Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Coping with insomnia: The day after and how to stay productive.

            2:07am... okay, I’ve got 5 hours left to sleep. Let’s do this, I’m ready...
            3:46am... Really? I’m going to be so tired at work, but I can still sleep a bit...
            5:57am... Alright, let’s just get the day started...

You headed to bed at a reasonable hour, but just couldn’t sleep. Spending the entire night tossing and turning in the sheets and then having to face the new day unrested is a bitter feeling, and may leave you more anxious than before. Sleepless nights are quite common for people coping with anxiety and depression, and many find that the combination of little sleep, low motivation and high stress makes it even harder to sleep the next night. This is especially true if you have spent more than one night doing so, but don’t worry too much about it, you can’t change it now and it’s time for work or school.  
                    There are ways you can manage this set-back and stay productive.

One thing that many who struggle with their sleep may fear is that their sleepless nights will somehow bring harm to them. Our bodies are extremely resilient; just think of how many new parents have to cope with sleepless nights after having children! It’s definitely not a habit you want to maintain, but it’s not something to fret about if it makes trying to sleep more difficult.

Staying productive the next day may be hard, as your head and body feel heavy, and everything around you seems to resemble a pillow. Your work may seem overwhelming and lunch may be unappetizing. I am going to share a few ways you can keep up your energy and productivity without resorting to many cups of coffee and cold showers!

Have a nutritious snack before work or school.  If you feel up to eating, have a full breakfast. Make sure to include a source of protein (an egg, whey-protein powder, or a glass of milk/soy milk). If you haven’t slept, at least you don’t have to run on fumes. This will give you the energy needed to stay awake.
Tip: Skip the coffee – it’ll wake you up now, but it will likely lead to the jitters, more anxiety and a crash later in the day. Try instead to have some tea (Green or White has caffeine as well – choose wisely, you know how your body reacts to caffeine. And if you don’t yet, read this article on caffeine-free alternatives)

Have a bottle of water at your desk or workspace, and whenever you remember, take a sip. Remaining hydrated helps to prevent the headaches that come with insufficient sleep, and the continuous action of drinking might help to keep your brain awake while you plod along through your day.

20-30 minutes around or before lunch-time if your schedule permits. This gives your brain a bit of a boost, makes up a bit of the time you lost during the night. If you sleep longer, you risk falling into deeper delta-wave sleep and will wake up feeling more sluggish and groggy than before. Sleeping too much during the day can also lead to another night of sleeplessness.

It’s not what it sounds like (what does it sound like?)! What I mean here is your workload: don’t start with the biggest project on the list. Break down your tasks into small, manageable chunks.  This ensures that you get some things done, while not overwhelming yourself. See Step 3 of Staying motivated when discouraged for a further explanation of this point. 

Now that you have some tools, coping with insomnia the day after will be easier. It's not easy, but you're doing it, and that's what counts!

                                                              Conquer on!

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