How to Dominate Your Day When You Have Had No Sleep

By Nate McCallister

One of the great misconceptions about productivity is that we need to sacrifice sleep to achieve high levels of it.

Ironically, it is often in spite of a lack of sleep that we remain productive, not because of it.

Sometimes however, in the hectic life of an entrepreneur, there may be times when sleep is scarce or non-existent.

I dealt with a lot of this when I was working out of my 9-5 job. I was taking 18 hours of semester credits (the maximum my guidance counselor would allow me to take in a good conscience) and working 46 hours a week at a yarn mill. I was also raising a 4-year-old son with my wife, who was expecting our 2nd during this time.

I was taking 18 hours of semester credits (the maximum my guidance counselor would allow me to take in a good conscience) and working 46 hours a week at a yarn mill. I was also raising a 4-year-old son with my wife, who was expecting our 2nd during this time.

I learned a lot about the limits of my body and how my brains operates without sleep.

It wasn't always pretty, but I learned how to make it work.

Warning: A lack of sleep can cause serious health problems. Anxiety, irritability, reduced learning capabilities and a number of other nightmarish side effects are common for sleep deprived people. This methods in this post are for worst case scenarios, not standard practice.

Oh, I am not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV.

#1 Sunlight is your friend

Exposing ourselves to natural light is critical to decreasing the release of the sleep hormone melatonin.

This is very important because it is melatonin that makes us tired and keeps us that way. It isn't our friend when we are fighting sleep!

What to do: 

  • Work near a window or naturally lighted area.
  • Take frequent breaks and walk outdoors.

#2 Focus on Your Breathing

Taking slow, deliberate breaths will help heighten alertness.

#3 Take a Cold Shower

Taking a very brief cold shower (between 30-60 seconds) will stimulate adrenaline levels. This will prepare your nerves for the day.

What to do:

  • First thing in the morning (if possible) turn on your shower at the coldest temperature possible.
  • You can either jump straight in, or ease into it from warm to colder.
  • Don't make this last longer than 2 minutes tops.

#4 Eat small meals

Eating large meals requires the body to expend energy on digestion.

What to do:

  • Don't skip eating altogether, but you should avoid eating as much as usual and certainly not more.
  • Eat something with high protein. A meal of carbs will lead to an initial energy spark, but will be followed shortly after by a crash.

#5 Get a Quick Workout In

Although it seems counterintuitive, a short workout can boost hormones that reduce fatigue

#6 Caffeine is Your Friend, Sort of...

I don't care what anyone else says, caffeine is still a miracle drug as far as productivity goes.

Don't over do it though. Too much caffeine will leave you jittery and anxious.

Note: Everyone has a different tolerance level for caffeine. Mine is very high, so what I drink a day would not be healthy for a lot of other people. Know your limits.

What to do:

* A caffeine nap is a 30-minute nap that you take immediately after drinking a serving of caffeine. The caffeine takes about 45 minutes to go into effect, so when you take a nap right after drinking it like this, you will wake up with the full effects.

#7 Take a Green Supplement

You are going to need your body operating at max capacity when your sleep deprived. A green supplement will make sure you get enough of your daily nutrients.

If your sleep deprived, you may also be in a time crunch, so I recommend Athletic Greens for a quick green drink.

About the author

Nate is the founder and main contributor of He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his four kids Sawyer, Brooks, Van and Lua with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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