How can I function with no sleep?

No matter the reason we didn’t get enough sleep—living with a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, no work-life balance, or otherwise— we’re exhausted. We may find it difficult to focus, our brains might feel foggy, and we want nothing more than to just rest. Having little energy means it feels impossible to handle all our responsibilities like school or work—or even taking care of ourselves and others.

While functioning with no sleep may not be ideal, unfortunately it’s something that many of us have to do from time to time. Finding ways to energize yourself will improve your ability to function throughout the day.

Set manageable goals

When we try to push through our exhaustion, we sometimes set ourselves up for frustration. We must acknowledge that it’s difficult to function normally when we haven’t had a night of restful sleep. Setting manageable goals for ourselves can make it easier to get through the day.

Try not to force yourself to do everything. Ask yourself. What can I do today and what can I put off until tomorrow?  Prioritize your tasks and break them down into smaller achievable steps. If you can, wait to complete important projects or make big decisions until you are feeling more rested.

Lean on others

When we’re not feeling our best, leaning on others can help us. If you feel comfortable, communicate how you feel to others. When others ask, “How are you?” Be honest. Tell them that you are feeling exhausted or more tired than usual. This helps others meet you where you are mentally, and lets them know that you may need a little more time, help, or patience today.

Finding ways to energize yourself

After a sleepless night, there are things you can do that may help you feel energized. Trying one, two, or a combination of the tips below may help you recharge throughout the day.

Take a power nap

A quick power nap can help you recharge. A power nap is a short nap that lasts between 10-20 minutes. Though you may have the urge to sleep longer, try to resist because long naps may make you feel groggy. [1]

Take a moment for yourself

Doing activities that let you shut off your brain can help you recharge. Close your eyes for a moment. Watch one of your favorite videos or comfort shows. Taking a break for a few minutes can help you get some energy.

Practice mindfulness

Taking a little time to practice mindfulness and meditation can help you focus, reduce stress, and be more present in the moment. If you’re not sure where to begin, one of these apps can help you get started.

Listen to music

Listening to music can counteract the effects of fatigue. [2] So if you need to find some energy, find a great playlist or listen to some of your favorite upbeat songs.

Get your body moving

Light to moderate physical activity can also counteract fatigue. [2] Light workouts such as going for a walk outside, doing some light yoga or stretching, or dancing may help you feel more energized.

Having a little caffeine is OK

Coffee, tea, and energy drinks can provide a much-needed energy boost, but too much caffeine can make you feel worse. [1] Because drinking caffeine late in the day may also make it difficult to fall asleep, limiting when you drink it can be helpful. You can still enjoy your favorite caffeinated beverage, but in moderation.

You did it before and you can do it again

Making it through the day without restful sleep is hard, but you may have done it before and you can do it again. Even though you are exhausted, you can still complete tasks and accomplish things. While you may not feel like your best self, you can still function with little to no sleep.

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If you are concerned that not getting enough sleep is related to a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, consider taking one of our mental health tests. Or consider reaching out to a trusted friend or medical professional. You can also check out this article for tips and advice on what to do when you can’t sleep.

  1. Summer, Jay. (2022, April 22). Sleepless Nights: How to Function on No Sleep. Sleep Foundation.https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/how-to-function-after-sleepless-nights
  2. Thomas Jacquet, Bénédicte Poulin-Charronnat, Patrick Bard, et, al. (2021). Physical Activity and Music to Counteract Mental Fatigue. Neuroscience, Vol. (478), 75-88 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2021.09.019

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