Going without sleep is never a good idea. However, sometimes there is little you can do about a disturbed night’s sleep, and you find yourself in a position in which you are left trying to make it through your day on very little sleep. And asking yourself just how to stay awake after no sleep?
Aside from making a promise to yourself not to get yourself into this groggy state (as you should, which we’ll discuss more later) if you are trying to function on no sleep trying to find ways to stay alert (and even conscious) is likely to be on your mind for much of the day, until you can head back to your comfy bed and get the restorative sleep you need.
Here’s a closer look at some of the ways you can try to do that, as well as the very important reasons you should strive to never get yourself into this position in the first place.
While there is no set scientific standard, because people can thrive on varying amounts of sleep for reasons sleep scientists are still trying to understand (although genetics may have something to do with it) according to guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the CDC on average adults between the ages of 18 and 60 should get between seven and eight hours of sleep per night to remain alert and garner the many health benefits sleep has to offer.
This figure is higher for kids – up to 12 hours in every 24 for children under the age of 12 and 10 hours for teens to age 17 is the general recommendation – and is not, as we mentioned, a set in stone figure, but generally speaking at least seven hours sleep is ideal.
If you did not get enough sleep the night before, you may know from experience that it is unlikely that you will be able to do your best work. You may not even be able to stay awake, and find yourself dozing off at your desk.
This is because the effects of a lack of sleep can begin to affect you as little as an hour and a half after you begin making a conscious effort to be active. While the physical side effects of a lack of sleep – which in the long term can include high blood pressure, weight gain, an increased risk of heart attack and stroke and more – take longer to ‘kick in’ the mental and cognitive effects are more immediately apparent.
The chances are that those who have not slept properly will find it difficult to concentrate, may feel ‘stressed out’ and anxious, have difficulty with basic cognitive tasks and even struggle to remember even the simplest things.
While there are rumors that some people have stayed awake even longer, the longest recorded attempt to stay awake was made by a 17-year-old high school student at his science fair in 1965. Back then, Randy Gardener managed to stay (almost) awake for 264 hours, or around 11 days.
However, according to his recollections and the observations of those around him, Randy was experiencing cognitive and memory difficulties within the first day or so. This is why the popular student practice of pulling an ‘all-nighter’ is not a smart idea, as a lack of sleep will significantly reduce their ability to remember facts.
A better idea is to ensure they get a good night’s sleep the night before a test and wake early to review a few salient points.
What’s the Best Energy Drink to Help You Stay Awake After A Sleepless Night?
Let’s say that it was unavoidable, and the night before you managed little to no sleep but still have to head to work or school in the morning and do your best to function as normally as possible, and certainly to stay awake. Finding a quick fix is usually at the top of your mind at this point.
For decades (maybe even centuries) caffeinated coffee has been what most people turn to. In fact, many people start their day with coffee even if they have slept for seven to eight hours.
It is the caffeine in coffee that can make you feel more alert fast. Caffeine is a moderately effective alerting substance. It has the potential to improve your reaction times, temperament, and cognitive performance within 20-30 minutes. Caffeine dosages range from 50 mg to 200 mg to be considered safe and normal, and the average 12oz cup of coffee contains around 136mg.
In itself, this coffee habit is not considered harmful and may offer some positive health benefits. It is when people consume it in excessive amounts that it becomes a problem. Opting to increase your caffeine intake beyond the occasional cup of coffee can backfire, as the more caffeine you consume, the more your body becomes accustomed to it, and the less effective it will be.
Then there are energy drinks. Carbonated energy drinks first gained popularity with the introduction of Red Bull in 1987. After the success of the caffeine heavy drink that claims it can ‘give you wings’ dozens and dozens of copycats have emerged, and now every gas station, grocery store and supermarket usually features shelf after shelf of energy drinks that promise to give you the boost you need to stay awake, even if you have had very little sleep. But do they work? And are they safe? This is an increasingly controversial subject.
Caffeine is a key component of most forms of energy drinks, ranging from 70 to 240 mg in a 16-ounce drink to 113 to 200 mg in a concentrated energy shot. Other ingredients in energy drinks include guarana (also known as Brazilian cocoa), carbohydrates, ginseng, taurine, large doses of B vitamins, and more.
By themselves, many of these ingredients are not harmful and some are beneficial to your health. The problem is that in combination they pack a powerful punch and the biggest problem is that some people, especially young people, consume them in large quantities that can result in serious health problems, including heart attack even in the young and healthy.
Energy drinks, when now sold in the US, have to contain a warning that they are not suitable for those under 18, and even for adults they should not become a habit, especially as, like coffee, they will lose their effectiveness over time.
Other Ways to Stay Awake and Boost Energy Levels
So what can you try in order to make it through the day when you have been unable to get a good night’s sleep? Here are some simple suggestions:
- Get up and walk around at least once an hour. Many overtired people who have a job that involves sitting at a desk and staring at a computer may find themselves falling into ‘microsleep’, those few minutes of dozing you may be familiar with. Getting up and moving around can help avoid this.
- Get outside for a few minutes, as fresh air can have a naturally invigorating effect, and the movement will help increase your feeling of wakefulness as well.
- Try an energy filled healthy snack. A handful of protein packed nuts can be helpful when you are trying to stay awake.
- If you can, try to take a short nap, but limit it to about 20 minutes, to avoid feeling even tired when you wake up.
- Resolve to get a good night’s sleep as soon as possible, and try to pay more attention to developing good sleep habits!