How To Readjust Your Day If You Didn't Get Enough Sleep The Night Before

Have you ever woken up so sleep-deprived that you wished you could fast forward straight to bedtime, before even rising from your bed? Most of us can't actually stay wrapped up under the covers and skip over an entire day — there are work duties, family needs, and other responsibilities that we must tend to. Life keeps going, even when you can't get a good night's sleep.


Still, trying to go about your day after barely getting any shut-eye isn't easy. A 2007 study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment confirms that sleep deprivation impacts attention, working memory, and other cognitive functions, meaning your work or school performance, will likely take a major hit. Not only that, but sleepiness can make you irritable and depressed, according to WebMD.

Clearly, losing sleep isn't something that should be made a habit, but nearly everyone has the occasional day when they fail to get a full night's rest. Thankfully, there are some easy adjustments to help you power through your day, without retreating into zombie mode.

Let sunshine in

After barely getting any sleep, sunlight might be the last thing you want to see. After all, the morning sun is only a reminder that you must get out of bed and begin your day, no matter how sluggish you feel. But embracing the sunshine and exposing yourself to plenty of natural light may help you feel more energized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that our circadian clock is especially sensitive to light in the first hour after waking up. By getting light exposure first thing in the morning, you'll wake up more alert and fall asleep more easily at night.


Opening up your curtains upon waking is a good start, but it's also a good idea to spend time outdoors too. Neuroscientist Leigh Winters told NBC News that getting outside in the sunlight and fresh air can keep you alert while lowering stress levels. That's a double win for those days when sleep loss brings out your inner grump.

Choose nourishing foods

Sleepy days are when we are likely to overeat in order to gain more energy, according to a 2013 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). And if we're being honest, a cupcake and a sweet frappuccino sound like the perfect comfort foods when we're struggling to get through the day.


However, our bodies need sustained energy after losing sleep, not the short bursts of energy we get from sugar. Medical News Today suggests skipping white bread, sweeteners, bakery items and pastries, and heavily processed snacks. In their place, try fresh, nutrient-rich foods like eggs, oats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. These whole foods are much more likely to give you the fuel needed to overcome the yawns.

If you're desperate for a cup of coffee, the Sleep Foundation notes that caffeine can provide a much-needed burst of energy, but it should be consumed in moderation and ideally early in the day. That way, it doesn't interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.

Approach the day with a less-is-more mindset

If you feel like you make more mistakes when you're sleepy, you're probably right. A 2008 review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences shows that people who are sleep deprived are more likely to respond slowly, make errors, and overlook critical information. When operating in this way, it's best to simplify your to-do list and spend more time on fewer tasks. This allows you to double-check your work and prioritize quality over quantity.


On that note, Leigh Winters explained to NBC News that it's better to hold off on making any big decisions when feeling groggy. "If you pulled an all-nighter or have an enormous sleep debt, think twice about making any big decisions or engaging in high-level thought processes, like analyzing, evaluating, and planning," she says. If possible, postpone that big work meeting, and pause before deciding to slide back into your ex's DMs.

Find time to rest and recharge

There's nothing like a midday nap when you're feeling heavy-eyed. Napping can help you to recharge and get on with your day, but experts caution to keep it short. James Maas, a former professor of psychology at Cornell University who coined the term "power nap," told USA Today that limiting naps to around 20 or 30 minutes is ideal. "Never nap for 60 minutes. If you power nap any time longer than 40 minutes, you're going to wake up feeling very groggy for another hour or so," he says.


If you can't wind down enough to fall asleep in the middle of the day, try yoga or meditation instead. A 2016 study published in Mindfulness indicated that practicing hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation may boost mood and increase energy. Sometimes, taking it easy when you're sleepy — instead of hustling through the day — is the key to staying charged. That is until you get back to bed this evening to get a proper night's sleep.