Tips For Surviving The Workday On Zero Sleep

Struggling to get through a workday when you're running on zero sleep? We've all been there. You might've been up late working on a project, helping out a friend, being intimate with a lover, or handling some other important obligation. It's possible you have an ongoing struggle with insomnia or sleep anxiety that always leaves you feeling fatigued during the day. Whatever your reason, the reality is that you're going to have to figure out how to get through the workday ahead of you with little to no energy. 


The good news is that typical American full-time workdays only last about eight hours, which means when your shift is finally over, you'll be able to head home and catch up on your sleep. Getting through those eight hours might not sound like a walk in the park, but with a handful of helpful tips, you'll successfully survive your work day without feeling like it's the end of the world.

Drink caffeine in moderation

The popular go-to response for anyone feeling tired at work is to grab a cup of coffee or energy drink for a much-needed boost. It's common knowledge that caffeine works its magic to wake you up when you need a jolt of energy. Still, you have to be cognizant about consuming your caffeine in moderation. You may think that to get through the workday, you need to be chugging coffee all day — but that's not entirely true. When you drink coffee way too often, your brain becomes reliant on it. There's a reason caffeine addictions are so common and hard to kick. 


Drinking too much coffee can lead to headaches, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, a fast heart rate, muscle tremors, and frequent urination. While some people are more sensitive to the side effects of caffeine than others, it's known to make just about everyone a tad bit jittery. As long as you're drinking your caffeine in moderation, this is a great option to consider when you have a long workday ahead. According to the FDA, "healthy adults" should drink no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. If you stick with a milligram count of 400 or less, you won't likely deal with any of those pesky side effects — including insomnia — which will just keep you up again that night! 

Sit near a window with natural sunlight pouring in

Natural sunlight can change your life in the best way if you manage to get enough of it during your workday. Some job locations don't offer an opportunity for you to absorb natural sunlight if you work in places like casinos, warehouses, or factories. If you're fortunate enough to work in an area with tons of windows all around you, it's in your best interest to sit near one with natural sunlight pouring in to get through your day. Just make sure you're still applying that SPF, even while indoors


Natural sunlight brings about a host of positive benefits, including vitamin D absorption and defense against seasonal depression. The CDC explains that spending time basking in natural sunlight has a "powerful effect" on your body's circadian rhythm. When your circadian rhythm is in alignment, it's easier for you to get sleepy at night while remaining alert during the day. You might not have an outdoor job such as gardening, lifeguarding, or marine biology, but that doesn't mean you can't set yourself up near a wide window where you can reap all of the same benefits.

Use a desk bike or walking pad if possible

If you have a chance to keep your body moving during your workday, odds are you'll be able to get through your shift a whole lot easier. Two of the simplest ways to accomplish this would be using a desk bike or walking pad. A desk bike is wonderful because it's stationary and easy to use. It's similar to any bicycle-style machine you've ever noticed inside a gym, except it comes fully equipped with a flat desk piece where the bike's handles typically would go. While using your laptop or filling out paperwork, your legs will always be moving in a circular motion on a stationary desk bike. 


A walking pad is equally amazing, but it requires some other adjustments. You'll need to make sure your desk can be raised to a higher level to complete your work while your body is completely straightened out. You can choose how fast or slow you want to walk so you're still maintaining a higher level of focus on your work responsibilities. Spending just a couple of hours during your workday on a desk bike or walking pad is a valuable form of exercise. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which send you rushes of euphoric happiness.

Avoid eating heavy foods that cause sluggishness

One of the worst mistakes you can make on a day when you're already feeling tired would be eating heavy foods that cause sluggishness. It's okay to be a little picky about what you're eating if you care about your health, happiness, and well-being. Foods that are widely recognized for draining your energy are what you should avoid. Some of those red-flag food items include white bread, pasta, and rice. 


You might possibly recall the time you ate a hefty helping of spaghetti or fettuccine Alfredo. Try to remember how tired you felt after finishing your plate! You'll also want to avoid foods that are filled with tons of added sugars. This includes muffins, flavored yogurts, juices, donuts, breakfast cereals, cinnamon rolls, and more. As you start narrowing down which food items you should eat, paying attention to labels and specific ingredients will help you in the long run.

Take a power nap during your lunch break

The benefits power naps can bring to your life aren't talked about enough. A study conducted by Clinical Neurophysiology found that taking a quick nap for about 20 minutes can help you feel more alert, fight off sleepiness, and improve your work performance. If you nap for longer than 30 minutes, though, it may become very difficult for you to wake up. Naps for 30 minutes or longer will leave you feeling groggy when you're up and moving again. If you make sure to wake up after 20 minutes, your level of vigilance will improve. 


This is excellent news for most American workers, with lunch breaks ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. If all you need are 20 minutes for a power nap, you'll be able to pull that off in the allotted time. Making this work requires a quiet place to dip off to where no one will wake you up or interrupt you. It also means you'll have to schedule a time to eat later during your shift. Even though you used your lunch break to take a quick nap, it doesn't mean you should neglect your hunger.

Complete your most difficult tasks first

If you're already running on zero sleep and low energy when you arrive at work for the day, it makes the most sense to complete your most difficult tasks first. By the end of your workday, you're likely going to feel beyond depleted. That being said, you wouldn't want to leave your most difficult tasks for the end of the day when you know you won't be capable of handling things with the necessary level of effort. 


If your workday consists of responding to a few voicemails, filing some paperwork, sending emails, and editing some data files, it's up to you to figure out which of those tasks is the most overwhelming and daunting. You'll feel the greatest sense of relief and pride knowing you've accomplished the most difficult tasks first and no longer have to worry about them. By doing this, you leave your easiest and most laid-back tasks for the end of the day to match up with the amount of energy you have left.

Take energy-boosting natural supplements

There are loads of natural coffee-free energy boosters to lean on when you're headed to work without a solid night of rest behind you. One thing that makes natural supplements so fantastic is that you don't need a prescription from a doctor to get your hands on them. You can choose the best natural supplements from grocery stores, vitamin shops, or online hubs. Rhodiola rosea is a popular energy-boosting herb that's known for enhancing physical performance while healing you from mental fatigue.


Rhodiola rosea is available in the form of drops, capsules, gummies, or powder. Vitamin B12 is another brilliant supplement to think about since it works its magic to "transform the food you eat into energy," according to Healthline. Citrulline works inside your body to push nutrients, blood, and oxygen through all areas with increased circulation. Take your time to research which natural supplements sound the most enticing to you before making your purchases. Additionally, make sure the supplements you choose for yourself are suitable for your own personal needs.

Collaborate with a chipper coworker

It might sound like your worst nightmare to collaborate with a chipper coworker on a day when you're feeling super sleepy, but this could be exactly what you need to get through your difficult workday. While your energy levels are low, it makes sense to link up with a coworker who always seems to have a lot of pep in their step. High-vibrational people are easy to spot in a crowd because they appear to love what they do with their life no matter the circumstances. 


These types of people are also easy to point out at work since you've probably never heard them complain about things, they're always on time, and they're always excited to take on new responsibilities. This might not be the type of coworker you'd spend your time with on a regular day, but when you really need some encouragement and support, your most sprightly coworker is capable of being there for you. Try to collaborate with an upbeat coworker by seeking out their point of view on a report or asking for their insight on a project.

Reward yourself for each hour you get through

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to set up a reward system to honor each hour you successfully reach throughout your workday. After hour one, you can play a quick round of "Candy Crush" on your phone. After hour two, you can eat a chocolate bar from the vending machine. After hour three, you can respond to the handful of texts that have been accruing in your inbox. 


It's up to you to decide which rewards are most appealing in your own personal reward system. You also have to ensure you aren't jumping the gun by indulging in any of the rewards you set for yourself before completing each hour. Conversely, you'll want to make sure you aren't avoiding work responsibilities by spending too much time on your rewards.

However, setting up a reward system like this gives you something to look forward to throughout your day. Watching the time tick by on the clock doesn't have to feel dreadful if you're mentally preparing yourself for your next reward at the end of each hour.

Stand up and stretch out when you can

The benefits that come with stretching your body are unmatched. When you stretch your body out, you help your joints move freely and completely, allow your muscles to function correctly, and boost your muscles' blood flow. According to Mayo Clinic, when stretching, you should "strive for symmetry" while focusing on your "major muscle groups." These muscle groups include your shoulders, neck, lower back, calves, thighs, and hips. Whatever you do to one side, you must do to the other.


There's a reason movies and TV shows always depict sleepy people waking out of bed with a stretch of their arms above their heads. Stretching is beyond helpful when it comes to waking you up. "Stretching before getting out of bed can help wake up the body and improve the circulation," Dr. Beth Frates tells Harvard Health Publishing. "It can also turn on the parasympathetic system — the 'rest and digest' system — which puts us in a more relaxed state right when we get out of bed, helping set the tone for a calm morning and day." What better way to feel ready to face the day? You can continue stretching beyond your bedroom, of course. Stand up and stretch it out whenever you get the chance at work to get your blood flowing.


Stick to a solid checklist

You'll be able to stay on track during a difficult workday if you're willing to stick to a solid checklist. It doesn't necessarily matter how zoned out you get if you have a checklist of tasks in front of you to complete. This is especially useful to help you focus better during your work-from-home day


When you know exactly what needs to be done, it's easier for you to maintain the right level of focus. Letting all your tasks float around your head would be a huge mistake. It's unlikely you'll be able to remember everything that needs to be done when you're too distracted by your sleepiness. 

Take a moment to jot everything down clearly and concisely. Ensure your checklist is filled with everything that needs to be handled during your workday, so you complete all your required tasks. Double-check with coworkers or upper management about your checklist to ensure you don't accidentally forget anything that must be handled.

Use headphones to listen to upbeat music if possible

Music works wonders to change and improve your mood. Many workplaces don't allow you to use headphones or listen to any music while getting your work done, so take advantage of that luxury if you're fortunate enough to work somewhere that allows you to use headphones. This is an excellent opportunity for you to use your headphones to listen to upbeat music that will make you feel more excited and enthusiastic about what's happening around you. 


This isn't the time to listen to any super slow ballads, depressing songs, or lyrics that will emotionally drag you down. Think about music that leaves you feeling hyped and energetic after you hear it. A quick scroll through your favorite curated upbeat playlist on Spotify or Apple Music will give you a better idea of what songs you should be listening to in order to spruce up your mood and get you through your workday.

Take as many breaks as you can

You might not work at a job that allows you to take tons of breaks, but if you do, you should be taking advantage of your freedom. You didn't get enough sleep, which means it'll be easier for you to waste valuable time daydreaming about your pillow at home. Instead of accidentally nodding off or sitting there feeling miserable because of your sleepiness, you should go out of your way to take as many breaks as you possibly can. 


Take a few breaks to walk around your office, interact with coworkers, grab something to drink from the water cooler, or grab something from your car in the parking lot. When you return to work following whatever short break you just took, you'll feel a little more motivated to finish some of your work. If you stay positioned in one seat all day without taking any breaks at all, it will be more challenging for those sparks of motivation to rise within you.

Carve out some time for positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are absolutely life-changing. If you're consistent with positive affirmations, you'll have a sunnier outlook on life every single day — no matter how sleepy you are. Positive affirmations come in handy in situations when you're feeling depressed, low vibrational, or dejected. They also are beneficial when you're feeling super burnt out and tired. Using positive affirmations during the workday when you're running off zero sleep will help you feel better about the temporarily negative situation you're going through. 


Positive affirmations exist to pull you out of a miserable headspace and fill you with more optimism. One of the positive affirmations you might consider telling yourself is, "I'm in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing." Another one is, "My life is about to be so incredible." You may also repeat words like, "Every day I'm alive is a good day." It's key to genuinely believe the truth behind your positive affirmations as you say them.

Set aside any work you can complete later on at home

Cut yourself some slack. If there are any work obligations you can complete later on at home, set them aside to be handled later. While it's true that you're supposed to use your workday to get all your work done, it might not be perfectly possible for that to work out every single time. You don't have to put an unnecessary amount of pressure on your shoulders if there are ways you can still get your tasks done beyond the rigid hours of your workday. 


Whatever tasks can be handled later at home can be set aside to alleviate some of the stress you might be feeling. The only caveat here is that you must make sure to come full circle back around to any of the tasks you set aside after getting home. After all, you can't neglect work responsibilities and then forget to do them altogether. If you're fortunate enough to work at a job with assignments that can be handled from home, it might behoove you to go that route.

Put in a request with upper management to clock out early

Depending on where you work, you may or may not feel comfortable putting in a request with upper management to clock out early. Trying to get through a workday without any sleep is a dreadful experience that no one wants to go through. If you can explain your situation with honesty and candor to upper management, there's a chance they'll let you clock out early. This isn't something you'll easily be able to pull off multiple times in a row, though. 


This is an absolute last-resort situation. You don't want upper management to think of you as someone who doesn't care to keep your position. Still, your mental health should be your top priority. At the end of the day, it's difficult for anyone to get work done in a truly impressive manner when they're unable to focus fully. Upper management should acknowledge that employees who show up to work refreshed after a good night of sleep will provide the best possible level of work. Employees who haven't had enough sleep certainly need to go home to get some much-needed rest.