Vampire on a Day Pass: How to Survive a Day on No Sleep
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Vampire on a Day Pass: How to Survive a Day on No Sleep

What's happening with your body when you don't sleep

Most health experts agree that your average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep (teenagers actually require more, up to 10 hours). We also try to abide by that, but sometimes, it just doesn't work out that way. Whether it's stress, hormones or crappy landlords trying to illegally tow your car at 4 in the morning (my personal reason for writing this article), sometimes you're sleep deprived despite your best efforts. Let's face it, most of us can't call in sick, just because we're running on 4 hours of snooze time (or less!). So what do you do to get through the day?

First, most experts agree that an occasional sleepless night is really not a serious health problem, so unless it's chronic, don't waste your limited energy worrying about it. Generally, you'll sleep like a baby the night following and "catch up". Actually the sleep catching is sort of a myth-you don't entirely recover from lost sleep by over sleeping. The current theory is to go to bed around your usuall bedtime (or an hour or two earlier) and over the next few days, you may find you're sleeping an hour or two more, but after that you should normalize.

If your sleep problems are chronic, there are ways to address them (melatonin, chamomile tea, weird prescription drugs) but that's not the scope of this article. I'm just trying to get you (and myself) through this day.

When you haven't had sufficient sleep, the body, particularly the brain and nervous system, has had no "recovery" time. The body regenerates cells, heals and does a lot of "housecleaning" of toxic by-products of cell function when we're asleep. Without sleep, our body has to work harder while we're awake, to maintain itself. This lack of "detox" time is why you feel like you're drunk or underwater.

The brain is also a glucose hog, so you will crave sugar and overeat carbs. Don't even try to deprive yourself of this, just stick to healthy ones. Make sure your carbs have fiber, so fruit, like berries and apples are great. Order the whole wheat crust on the 'za or the sandwich, but be sure to balance it with plenty of protein and, ideally, take a fiber supplement (like PGX or flax powder) with your carbs, to level out the release of sugar into the blood. A brisk walk on your lunch hour will help lift your energy naturally. Or on your 10 minute afternoon break (where you almost certainly will be dragging).

You'll be tempted to drown yourself in coffee. Don't. Have some, if that's your jones, but realize that it causes big swings in blood sugar. When you get to the bottom of the swing, you'll suddenly remember you've had no sleep and be nodding at your desk. Tea actually has a slower rise, keeps you awake longer and doesn't drop your blood sugar like a rock. Some Green Foods, particularly Blue-Green Algae are great for boosting energy levels without messing up your blood sugar. So make a shake or take a few capsules of a high quality brand to boost the oxygen levels in your blood and keep yourself a little more conscious without dunking your blood sugar. B_Vitamins, particularly B-12 & B-6 are energy boosters, too, so, some of those (preferably LOW caffeine) energy drinks can be helpful. Just read the labels for caffeine and sugar.

EFA's are proven in studies to improve the rate of nerve impulse transmission, so take your Flax oil or have the tuna salad. You're brain is slow if you're running on little sleep, Give it all the help you can.Nuts can make good snacks, but try and combine them with fruit or vegetables (like apples or celery with peanut or almond butter.)

Unless you're the champ of the powernap, it's likely to make you feel groggy, so forgo until your out of the office. To prevent messing up your sleep schedule and waking up in the middle of the night, try to go to bed as close to your regular bedtime as possible (an hour or two earlier is okay) and catch up on the weekend.

Hopefully this tips will get you through the day and you'll feel better tomorrow. Me, I'm heading to Subway for the Seafood sandwich on wheat, with an apple snack.

 * with thanks to comedian Robin Williams' hilarious comedy routine for the title of this article.

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Comments (4)

thanks for this one. Lack of sleep can really feel you drained the next day.

Ranked #4 in Sleep

u r welcome oj!

Great article and a fun read. Like your style Elizabeth. RT'd and voted up. I am glad I found your articles.

Love the title ;-)