How to Stay Awake with Little or No Sleep
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How to Stay Awake with Little or No Sleep

How to stay awake with little sleep or no sleep.

Whether you've had a late night hitting the bars or an exceptionally long day at work, getting through the next day with little or no sleep can be an almost impossible challenge. We all know that feeling of zombie-like workflow due to sleep deprivation. When it becomes and all out war to stay awake, there's a couple things you can do that will offer a bit of relief.


Caffeine can be a godsend when we're feeling tired, but beware, too much caffeine will actually make things worse. As a general rule, stay away from energy drinks. I know it's tempting, and they claim to keep your mental batteries fully charged for hours, and they do. But only for a couple hours. After that it's pretty much game over. The exception to this rule are the non-carbonated energy drinks which actively promote hydration. But even these need to be taken lightly and consumed throughout a prolonged period.

Coffee is the best source of caffeine for a couple reasons. First, it's often readily available, it's inexpensive, and it's not overly powerful. A cup of coffee every hour and a half to two hours will keep your body alert without reaching the threshold of a potential caffeine crash. Avoid adding dairy to your java, and use real sugar. Sugar increases the amount of caffeine that is effectively absorbed by the human brain. But coffee alone might not be enough. You need to stay hydrated, drink water with your coffee.

Stay Hydrated

There's not much your body can do when severely dehydrated. You might feel sick, irritable, unable to focus, and exceptionally tired in addition to your lack of sleep. This is especially important after a long night of drinking alcohol. As a preemptive caution, try to chug a couple glasses of water before going to bed after drinking. But, if you're reading this it might be too late. In which case it's time to start drinking water. Stay away from soda. Drinking Gatorade is great, but we all know that electrolytes is a fancy term for salt. Electrolytes do help hydrate you, but should be used in conjunction with water, not as a replacement. Drink a sports drink, and refill the bottle with water. Your body will have the benefits of the sports drink, and the increased ability to process the water. Hydration is paramount to the ability to function, especially after a long night.

Stand Up and Get Moving

There's no law against standing up and doing your job as opposed to sitting in a chair. Self discipline is key here. We tend to feel more tired when we're comfortable. The trick is forcing yourself to be uncomfortable. Your body might be thinking that the cushioned office chair in front of your desk would be a great place to relax for just a minute, but don't let this fool you. When you sit down it's much easier to doze off and be caught off guard by your boss or a very disappointed supervisor, and more often than not, they won't be feeling too sympathetic. If you are standing up and its still getting really bad, do a couple jumping jacks or do some pushups. Do literally anything to get the blood flowing.  


If your place of work allows, get something to snack on. The best snacks are the kind that can be spread out continuously such as trail mix or wheat crackers. Sunflower seeds are also ideal. You want to keep a steady balance between eating and getting full. A full belly is something you want to avoid. Remember how you feel after thanksgiving dinner? Being too full will make you even more tired, but eating steadily will keep you awake. Gum seems like a good idea, but it won't quite do the job. It's the effect of oral activity and the stomach combined that will help keep you going. Try to stay away from heavy or greasy foods such as potato chips. 

Stimulate Your Senses

Listen to loud music, watch a funny video, read the news. If you can find something to interest you, you will become more alert. If you can find an effective way to stimulate your mind, you'll often forget how tired you are or how little sleep you had.


First of all, we all know that tobacco products are bad. This is only for people who already use tobacco. Nicotine has a couple effects on the body, that for the purpose of staying awake, will be in your favor. Similar to snacking, smoking or dipping has an oral fixation that will keep your mind occupied on something. Like caffeine, nicotine raises your blood pressure. But unlike either, nicotine also stimulates the release of epinephrine from the adrenal glands. When smoking for stimulation, take shorter shallower puffs. For those who smoke regularly, nicotine withdrawal will make you feel even more worn out, and you might just wear out your coworkers as well.

Surviving through sleep deprivation is a battle best won with the right tool set. It's not easy, and it's not fun. But sometimes you aren't given the choice whether or not to go to work. Just don't give up and don't doze off.

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Comments (3)

Love this, good writing. I enjoyed reading this. It's something we can use on a day to day basis.

I got the caffeine and nicotine down...voted

When I worked in a cube farm I used to get up and walk down and back up three floors to get my blood moving and my heart rate up. If I stayed in my cubicle too long my productivity went down and I started to feel stiff and groggy.