide an extra boost of energy. Your endorphins will be elevated, you will feel revived, and you will be ready to tackle the day.”

Take your work outside

If your job description includes plenty of cross-country or transatlantic commuting, you already know how important it is to spend time in the great outdoors (even in the middle of a large metro) to overcome symptoms of jet lag. The same philosophy applies when you didn’t sleep the night before, even if you weren’t exactly on a red-eye.

Dr. Anderson explains the incomparable benefits of sunshine and fresh air for tired workers: “You will also get a jolt of vitamin D from the sunlight. Studies indicate that low vitamin D may affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep, so after a lack of sleep what we need to do is reset our internal clock. Vitamin D has been linked to excessive sleepiness throughout the day so a good dose of D will perk us up and this leads to productivity.”

Start with caffeine — but don’t go overboard

While effective, Anderson says to be mindful of utilizing caffeine as your only source of energy after a disruptive night of sleep. Your go-to beans, shot of espresso or matcha green tea will help you feel more energetic in half-an-hour, but that doesn’t mean you should down several cups throughout the day. How come? Too much of a good thing can actually wreak havoc on your concentration.

“We need to be careful about pacing ourselves throughout the day if we use caffeine as excess can cause us to feel jittery and this reduces focus which is exactly what we need to be productive,” Dr. Anderson says.

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Lindsay Tigar is a seasoned lifestyle and travel writer. When she's not busy writing, she's collecting another passport stamp, taking a boxing class or trying new foods. A full collection of her work can be found at lindsaytigar.com.