·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

How to Sleep Well — Or Stay Awake When You Don’t

— December 13, 2019

So, the best way to cope with accidental sleepless nights is to do your best to prevent them. In particular, you should create a healthy and consistent sleep schedule.

We’ve all been told that maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is important. 

But let’s be honest:

It’s nearly impossible in today’s busy world.

Sleepless nights may happen despite our best efforts, and this takes a toll on every aspect of our life.

Is there a way to avoid that? How to sleep well every night? And how to survive a day when you didn’t manage to get any sleep at all?

Here are the answers.

Sleep Is Important, and Here’s Why

A lot of processes in our bodies happen during sleep. We restore energy, process information that our brain has obtained during the day, and form memories. And, all of this can be easily wrecked by a single sleepless night. Here are the main negative outcomes you may face:

  • Weakened immunity. Our body repairs itself during the night, and one of the repair processes is cytokine production. Cytokines are specific proteins that help our immune system fight back different viruses and germs. If you’re short on sleep, you may have reduced levels of cytokines and hence, become more susceptible to a cold. And, the more continuous your sleep shortage, the higher the chances of becoming sick. Researchers from the University of California found that those who sleep less than six hours are four times more likely to catch a cold, compared to people who sleep seven hours per night.
  • Increased stress response. Usually, our body is in a stable state called homeostasis. But, any stress can easily put us out of this state. And guess what? Even one night of poor sleep is a stress for our system, as this doesn’t allow us to restore energy. Now, in response to stress, the levels of the hormone cortisol in the blood increase, which may have such negative effects as poor emotional regulation, increased anxiety, and higher irritability.
  • Cognitive problems. The brain is the first organ to suffer from insufficient sleep. A 2007 systematic review of studies showed that even partial sleep restriction can negatively affect your reaction time, creativity, motivation, memory, attention span, and ability to perform simple tasks. Whether you’re studying or working, poor sleep certainly won’t help you move towards your goals.

How to Make Sure You Get the Best Sleep Every Night

So, the best way to cope with accidental sleepless nights is to do your best to prevent them. In particular, you should create a healthy and consistent sleep schedule. 

Here’s how:

  • Revise your schedule. Remember that sleep is only one part of your day. You need to balance your work and leisure time as well, to make sure that you maintain the desired level of productivity and allow yourself to wind down before you actually go to sleep.
  • Adjust your sleep time. According to Kansas Sleep, the recommended minimum of sleep for an adult is seven hours per night. So, be sure to adjust your sleep and wake times so that you can meet this recommendation (but try to aim for eight hours, which is considered optimal). Also, you may want to try fixing the times you wake up and go to sleep so that they are the same every day, including weekends. This way you will help your body get used to a certain regimen, which can make it easier for you to both fall asleep and wake up.
  • Teach yourself to fall asleep faster. There are lots of working techniques, and some of them may even get you to fall asleep in less than a minute. Guided meditation, breathing exercises, and visualization techniques are the best options to start with, as they work for almost everyone. Also, you may buy a white noise machine which can help you cope with insomnia.
  • Take time to wind down. This one is particularly important if you are studying or working late. You should go to bed relaxed, which is why incorporating some relaxing practices into your evening routine is a good idea. Drinking a cup of calming chamomile tea, taking a warm shower, cleaning your desk, or reading a book before sleep will help your brain wind down and get into the right mood.

Finally, remember that the most important part is to stick to the changes and follow these tips consistently. This may help not only improve your sleep schedule but also make you more organized.

How to Stay Awake When You’ve Had a Sleepless Night

Now, even when you succeed at incorporating healthy sleep habits into your life, some events and circumstances may disrupt your success and cause you to stay awake the whole night — and feel like a zombie next morning.

Woman ringing up purchase; image by Patrick Tomasso, via
Woman ringing up purchase; image by Patrick Tomasso, via

So, here you are, sitting in the office after a sleepless night.

How do you get through this day on a low charge? 

Here’s what may help you survive before you finally hit the pillow:

  • Take a cool shower. A warm shower can help you relax, whereas a cool shower can trigger a hormonal response similar to the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction and boost your alertness for a couple of hours. If your office has a gym, there also must be a shower, so don’t hesitate to use it. If that’s not an option, though, you can at least wash your face with cool water every so often.
  • Use caffeine. But do it wisely. Caffeine in your Americano cup prevents neural cells from interacting with adenosine, a neurotransmitter that induces the state of sleepiness. It should be noted, though, that the half-life of caffeine in your system is about four to six hours, depending on your sensitivity. So, it’s advisable to drink the last cup of coffee at least six to eight hours prior to your actual bedtime so that you can fall asleep more naturally.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause headaches and loss of concentration, which isn’t helpful when you are trying to get through the day. So, don’t forget to consume your water: it’s better to choose non-carbonated water or isotonic cocktails that have essential electrolytes.
  • Expose yourself to light. Light and fresh air are major regulators of your internal clock. Spending your coffee break under the sun will help you score some vigor, and moderate physical activity will enhance that boost.

All of these tips will help you stay awake when you need to. Still, if your working schedule — and your boss — allow that, you should try power napping to repay your sleep debt (or at least some part of it). 

The main recommendations are pretty simple: 

Do not nap for more than 20-30 minutes, or you will enter the deep sleep stage and wake up even groggier than you were before. Also, do not schedule a nap later than two to three hours before your bedtime, or it may lead to another sleepless night.

Join the conversation!