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How to Stay up Late and Not be Tired (Doctor’s 10 Tips)

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  • This article was written and researched by Dr. Myra S (MBBS) – a qualified medical doctor – to ensure that the content is unique and medically accurate.

Staying up late and then getting up early is not a healthy sleep pattern for most people.

However, due to work, school, or a busy schedule, you may find yourself having no other choice but to stay up late and then get up early.

So how can you stay up late and not be tired the next day?

To reduce tiredness on limited sleep: drink 8 oz of water upon waking to prevent dehydration; drink tea or coffee (not energy drinks); exercise for 15 minutes; replace sugars and refined carbs with fruit, nuts, and seeds; and take a 20-minute afternoon power nap to boost energy and focus.

The rest of this article expands on these points to give you 10 actionable tips to help fight fatigue when operating on limited sleep.

I have carefully selected these tips based on my knowledge as a professional doctor.

However, sleep deprivation over the long run can be detrimental to your health – so you should proceed with caution and consult with a qualified medical professional if you are on medication, pregnant, or have underlying health conditions.

Related: check out the best mattresses, beds, and bedding for a better night’s sleep here.

10 Ways to Stay Up Late and Not Be Tired

Ask Dr. Mike: How to Function on Little Sleep

Due to a busy lifestyle, you might find yourself staying up later than usual and then having to get up early the next day.

I personally suffer from anxiety that often keeps me awake until the early hours of the morning, and then I’ll have to get up early for work.

While cutting back on your sleeping hours isn’t recommended for the long term, here are 10 ways that you can reduce tiredness when you’re sleeping less than you should:

1: Drink Water to Minimize Tiredness

To minimize fatigue when on restricted sleep, drink 8 ounces of water as soon as you wake up.

Dehydration is linked with fatigue and tiredness and is often worsened when operating on limited sleep.

Dehydration is also associated with low mood and cognitive disturbance, and due to the nonspecific symptoms, it could be difficult to differentiate dehydration from morning fatigue [1].

There has been a lot of focus in recent research on the effects of dehydration on mood and the body’s sleep/wake cycle.

Emerging evidence suggests that dehydration can contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, tiredness, and impaired cognition.

All these factors are associated with decreased alertness and confusion, which can significantly affect your daily productivity.

In severe cases, dehydration can also lead to death, which highlights the importance of drinking an adequate amount of water [2].

Sleeping Less Can Make You More Prone to Dehydration

The number of hours slept can also influence the body’s hydration status.

A study published in the Oxford University Press Journal reports that sleeping for about 6 hours is linked to increased urine osmolarity levels and dehydration, compared to an 8-hour sleep.

This is because the hormone vasopressin, which regulates water levels in the body, is released during the latter part of the sleep cycle.

As a result, cutting down sleep hours makes you more prone to dehydration and its negative effects [3].

Understanding the effect of sleep duration on your hydration status can help you better combat its negative effects.

I recommend that you drink at least one 8 oz glass of water immediately after waking up.

While it might be more tempting to reach for coffee, or any other caffeinated drink, exercise patience, and hold it off for at least 30 to 40 minutes.

Caffeinated drinks might aggravate dehydration if you haven’t drunk enough water, and can end up making you more tired.

Click here for 15 ways to sleep better after drinking coffee.

2: Grab a Cup of Tea or Coffee to Boost Alertness

Caffeine is a popular stimulant consumed all over the world for its alertness-enhancing properties.

If you’ve had only a few hours of sleep, a moderate amount of tea or coffee can help you better fight morning fatigue.

I always advise my patients that moderation is key.

Therefore, drinking a cup of tea or coffee in the morning isn’t necessarily harmful.

Just make sure that you don’t drink excessive amounts in the hope that it will make you more alert and productive.

Stay Hydrated When Consuming Caffeine

Avoid drinking coffee first thing in the morning without any water, as it has the potential to aggravate dehydration.

Caffeine enhances alertness through its action on the adenosine receptors in the body.

Adenosine promotes sleep, and its levels continue to increase throughout the day.

The increased levels of adenosine in the body signals the onset of sleep.

Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors and promotes wakefulness.

The beneficial effects of coffee in fighting sleep deprivation are well-documented.

Studies conducted on shift workers and jet-lagged individuals found that coffee consumption improved alertness, and decreased sleepiness.

Moreover, it was found to be effective in enhancing performance in sleep-deprived individuals [4].

Another study carried out in Australia also documents a positive correlation between caffeine consumption and physical activity [5].

Consume Caffeine in Moderation

One thing to keep in mind is that habitual coffee drinkers might experience fewer benefits, compared to occasional drinkers.

This is because the body becomes less responsive to the effects of coffee, and you might find yourself drinking more coffee to get the same results.

High levels of coffee consumption can also lead to its negative effects.

These include muscle tremors, dehydration, irritability, and diarrhea.

Therefore, moderate consumption of caffeine is the key to fighting early morning fatigue. 

See how chamomile tea can help sleep here.

3: Avoid Carb-Rich Foods to Prevent Energy Dips

To maximize your energy reserves after a short night’s sleep, you should try to avoid eating carbohydrate-rich meals.

Carbohydrate-rich foods have a high glycemic index, which means that they’re processed faster by the body, and lead to the classic “carbohydrate crash”.

This is because glucose, the main energy source of the body, is depleted at a much faster rate.

As a result, the body experiences a sudden drop in energy levels which can end up making you feel tired.

Carbohydrates Can Make You Feel Sleepy

High-glycemic index foods also influence sleep onset through their action of boosting serotonin and tryptophan levels in the body.

Tryptophan, at doses of 1g, has been documented to induce sleep in control studies, as it is responsible for the production of serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is involved in producing feelings of relaxation and inducing sleep [6].

A high-carbohydrate meal also triggers the release of insulin, which shifts blood glucose into the cells.

The amount of insulin released is directly related to the number of carbs consumed, which means a high-carb intake leads to a rapid blood sugar spike and crash [7].

Classic carbohydrates-rich foods include pizza, pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes.

Therefore, you should try to avoid consuming these after a short night’s sleep, to avoid sudden drops in your energy levels.

Consume Fruits, Seeds, and Nuts to Boost Energy

I recommend that instead of snacking on fast food or reaching for a chocolate bar, you should try to eat small, light meals – fruits, seeds, and nuts can provide a nutritious energy boost.

You will feel more energized and are less likely to experience a sugar crash.

Good quality food will help you maximize your energy for the day.

Learn how kiwi can help you sleep better here.

4: Perform 15 Minutes of Exercise to Boost Your Energy

Light exercise can improve your energy levels.

While physical activity might not be your top priority, getting some exercise immediately after waking up can help diminish fatigue, and boost your energy levels for the day.

I suggest that instead of approaching exercise as a strenuous chore, you should view it as an energy-boosting activity that will help you tackle the rest of your day with increased efficiency.

The effect of exercise as a coping mechanism has been studied in sleep-deprived pilots.

The findings of the study suggest that participants found themselves more alert immediately after the exercise session, despite limited hours of sleep.

Exercise also boosted mental alertness, cognition, and performance in the study subjects [8].

I recommend that instead of trying to catch extra minutes of sleep, you should immediately get up from the bed, and aim for 15 minutes of light exercise.

You will feel a noticeable difference in your alertness levels and stamina.

This would be especially helpful if you normally find yourself groggy after waking up.

Exercise Can Combat Afternoon Energy Crashes

Exercise can also help you fight the dip in energy levels experienced in the afternoon.

Our bodies experience a natural drop in cortisol levels in the afternoon, which is linked to decreased alertness, and increased sleepiness.

A light jog or a walk will awaken your senses, and diminish fatigue.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t try any strenuous exercises, as they might be counterproductive.

A heavy, intense workout can end up making you feel more tired than usual.

So always aim for a light exercise that will help freshen you up.

Try these 10 doctor-approved ways to sleep better after exercising in the evening.

5: Take a 20 Minute Power Nap to Minimize Fatigue

A 20-minute power nap in the afternoon can boost your energy levels when you are operating on limited sleep.

Create a relaxing environment and set the alarm for 20 minutes later.

This is because a nap longer than 20 minutes risks you falling into a deep sleep.

It’s more difficult to wake yourself from a deep sleep, and interruption can make you feel more tired.

In my personal experience, a power nap can be an effective remedy to improve your productivity.

The rejuvenating effect of a power nap isn’t just anecdotal.

There is good evidence that 20 minutes of short sleep is more effective in improving performance, alertness, and cognition, compared to a longer duration of sleep.

The energy-boosting effect was also significantly more, compared to a “no-nap” state, in which subjects simply rested without getting any actual sleep [9].

This is because a shorter duration of sleep is associated with stage 2 sleep, which has a positive influence on improving task performance, alertness, and cognition, and diminishing perceived fatigue.

In contrast, stage 1 sleep decreases sleepiness, but alertness and focus deteriorate.

Try to be mindful of the timing of your nap, as a nap too late or early in the day can disturb your body’s circadian rhythm or inner clock.

I recommend to my patients that they should avoid drinking coffee later in the afternoon, as it will make it more difficult for them to fall asleep, and instead go for a power nap.

A power nap is a productive way of sleeping and can help you achieve more in your day.

Here are 7 ways to sleep better after rhinoplasty.

6: Increase Alertness With Sunlight Exposure

Exposing yourself to sunlight can help to wake you up and increase alertness.

Open your curtains and let the sunshine into your room.

This will help to minimize sleepiness and will help you feel more alert for the day.

This is because the body’s sleep/wake cycle is primarily controlled by light.

The sleep hormone, melatonin, is secreted in the dark, and light exposure suppresses its secretion.

Special receptors located in the retina sense the light and signal the brain that it’s time to be awake.

Therefore, facing the sun first thing in the morning will help you feel less sleepy.

Melatonin production is also influenced by seasonal changes.

In winters, when days tend to be shorter, melatonin production is enhanced, which might explain why we tend to feel sleepier during winter.

Melatonin’s precursor, serotonin, on the other hand, is produced on exposure to sunlight.

High serotonin levels are linked with a positive mood, well-being, and alertness.

Artificial Light Can Increase Alertness

A similar effect can be achieved with artificial lighting, which is rampant in our modern world.

For shift workers, facing artificial lighting can help them feel more alert.

However, it should be kept in mind that the constant use of artificial lighting during the night can affect circadian rhythm, and lead to sleep problems [10].

Try to spend at least 30 to 40 minutes in the sunlight within an hour of waking up.

This is the time when the body is most receptive to sunlight.

Try these 13 ways to sleep better if you have sunburn.

7: Avoid Energy Drinks as They May Worsen Fatigue

If you haven’t received enough sleep, try to avoid energy drinks, as they might paradoxically worsen fatigue.

While energy drinks are marketed as a quick energy fix, they’re rich in caffeine and sugar, which makes their energy boost short-lived.

While caffeine is commonly used to boost energy, the amount contained in energy drinks is usually much higher than the recommended levels.

To put this in perspective, consider the caffeine content of one cup of coffee, which is only 80 milligrams.

In contrast, energy drinks contain around 500 milligrams – equivalent to more than 6 cups of coffee [11].

Energy drinks also contain a lot of sugar and other stimulants, which can have a negative impact on the body.

Energy drink consumption is linked with sleep disruptions and daytime drowsiness.

Since energy drinks also increase the frequency of urination, dehydration can be worsened with energy drink consumption.

As previously stated, dehydration symptoms can mimic drowsiness, and exacerbate fatigue.

Energy Drinks Can Cause a Sudden Drop in Energy

While it is true there might be an increase in mental alertness, focus, and energy with energy drink consumption, it is usually temporary.

Moreover, their health concerns far outweigh the benefits. 

Since energy drinks contain a lot of sugar, their consumption can give a temporary sugar rush, which might feel like a sudden burst of energy.

However, orexin, a chemical responsible for energy and wakefulness, declines with the rising blood sugar.

As a result, energy levels diminish rapidly after the sugar rush wears off.

In my professional experience, I would say that energy drinks do more harm than good.

Therefore, I would recommend replacing energy drinks with much healthier alternatives.

Drink water, and eat a balanced, nutritious diet.

You will feel more energized and balanced throughout the day.

If you still decide to consume energy drinks, try to limit your intake to avoid adverse effects. 

Try these 6 ways to sleep better after drinking an energy drink.

8: Avoid Alcohol

In order to maximize your energy for the day, you should avoid drinking alcohol.

This is because alcohol has sedative properties, and can make you feel drowsy – something you want to avoid after a short sleep.

If, however, you decide to drink, you should stay within recommended limits.

Central nervous system depression is the main action of alcohol.

This means you’re more likely to feel drowsy, confused, and less energized after a glass of wine.

Alcohol also disrupts the circadian rhythm and makes it difficult to get good quality sleep at night.

Circadian rhythm has a role in mood regulation through the production of serotonin.

Serotonin is a chemical present in the body that is linked with emotional well-being.

There is evidence that alcohol reduces serotonin levels in the brain, which leads to depression and increased fatigue.

Alcohol also impairs the absorption of essential nutrients, like vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc. 

Vitamin B12 and folic acid are required for the production and functioning of red blood cells.

Without adequate vitamin B12 and folic levels, red blood cell production falls, which leads to anemia.

As red blood cells are essential for providing energy to the tissues, their lack makes you more prone to fatigue.

Alcohol Increases Dehydration and Reduces Energy

Alcohol also increases the frequency of urination.

As a result, dehydration develops, which is known to exacerbate fatigue.

This is because alcohol decreases the release of the water-preserving hormone, ADH (vasopressin).

Alcohol also quickly raises the blood sugar levels, which then rapidly decline due to insulin release.

As a result, alcohol can make you feel less energized and active.

Limit your alcohol intake, or avoid it altogether.

Avoid mixing alcohol with energy drinks and other stimulants, as it negatively impacts your health and energy. 

Here are 9 ways to sleep better when taking sertraline.

9: Take a Cold Shower to Minimize Fatigue

Taking a cold shower in the morning can help wake up your brain, and minimize fatigue.

I recommend that if you’re not able to take a cold shower, you should splash some cold water on your face instead, as it has a similar effect.

For people living in colder climates, a cold shower sounds like an unpleasant experience.

However, cold showers have long been used by athletes to increase alertness, and minimize fatigue.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reveals that immersion in cold water increases pulse rate, blood pressure, and metabolism, which can potentially increase the level of alertness [12].

The beneficial effects of cold showers have also been studied in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. 

The possible mechanism through which cold showers increase alertness is their action on the activating system in the brainstem.

A collection of nerve cells in the brainstem are responsible for inducing alertness.

Exposure to cold signals these cells to alert the body, which can help minimize feelings of fatigue.

Jumping straight into a cold shower can be uncomfortable, so gradually lower the temperature of the water.

Try standing in the shower for at least 2 to 3 minutes before it gets comfortable.

As with all things, extremes can be dangerous, so try to avoid using ice-cold water.

Additional benefits of cold showers include improving immunity, reducing inflammation, and lowering stress levels.

They can also help relieve symptoms of eczema, which makes them great for your skin.

Find out how these LilySilk sheets and pillowcases can help your skin.

10: Prioritize Quality Over Quantity When It Comes to Sleep 

10 hours of disrupted sleep are not equal to 6 hours of uninterrupted, good-quality sleep.

Therefore, instead of counting the number of hours of your sleep, you should aim for better sleep quality.

Factors that determine sleep quality include the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep, sleep consistency, sleep interruptions, and overall satisfaction.

Poor sleep quality is linked to adverse health effects like depression, confusion, cognitive decline, weight gain, and low immunity.

There is also a significant risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Steps that you can take to improve your sleep quality involve adopting good sleep hygiene practices.

These include:

Avoid Smartphone Use Near Bedtime

Create a technology-free zone in your bedroom.

The National Sleep Foundation has cautioned against the use of any form of screens near bedtime.

This is because most smartphones emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is required for the onset of deep, relaxing sleep.

Hence, smartphones can significantly impact sleep quality.

Try to avoid using smartphones and other screens at least 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime.

Avoid Caffeine in the Evening

Even though you might need to stay up late at night, I recommend that you should avoid drinking coffee in the evening, as it can disrupt your sleep/wake cycle.

This is because caffeine remains in the body even up to 7 hours after intake.

As caffeine is a stimulant, it can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and get adequate rest.

Sleep in a Dark Room

Some people prefer to sleep with the lights on.

However, in my personal experience, a dark, quiet, peaceful room is the best for ideal sleep.

There is scientific evidence to back that claim, as melatonin production occurs only in the dark.

Melatonin helps relax the body and is essential for a good quality sleep.

Try these 19 ways to make your room totally dark.

Optimize Your Bedroom’s Temperature

Sleeping in a very hot or cold room can adversely affect the quality of your sleep.

For the majority of people, 18 degrees Celsius is optimum for sleep.

However, it can vary according to personal preference, so you should adjust accordingly.

Choose a Comfortable Bed and Mattress

The quality of your bedding and mattress can significantly impact the quality of your sleep.

Therefore, try to find comfortable bedding which helps you sleep better.

Click here to see the mattress that I use for the best night’s sleep I can get.

Conclusion: Don’t Limit Sleep Frequently

Staying up late has become a norm because of modern lifestyle factors.

Despite the common myths related to sleeping hours, sleep quality matters more than sleep quantity.

No matter how many hours of sleep you were able to get, it is possible to get through the day using the above-mentioned tips.

Drinking water first thing in the morning, taking a cold shower, and avoiding alcohol, energy drinks, and refined carbs can help you maximize your energy for the day.

While I don’t recommend skipping sleep every night, it is possible to have enough energy for the next day after an all-nighter.

Up next: 6 ways to sleep better when taking Adderall.


Sources and References

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2: Aristotelous P, Aphamis G, Sakkas GK, Andreou E, Pantzaris M, Kyprianou T, et al. Effects of controlled dehydration on sleep quality and quantity: A polysomnographic study in healthy young adults. J Sleep Res. 2019;28(3):e12662.

3: Rosinger AY, Chang AM, Buxton OM, Li J, Wu S, Gao X. Short sleep duration is associated with inadequate hydration: cross-cultural evidence from US and Chinese adults. Sleep. 2019 Feb;42(2):zsy210.

4: Clark I, Landolt HP. Coffee, caffeine, and sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. 2017;31:70–8.

5: Torquati L, Peeters G, Brown WJ, Skinner TL. A daily cup of tea or coffee may keep you moving: Association between tea and coffee consumption and physical activity. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(9):1812.

6: Hartmann E. Effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and on sleep. J Psychiatr Res. 1982;17(2):107–13.

7: Afaghi A, O’Connor H, Chow CM. High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2007 Feb 1;85(2):426-30.

8: JrLeDuc PA, Caldwell JA Jr, Ruyak PS. The effects of exercise as a countermeasure for fatigue in sleep-deprived aviators. Mil Psychol. 2000;12(4):249–66.

9: Hayashi M, Motoyoshi N, Hori T. Recuperative power of a short daytime nap with or without stage 2 sleep. Sleep. 2005 Jul 1;28(7):829-36.

10: Mead MN. Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health.

11: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Energy drink consumption and its association with sleep problems among U.S. service members on a combat deployment – Afghanistan, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61(44):895–8.

12: Bleakley CM, Davison GW. What is the biochemical and physiological rationale for using cold-water immersion in sports recovery? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2010;44(3):179–87

Medical Disclaimer

No part of this article or website offers medical advice – always consult with a qualified medical professional for the best guidance.

Image Attribution and Licensing

Main image: ‘Woman sleeping with a sleep mask on her eyes’ by korneevamaha – (used with permission and commercially licensed through Envato Elements).

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