When you skip sleep, your brain activity changes in ways that make it harder to remember information, solve problems, and control your emotions, says Shalini Paruthi, MD, medical co-director of the St. Luke’s Sleep Medicine and Research Center in Chesterfield, Missouri. But if you’re smart about it, you can minimize the effects.
The best way to stay sharp overnight (if you’re traveling or celebrating, for example) is with caffeine, says Paruthi. The FDA recommends capping daily intake at 400 milligrams, about four to five cups of coffee. Or, take a 20-minute power nap to help you focus instead. Have high-fiber snacks on hand—like protein, it’ll make you feel full, but it has the added benefit of keeping you alert, studies show.
Stand in sunlight as soon as possible the next day, ideally for 30 minutes, to tell your body it’s daytime. Coffee can offset brain fog, but drink your last cup by 2 p.m., Paruthi says, and down at least two extra glasses of water. Research shows you’re 59 percent more likely to be dehydrated when you’re tired.
The bottom line:
In addition to doing to the above, make sure you go to sleep as close to your regular bedtime as possible the next night. There’s nothing more restorative than a consistent schedule.