How To Perk Up

I love sleep. But, like most people I know, I wish I could get more. My record is 25 hours of sleep one time after being on call. It was wild. Wild, I tell you. Unfortunately, opportunities for unbridled sleep are few and far between, so we all need to learn to function in less than well rested states.

So without further ado, I will present my tips for pushing aside fatigue and sleep deprivation. I am fighting it right now as I recover from 30 hours in the OR, finally at home and resting in bed. As a society, I think we are all tired, all the time. We don’t sleep enough, any of us! Whether it’s long study hours, work hours, social hours, or a road trip, we all need ways to tap into our inner Leslie Knope-style energy reserves. Leslie Knope is, of course, the Goddess of Energy.

1. Fake it until you make it.

Try to forget that you are tired. Stupid, I know, but the mind does have something over matter. Just focus and let your brain calmly take you through what you need to do. Don’t calculate your sleep deficit and don’t talk about it – refuse to acknowledge that you are tired. Oh, and there’s under-eye concealer. My little Bobbi Brown kit is getting some serious mileage these days.

2. Caffeine (Duh).

Let me preface this with an annoying fact about myself – I don’t really drink caffeine. I quit a long time ago with the goal of making caffeine for extra late hours at the hospital or on road trips. This was one of the smartest things I have ever done. Now if I need to recharge, one cup of coffee will get me going. Or 4. But basically my strategy was to have it as the back up generator of sorts.

3. Talk strategically.

This is not the time for small talk. Think of talking during super tired times as that “dead man’s float” taught in basic swimming classes. Do only what you need to do to stay afloat, while conserving energy and thinking power. Chatting with a good friend or colleague can keep you awake and alert, though. I always call my mom on the way home from work if I am exhausted and nervous about driving. A word of caution: Most of us get a little overly emotional when we are tired. Avoid touchy subjects.

4. Shake it out.

If you can, get up and walk around a little bit. Stretch and get the blood flowing. Jump around. If your body is a little bit awake, it can help you out.

5. Hydrate.

Water!!! Another elusive basic need. But try. If all else fails, needing to pee will keep you alert.

6. Music

Play what you love. We all have songs that will get us moving out of a dead sleep. Mine? Beastie Boys and ’90s Hip Hop always get me going.

7. Snacks.

A rule of hospital life: Eat when you can (Along with sleep when you can and sit when you can). Small snacks are better, because you don’t get that crazy post-prandial sluggishness. Keep it frequent and light.

8. Temperature regulation.

This is a tricky one. Too warm and you might get lulled to sleep. Too freezing and you might just start to slow down. Keeping myself on the chilly side (avoiding hypothermic slowing) usually keeps me a little more alert.

9. Have a mantra.

In residency we always said, “You can’t stop the clock”. This means no matter how hard you are working, it will eventually end or be time for you to go home. However, in the real world, we don’t always get “relieved” from work or other obligations at a certain time. I’m still trying to pick a new mantra… Lately it’s sort of been “Buffy or Lisbeth Salander would keep going strong… And so would Leslie Knope!”

10. Never underestimate the power of a power nap.

They are called power naps for a reason, people! They totally work. Lie down for 15-20 minutes and let yourself drift off. The quick recharge will really give you a boost and freshen up your eyes a little. Also, brush your teeth and splash a little water on your gorgeous face. Wake up!!!

All right. What other tips do you have for staying awake?

I’m going to fall asleep now before my head hits the keyboardh’rgil z/lxfbjd lfobj


Image via

  • Andrew Clayton Barrentine

    this might be helpful for you!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Hmmmm I’ll check it out!

  • Kelly Cosby

    Thank youuuu.
    Also LOVE the picture!!!!!!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Leslie Knope is so rad. Glad you liked the article!

  • Mariana Garces

    yeah Buffy! I always think WHAT WOULD BUFFY DO? Because she’s got lady balls and never gives up. Knope is my hero too now.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Haaaa Lady Balls!

  • Dana Melissa Fuselier

    I love this article!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Thank you! So glad!

  • Laura Mendez

    run through lists… Bones, Harry Potter, lyrics, soundtracks, Bones… and like, a TON of sugar… that works, every time 😀

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Mmmm Sour Patch Kids…

  • Yajaira Nuribeth Calderon

    Water to the face is a trick I was told once many dawns ago. I find it does help wake you up a bit when you are falling asleep. But I also discovered that temperature matters. If you really wanna stay awake for long, make that water to the face be boiling water. I mean, what better way to scare the sleepy away than with pain. And the scars, oh they will remind you never to feel sleepy again. (disclaimer: this is all just a theory of mine, that makes sense. Have yet to try it. If someone tries it before me, let me know how it goes.)

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Maybe warm water and call it a day? Haha. Searing pain would help keep you alert I suppose, but then I would be waaaay too tempted to anesthetize you for facial burns.

  • Miranda Robertson

    I love your posts, Alexandra. You like Buffy, you like Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, you’re down with 90’s hip hop… it’s like you’re the me I would be in five years if I had gone to med school instead of law school. Hope your big exam went well!

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Thanks! I passed! Just found out today. Thank goodness I don’t have to take the Bar Exam! Yikkkkes. My sister is in law school :)

  • Laura J Coker

    I don’t know if this works for anyone else, but I’ve found that lighting is important. I usually use a lamp that’s on my desk, but if I’m tired I find that having overhead lights on seems to help.

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Agreed. The bright OR lights definitely help! I never know if it’s day or night, really!

  • Kaitlyn Shore

    I always love your articles :)

    • Alexandra Anderson Conrad

      Why thank you! I will try to keep coming up with more! Anything you would enjoy in particular?

  • Rebecca Eve Schweitzer

    I like to drink a shot of espresso or cup of coffee right before I take my power nap. I know it sounds weird, but the caffeine takes a little bit to kick in so I get a short cat nap and wake up with a caffeine boost.

  • Rachel Canalita

    If only I could wake up from my power naps…
    #5 was definitely my go-to during high school, though!

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