Being a busy college student, there will probably be times when you’re running on little to no sleep. As unhealthy as it is, it’s a reality that a lot of students face. If you couple a busy schedule with procrastination, then you’re going to run into a lot of late-night study sessions and days where you’re awake for 18+ hours trying to get everything done.

I’ve had plenty of days where I’m writing a ton of articles, have to do homework, and juggling 10 other things in the same day, and find myself having to come up with ways to keep going. These tips will help you stay focused and be as productive as possible even when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.

Keep in mind that not sleeping isn’t something that you should be doing regularly, and I’m definitely not recommending it. If you have a habit of not sleeping (insomnia), you should probably see a doctor.

RelatedHow to Maximize Your Sleep Schedule

Take a Cold Shower

I find cold showers to be extremely uncomfortable and don’t understand how people do it regularly. But on those days when I haven’t gotten any sleep, my opinions of cold showers go right out the window. Cold showers actually have a lot of health benefits, such as:

  • Improving blood circulation
  • Keeping your hair and skin healthy
  • Keeps you fertile (for the guys trying to have kids)
  • Improves your immune system (contrary to popular belief)

Most importantly, cold showers help you feel more energized and invigorated. Sure it might be extremely uncomfortable at first, but sometimes you have to suck it up and do what you have to do to make it through the day.

If you’re not ready to go full on and take the cold shower challenge, you can take baby steps and splash some cold water in your face.

Get Some Food in Your Stomach

The only thing worse than running on no sleep, is running on no sleep and an empty stomach. Your body needs food for energy. The feeling of being hungry and tired is enough to make you want to just fall out where you’re standing.

Make sure you’re eating plenty of lean protein and complex carbohydrates like leafy vegetables, whole wheat grains, and legumes. A big mistake people make is thinking that overloading on sugary junk food will give them the energy they need to make it throughout the day.

The truth is, junk food tends to have the opposite effect. You might get a brief sugar rush, but after a while you’ll start to feel tired, bogged down, and find it hard to focus. Stick to real, natural food to get your energy.

Focus on What Needs to Get Done

Since you don’t have as much energy, you need to use the energy that you do have wisely. That means you should only be focusing on the things that need to get done immediately. If you have an assignment that isn’t due for a week, don’t rush to try to finish it when you barely slept the night before.

Prioritize your to-do list and take care of the things that must be done today. Save everything else for when you’ve had a chance to get some sleep.

Get Moving

Sitting stagnant for long periods of time when you haven’t had any sleep will make you want to fall asleep. You need to get up and do something active every now and then to get those endorphins moving around a little. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that contribute to the function of your central nervous system. When you get active and release your endorphins, you’ll be more alert and focused.

You don’t have to go to the gym for an hour to get the benefits though. In fact, overexerting yourself might just tire you out even more. Just going outside and taking a quick jog around the block or even doing some shadow boxing in the air will help you out.

Use Caffeine Sparingly

We all know that caffeine (the active ingredient in coffee) can help keep you awake. America’s love for coffee is well documented, and our level of coffee consumption is no doubt tied to our on-the-go culture. However, you have to remember to only drink coffee sparingly.

There are some adverse effects of consuming too much caffeine such as being jittery, insomnia, and some heart conditions. Around 2-3 cups of coffee (200-300mg of caffeine) is considered average. If you’re using caffeine pills, make sure you check the dosage so that you don’t take too much.

The last thing you want is to become addicted and dependent on caffeine to stay awake. Then you’ll be looking for articles on how to go to sleep instead of how to stay awake.

Drink Plenty of Water

All of those “Top 10 Energy-Boosting Foods” lists are fun to read, but make no mistake about it: water is the original energy drink. If you’re dehydrated while you’re sleep deprived, you’re not going to make it very far through the day.

Skip the 5-hour Energy shots and Monster energy drinks and stick to good old fashioned water.

Turn on the Lights

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that if you’re sleepy and in a dark room, you’re going to want to fall asleep. Dark rooms are typically more calming and relaxing than bright rooms, which creates an atmosphere that welcomes sleep.

Our eyes have a photoreceptor system that takes in light differently than the system that controls our vision. These receptors help reset our body clock. The type of light your eyes are exposed to also plays an important role.

Blue lights have been shown to be the most effective for keeping you awake and focused. That’s the reason you always hear people say to turn off your computers and other gadgets if you’re trying to go to sleep. The screens on these devices use blue lights, which make it more difficult for you to sleep.

Your Best Option

Of course, the best solution for staying awake and alert is a good night’s sleep. But if you’re just having one of those days when sleeping isn’t an option, give the other tips a try.

What do you do to help you stay awake when you’re running on 0% sleep? Let us know in the comments below. (  But don’t say drugs!)


RelatedUnderstanding and Working on Lack of Sleep in College