This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.
I see you there, struggling to keep your eyes open, drinking your coffee and wondering how you’ll make it through another day as a functioning human being.
You want to stop feeling like a zombie, and you want to get some stuff done, despite the fact that you slept for about 40 minutes last night.
Here are 18 tips to help you get through the day with no sleep.
Prefer to listen to an audio version of this piece? Just click the play button below or look for The Optimized Mom Podcast in your favorite podcast player!
Table of Contents
To Feel Better When You’ve Had No Sleep
Take a short nap
Many moms agree that the most infuriating advice we get as new mothers is to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. When else are you supposed to get a shower and a sandwich? Research shows, though, that a short nap might be just the thing.
Shelby Harris, clinical psychologist and author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia says that both the length and the duration of the nap are important. What’s the ideal time of day to nap? Between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. Your body’s circadian rhythm allows it to rest during this time, and taking a nap this early won’t interfere with nighttime sleep.
And good news, mama, you might actually be able to make time for a nap and a sandwich during afternoon nap time.
The ideal nap length is only 20-40 minutes. If you sleep any longer, you risk going into deep, slow-wave sleep, which will leave you feeling groggy afterward.
Have trouble falling asleep during the day even when you’re exhausted? Me too. I’m a terrible napper, but on the rare occasions that I do decide to rest in the afternoon, I love this 30 minute nap meditation from The Honest Guys.
Are you finding motherhood a little chaotic at the moment? Check out this simple (and free!) 5-step plan to help get your home less cluttered, your life more organized, and your head in the right place!
Fuel your body
Know that some of your willpower gets zapped when you’re tired. Therefore, when you’re trying to get through the day with no sleep, you’re more likely to indulge in cravings for yummy sugary and carbohydrate-laden foods.
These will give you a quick energy boost, but energy levels will plummet when insulin and blood sugar levels inevitably come crashing back down. You’re in danger of entering a vicious cycle where you’re tired, you eat some junk, you’re wired for a minute, you crash and feel worse, and you eat some junk again.
Registered dietician Ashley Bailey suggests you skip the cycle and fuel your body with smart choices. Eat a healthy breakfast within about an hour of waking that includes dense carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat. Eggs, plain Greek yogurt, protein powder, and steel cut oats would all be healthy things to choose.
Eat a small lunch with 1/2 a plate of non-starchy veggies, 1/4 plate of protein, and 1/4 plate of nutrient-dense carbohydrates along with a bit of healthy fat.
If you need a snack in the afternoon, avoid simple carbs and choose instead whole grain crackers, nut butters, hummus, hard-boiled eggs, whole fruit, or nuts and seeds.
Drink some water
I don’t know you, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you are probably dehydrated.
An estimated 75% of adults don’t drink enough water. Experts recommend that we drink at least half our body weight in ounces of water every day. So a 140-pound woman would need a minimum of 70 ounces. If you’re sweating a lot due to high temperatures or exercise, or if you’re drinking a lot of alcohol, you need even more water to replace the fluid lost.
If you’re a breastfeeding mama, stop reading this right now, and get a tall glass of water to drink. Experts recommend that you drink a staggering 140 ounces a day to ensure that your milk supply stays consistent and your own body gets what it needs.
If you’re not drinking adequate water, blood pressure drops, blood flow to the brain slows, and dehydrated muscles feel sluggish and sore. All of this will make you feel more tired when you’re trying to get through the day with no sleep.
Plan to drink your first water right when you get out of bed in the morning, and consider using a hydration bottle to make sure you meet your water goals during the day.
Drink some coffee
Yes, moms and coffee is a cliché for a reason. A little boost of caffeine really does help. Even for breastfeeding mamas, caffeine is totally safe as only a tiny percentage of the caffeine makes it into your milk.
How can you make sure you use coffee to the greatest effect? Consider making bulletproof coffee, which also contains some fat. This fat not only keeps the coffee from wreaking so much havoc on an empty stomach (coffee is highly acidic), but it also gives you extra energy and a brain boost. Devotees say that it can boost metabolism and aid weight loss, too. What’s not to like?
Wanna try it? Here’s the recipe:
8 oz. coffee
2 Tablespoons of grass fed butter
1 tsp. Of coconut oil
Blend together for 30 seconds.
I know butter and coffee might not sound like the most appetizing thing in the world, but trust me–it’s yummy.
Try the yogic coffee breathing exercise
This one’s a little weird, but stay with me.
This quick breathing exercise takes just two minutes and will give you a natural energy boost. How? Breathing deeply helps to regulate the oxygen levels in your blood and give cells the oxygen they need to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). I vaguely remember something about that from my high school biology class…
Yeah, I know. The last thing you want to do when you’re tired is exercise, but it really can boost your energy and mood–I promise.
First of all, it’ll help you take in more oxygen, which we already mentioned above was important. In addition, exercise increases endorphin levels (the hormone we produce when we need a burst of energy). It also improves our cardiovascular health, helps our mental focus, and helps us sleep better at night.
How can you get this exercise when you’re already tapped out? A short dance party with the kids will do it. You might also try this 1 minute energy boost.
Got more time to read? You might also like:
Get some sunlight
Sunlight helps regulate your body’s internal clock, so it’s especially important to get sunlight within an hour or so of waking up. Exposure to sunlight also helps boost serotonin levels, which will make you feel a little more human.
Combine the sun exposure with a walk, and you can knock out some of the exercise I mentioned above at the same time.
Grab some essential oil
Peppermint oil has been proven to fight fatigue and could give you a nice boost if you’re dragging. When you’re trying to get through the day with no sleep, citrus oils like lemon and sweet orange can also increase energy and encourage a positive mood. Why not try a few drops in a diffuser? At the very least, your house will smell nice.
(And no, I don’t have any Doterra or Young Living to sell you.)
Change your mindset
We make the fact that we’re not sleeping feel lots more upsetting when we create a whole negative narrative around it. Perhaps we walk around all day saying, “I’m sooooooo tired.” Maybe we dread going to sleep, knowing we’ll be woken up by a baby or toddler. Or else we worry in advance about not being able to function during the day.
All of this makes us feel stressed out and terrible in addition to being sleepy. Physically feeling fatigue is annoying, of course, but all of this extra drama makes it worse.
As Kara Loewentheil suggested on her excellent podcast, Unfuck Your Brain, imagine the fatigue you’re feeling was because you’d just fallen in love and had been up with your partner all night. Your story around the fatigue would be much different than the one you’re likely telling yourself now.
You have the power to create whatever story you want, so make sure your thoughts about your tiredness are positive ones. Try:
- I’ve got all the energy I need to make it through today.
- I’m a little tired, but I’ve already made it through days like this before. I’ve got this.
- My mind is sharp and my body is awake.
Go to bed earlier
Ok, I know I sound like an asshole suggesting this one, but do check your evening routine to see if there’s a chance you could make it to bed any earlier.
When my baby was a newborn, I used to stay up later than I needed to because I wanted to “hang out” with my husband (translation: watch Criminal Minds reruns together while we stared at the TV like zombies).
Rather than indulging in this lousy couple time, I would have been better off just going to sleep so I could be a more cheerful, considerate partner the next day.
If you’ve gotta go to bed at 8 p.m. to ensure that you get a few hours in before the baby wakes up, just do it.
Get a check up if you think things aren’t right
When we have little kids in the house, it’s easy to get accustomed to being exhausted. Make sure you’re continuing to listen to your body, though.
Plenty of moms have written off fatigue as part of motherhood and later found an underlying medical issue. If you’re out of the newborn phase, you’ve tried all the steps above, and you still feel exhausted, it couldn’t hurt to visit your general practitioner to get a physical.
To Get Stuff Done When You’ve Had No Sleep
Wake up and get started right away
It’s super tempting to hit the snooze button when we’re running on very little sleep. The kind of sleep you get while snoozing isn’t restorative, though. You’re better off getting up early and taking care of something you’d like to do in the sweet silence before the rest of the house gets up.
Do your most important task first
Often, when we’re exhausted, we end up kind of puttering around and not doing much. If you know you’ve only got a limited amount of energy, make sure you get the most important task done first.
Try to choose a priority for each day the night before and accomplish that priority as soon as possible after you’ve woken up.
Break tasks into manageable chunks
10-minute tasks have absolutely transformed my life as a mom. So often, I’ll look at a project and think I don’t even want to start it because it seems so huge and daunting.
It’s easy to commit to setting a timer and tackling the dreaded task for 10-minutes, though.
Try to look at both your most important task of the day and any other things you are hoping to do as a series of bite-sized jobs rather than a giant project. Eat those elephants one tiny bite at a time.
Simplify/cut down your to do list
Yes, I know you have a lot of shit you HAVE to get done. It’s time to be honest with yourself, though, and realize that you might have to cut back on the things you’re going to try to do.
When you’re exhausted, you’re not going to be as productive as you are during normal times. Be kind to yourself and know that the situation is temporary. Slash some items off of that to-do list, lower your standards, and don’t give it another thought.
It’s tempting to plop on the couch when we’re trying to get through the day with no sleep. If you’ve got something you really need to do, though, you’ll want to stand up while you complete it. Standing up improves our posture and gets our blood flowing. Adding in a little stretch will compound the effects.
Studies have shown that your willpower and self-control decrease when you’re tired. This means that if you’re trying to get through the day with no sleep, you’re less likely to be able to resist the temptation to play on your phone all day.
Set yourself up for success by removing any electronic distractions that might keep you from doing what you need to do. Consider disabling notifications on your phone or tablet so that you are checking on them at pre-determined times rather than constantly being interrupted to text with your bestie.
Consider also removing any apps that you can’t resist so that you can focus on what needs to be done. Candy Crush and Instagram, I’m looking at you…
Turn on some music
Music is great for boosting your energy level when you’re trying to get through the day with no sleep. The playlist you choose will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you just want to feel energized for doing mindless tasks around the house, look for songs you love that have positive lyrics and a tempo of 100-130 BPM.
Consider something like this guilty pleasure…
If you need to concentrate on focused work, skip JT. Music you love with great lyrics will be distracting. Choose rhythmic, instrumental music with an upbeat tempo instead. Classical music can fit the bill here, but so can genres like techno and drum and bass if you prefer them. The Spotify playlist below might fit your sensibilities better than Mozart.
Don’t forget to tap into your support system when you’re trying to get through the day with no sleep. From getting your kids involved in helping with the housework, to having a mother’s helper come over to sit with the baby while you take your 30-minute nap, there are endless options for taking some of the load off of your exhausted shoulders. Don’t try to do it all alone.
The Part Where I Give You the Pep Talk
Mama, please remember that all this is temporary. The Universe is just hazing you so you can be a full-fledged member of the sorority of moms.
You WILL sleep again for more than a few minutes at a time. Do what you need to do in the meantime to get through these days. Hang in there.
You got this.
Liked this post? Pin it for later!