How to Deal with Exhaustion: 10 Tips to Function Better When You’re Tired

You can have the most calming, zen bedroom, and still toss and turn because of an ache or something on your mind. You can avoid stimulants and start unwinding early in the evening, and still wake up to the sound of a blaring siren at 2:00 AM.

Sometimes the best laid plan can fall apart when you can’t seem to remove that pea from under your mattress. It will happen on occasion—hopefully less often than not, but from time to time at best.

How can you function when it’s just not possible to call in sick and tired to life? How can you make it through the work day with minimal damage to your health, mood, relationships, and job?

I have a few ideas, but first, in the interest of full disclosure: I have more flexibility than the average person might, since

I work from home and make my own schedule. Hopefully these ideas represent a balanced mix for people who have flexibility and people who don’t:

1. Protect Your Health.

When you don’t get enough sleep, you compromise your immune system. One thing I like to do when I am particularly exhausted is increase my intake of foods that have the opposite effect.

Dark colored produce, like broccoli and berries which are high in antioxidants are a great choice. I also like Emergen-C, a powder supplement you add to water, which boosts energy and bolsters the immune system.

2. Carpool or take the bus.

If you’re exhausted, there’s a good chance you’re also running late for work. That might make it inconvenient to take public transportation—but it’s better to slink past your boss’ office door at 9:30 or 10:00 than to fall asleep at the wheel.

I know because I’ve been there. In 2000, I fell asleep on the highway and crashed into the guardrail. Luckily, no one got hurt, but that’s not always the case. In 2009, as many as 1.9 million Americans had a car accident or close call because of drowsiness.

According to David Cloud, head of the National Sleep Foundation in Washington D.C., its possible to fall into a three to four second microsleep without knowing it—which is all the time needed to travel the length of a football field basically unconscious.

3. Get into the sun.

Fifteen minutes in the sun can increase your vitamin D levels. The vitamin, along with B, is responsible for fighting fatigue. People with deficiencies often experience tiredness, moodiness, aches, and stress. While a little extra sunshine can’t replace the benefits of consistent sleep, soaking in the rays can pep you up a bit.