How to Stay Productive on Little Sleep

This is how you should schedule your day to power through the crankiness and exhaustion.

How to Stay Productive on Little Sleep
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We've all been there--tossing and turning all night, counting down the hours until we have to get up for work in the morning. Sleepless nights are no fun.

And the unfortunate reality is that even though you feel like crap the next day, you still have to show up at the office, ready to give 110%.

But even though the thought of working an eight-hour day may seem impossible, it turns out that there are things you can do to get through it.

Here's how sleep researchers who talked to New York magazine's Melissa Dahl say you can structure your workday to power through the crankiness and exhaustion:

7 a.m.: Wake up

Whatever you do, don't hit snooze. It may feel awesome in the moment, but those seven extra minutes won't make you more alert--and they could make you late.

7:05 a.m.: Have a little coffee

One small cup or mini espresso will do. It's natural to feel groggy in the first 20 to 30 minutes of waking, so a little jolt in that window can help clear the fog.

Any more than that, NYU School of Medicine sleep-disorders expert Joyce Walsleben tells WebMD, won't make you more alert but will likely give you the jitters.

7:30 a.m.: Eat breakfast

Stick to whole grains, protein, and a little fruit--sugary junk will give you an energy spike, but it will last only about 20 minutes. And don't wait too long--research suggests that eating within an hour of waking boosts your mood and mind.

8 a.m.: Get some sun

Sleep scientists say that getting natural sunlight first thing in the morning is one of the best ways to boost alertness, up your body temperature, and reset your circadian rhythms.

If you can't get outside for whatever reason, try pulling out your smartphone or iPad. Smartphone screens emit bright blue light that can also reset your circadian rhythm, as it mimics the brightness of the sun. This causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that gives your body the "time to sleep" cues.

9 a.m.: Do your most important work first

Mark Twain once said, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of day." While Twain was likely suggesting that you do the thing you want to do the least first, this mantra can also apply to any task that will take a great amount of willpower.

In fact, you'll have the most energy in between one hour and three hours after you wake up, so use this time to get critical tasks out of the way.

10 a.m.: Grab another small cup of coffee

The caffeine will help boost your attention span and alertness.

11 a.m.: Reschedule your meetings

It's better to interact with people when you're at your best. When you're sleep-deprived, you're less likely to detect others' nonverbal cues or communicate effectively and more likely to come off as grumpy.

12 p.m.: Eat a light lunch

Like breakfast, you should steer clear of junk food and stick to the good stuff. And keep it light-; eating a heavy lunch will only make you feel sleepier.

12:30 p.m.: Take a walk

As psychologist and "The Best Place to Work" author Ron Friedman notes, studies show that sporadic breaks replenish our energy, improve self-control and decision-making, and fuel productivity.

Scientists at Stanford also found that walking could increase creative thinking by about 60%.

When you feel yourself diminishing, get up and take a 20-minute walk. You get bonus points for walking outside.

1 p.m.: Have some more coffee

Six to eight hours after waking is when most people are at their drowsiest, so a little extra jolt can make you more alert. But make sure that you cut yourself off from the caffeine after 3.p.m.--you don't want to battle another sleepless night.

2 p.m.: Take a nap

Whether you do it in your car, a conference room, or under your desk, fitting a nap into your afternoon can help you get through the rest of the day. All you need is about 20 minutes.

Research shows that a power nap increases frustration tolerance and decreases feelings of impulsivity. Other researchers found that the benefits of a 10-minute nap on study participants' alertness continued for at least the next two hours.

If you can't nap, go back outside for another restorative boost from the sun.

3 p.m.: Grab a light snack

The brain draws nearly all of its energy from glucose, the most important simple sugar in human metabolism, clinical dietitian Nicole Maftoum tells Business Insider.

"Consumption of low glycemic index foods like bran flakes will release glucose at a slow rate in the bloodstream, which will minimize blood sugar swings and optimize brainpower and mental focus," she says.

3:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.: Tackle the brainless tasks

At this point you won't have much focused attention left--you can maybe concentrate for 10 minutes at a time--so use what's left of the workday to get to the things you've been putting off that don't require much mental ability. Then sneak out a little early.

This story first appeared on Business Insider

Mar 16, 2016
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