How to cheer up at work when you feel sleepy

By Vladimir Marchenko

  1. "Compensating" sleep at work
  2. Useful tips for those who haven’t got enough sleep
  3. Plan your day wisely after a no-sleep night
  4. Food that makes you feel more energetic
  5. Sleep or not to sleep

Occasionally, our normal sleep routine can be disturbed. Noisy neighbours, crying babies, stress and anxiety, or a horror movie at night can easily disrupt our sleep. Still, no matter what, in the morning we need to go to work and fulfil our duties there. How to get through the day if, for some reason, you did not get enough sleep?

A sleep-deprived employee makes more mistakes, loses his temper quicker when communicating with colleagues and “picky” clients, and cannot concentrate on tasks, hence, completes them much slower than usual. During such a day the performance of a worker is significantly lower than the average indicators (approximately 25-30% less efficient). Occurring once in a while it may not lead to serious circumstances, however, experiencing lack of sleep regularly can dramatically impact your work and draw the unnecessary attention of your boss. In this article, we will look at the ways to cheer up at work if you feel sleepy. It may be useful also for those who feel that they don’t get enough sleep during the week.

"Compensating" sleep at work 

The first thing you can think about when you come to work after a sleepless night is taking a nap as soon as possible, preferably around lunchtime. This idea is not bad at all, however with a few limitations. Firstly, it is not easy to fit both lunch and a nap into a one-hour break. Moreover, not all the workplaces (especially open space offices) have sleeping rooms. In addition, short 30-minute sleep is hardly enough to rest properly as you won’t be able to go through the entire slow sleep phase. Secondly, even if you will have an opportunity to sleep for an hour or two during the day, your circadian rhythms will be disrupted which may lead to not being able to fall asleep at your regular time at night. As a result, it will make the vicious circle of insomnia even worse.

It's different, though, for those who practise biphasic sleep. In their case, they are accustomed to sleeping regularly during the day for 20 minutes to 1 hour (one extra sleep cycle) in addition to 5-7 hours during the night. For some people, a short nap at lunch does help to cope with a lack of sleep, but it is important to follow some recommendations here. If your working hours allow a lunch nap, try to sleep not later than at 2-3 pm.

old man sleep at table during work
Daytime sleep at the workplace is officially allowed in Google, Samsung, NASA, Uber, Zappos, and more

Useful tips for those who haven’t got enough sleep

In order to cope with a working day after a sleepless night, try using these simple recommendations:

1. Boost your energy in the morning. No matter how hard it may seem, try and do some light exercises, take a contrast shower (30 seconds under the cold shower followed by 30 seconds of hot water and then cold water again), and have a nutritious breakfast. No fast food or pastry! It should preferably be eggs, oats, vegetables or fruit.

2. Surround yourself with natural light. If it’s a sunny summer day outside, consider yourself lucky - nature has rewarded you with energy. However, if it’s winter and the weather is dark and cloudy, turn on as many lights in the room as possible to recreate the “daytime” around you.

3. Drink coffee or other energy drinks. The caffeine contained in energy-boosting drinks reduces the effects of adenosine, a compound that is believed to stimulate sleep. However, you shouldn't abuse energy drinks - a couple of cups of coffee during the day is enough, preferably without milk and sugar, and not after 1-2 pm. Otherwise, you risk staying awake for a long time in the evening.

4. Choose a cooler space. When the temperature is high and there is not enough air in the room, we fall asleep more easily. That’s why it is always better to turn on the air conditioning, open the window or go for a walk. It is also helpful to keep your hands under cold water for a while.

5. Communicate more actively. Live communication with colleagues, clients, and friends helps to cope with lack of sleep. It is especially useful to talk with energetic people, especially those who, unlike you, had enough sleep last night.

6. Drink more and eat less. After a no-sleep night, drinking at least 2.5-3 litres of water during the day is important. This will help you with dehydration and the drowsiness caused by it. Also, the body that is lacking sleep tries to get some extra energy from food. That’s why during such days we tend to eat more sweets and high-fat products. However, if you don’t want to constantly doze off, try to have small portions of light food, otherwise, the body will spend more energy absorbing heavy products.

7. Movement is life. Sedentary work will make you feel more sleepy so try to be active during the day. Massaging biologically active points may help with it as well. For example, press the point between your thumb and the index finger for 10-20 times until a mild pain appears.

8. Listen to energetic music. Even if you desperately love soft jazz or soul, in order not to sleep you will have to listen to more energetic music like dance, pop or rock.

9. Use invigorating essential oils. Some scents help you to boost your energy. For example, aromas of citrus, conifers, eucalyptus, nutmeg, and juniper stimulate brain activity. Carry a small bottle of essential oils with you, moisten a handkerchief or simply massage the oil into the wrists and inhale.

10. Complete at least less important tasks. It’s unlikely that during the day you would be able to concentrate on things that require making important decision, but you can still complete some simple tasks. However, sometimes it is also advised to have just a normal working day and pretend that you feel alright to distract your brain from the thoughts about sleep. If you are confident in your abilities you can try this option as well.

Plan your day wisely after a no-sleep night

A no-sleep night will inevitably lead to the changes in your work schedule. Your performance drops dramatically, and it is better to reschedule important meetings for the next day. Because your body in the first half of the day remains more active, do important tasks in the morning. It, of course, depends on your chronotype as "owls", for example, are more energetic after lunch. However, even if you are an owl and don’t have a chance to postpone important tasks for later, at least arrange a coffee break for yourself before getting down to work. Secondary tasks can definitely wait until the evening.

Lack of sleep is an excellent opportunity to practise delegating and check the team spirit at your workplace. Part of the duties and tasks can be delegated to your subordinates, or you can simply ask the colleagues to help or assist you. Most likely, they will be supportive, because almost everyone has been in your shoes after a sleepless night. In this case, it will be possible for you to focus on a lesser amount of tasks and control the anxiety caused by the tiredness.

During the day try to switch to something encouraging - call your loved ones, take a walk at your favourite place, or go outside for a snack. Such actions stimulate the workflow and allow you to escape from the monotonous routine. Watching videos from your favourite youtube channel or reading some funny news can also help.

young guy want to sleep
It is important not to perform monotonous work that makes you doze off, instead, try to diversify your tasks and activities as much as possible

How your daily routine should look like after a no-sleep night:

7-00 - wake up no matter what, do a quick warm-up, have a glass of water with lemon and a contrast shower.

7-30 - have breakfast, preferably without too many carbohydrates.

7-45 - have a coffee. One cup of coffee contains around 100 mg of caffeine; no more than 400 mg is recommended per day.

8-00 - go outside and get some natural light.

9-00 - complete the most complex and important work tasks.

10-00 - one more cup of coffee.

11-00 - make necessary adjustments in your schedule if necessary; postpone the meetings you don't have enough energy for;  spend some time communicating with colleagues or clients.

12-00 - have a light lunch (vegetables, proteins).

13-00 - you may have another cup of coffee or tea.

14-00 - it is the best time to take a nap or go for a walk.

15-00-18-00 - reply to the emails, make a plan for tomorrow, complete the tasks that do not require concentration.

Interesting to know: 10 great people who slept less than five hours per day

Food that makes you feel more energetic

A short and restless sleep serves as a signal for our body to mobilise all the resources and respond to a threat. Therefore, it starts to crave for additional energy and nutritious food. A random set of products, in this case, will do more harm than good and may cause drowsiness. Instead, try the following snacks to cheer yourself up during the day:

  • chocolate;
  • mint chewing gum;
  • orange juice;
  • berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries);
  • lemon water;
  • nuts (cashews, almonds, hazelnuts);
  • whole-grain crackers;
  • apples;
  • asparagus.
delicious breakfast with oatmeal
Breakfast fulfils our “energy tanks” in the morning and boosts our metabolism at the beginning of the day

Here are some nutritious breakfast options:

  • oatmeal;
  • muesli;
  • beans;
  • eggs;
  • yoghurt;
  • green tea;
  • bananas;
  • spinach;
  • honey.

Sleep or not to sleep

After a sleepless night, the working day may seem endless and you can’t wait to go to bed when you arrive home. However, 12-14 hours of sleep will not benefit you. What you can do instead is to make sure your 8-9 hours of sleep are gonna be quality hours. In order to have a sound and restoring sleep don’t do anything active in the evening and try to reduce the time spent with gadgets or watching “heavy” movies or overexciting shows. Try to go to bed at your usual time or an hour earlier if you feel really sleepy.

However, it often happens that all day you have been dreaming about going to bed, you have been glancing at your watch and rushing home, but hardly you close your eyes... you realise you cannot fall asleep. This happens when the nervous system is overloaded and continues to process information and thoughts even when you are already in bed. To fall asleep and come back to your normal sleeping schedule try the Hypnopedia application. It contains sets of relaxing sounds of nature that you can combine the way you want and even adjust the volume of separate sounds one by one. Such sounds allow you to escape the vicious circle of thoughts and fall asleep. Next, smart alarm clock function of the app is very useful as well. The algorithm of the application that receives data from the  Apple Watch sensors selects the optimal waking time for your body in the given interval. For example, you need to wake up not later than 8 am and you have selected the awakening period within half an hour. Thus, the alarm clock will go off in between 7-30 and 7-59, depending on the phase of sleep you are going through. Waking up during the most favourable sleep phase makes you feel much fresher and more rested in the morning.

Ссылка App Store

Sometimes sleep disorders are a reflection of mental health problems. One of the approaches to strenthen your mental health are affirmations - short positive reassuring phrases. Usually, they are pronounced quitely to oneself during the day, but in the Hypnopedia application, they are reproduced at night at the most favourable time for perception of such affirmations, which is determined by a special algorithm. The user does not need to wake up - the affirmations are perceived by the subconscious mind and the effects of them persist after awakening and facilitate the pumping of your mental health in the long run.


To conclude, it is definitely possible to survive a working day after one no-sleep night. However, it is much worse if sleep deprivation becomes chronic. In this case, it is important to consult with a doctor and pay attention to sleep hygiene. Have good dreams and productive work!

Hypnopedia Sleep Dreams Self-awareness