The biggies are obvious: perform surgery, operate heavy machinery. But what if you aren't an M.D. or a crane operator, just a sleep-deprived new parent? "Been there, done that" experts offer some eye-opening advice.

By Rebecca Webber
Updated April 28, 2015
Illustration: woman sleepwalking on cuckoo clock
Credit: Shout
Illustration: woman sleepwalking on cuckoo clock
Credit: Shout


Never Tweet—or Instagram or post on Facebook—if you're tired. Tweeting while tired may lead to regrets in the morning or, in severe cases, SJORL (sudden job or relationship loss). As Lorne Michaels put it, "I don't tweet for a very simple reason, which is that I drink." The same principle applies to sleep deprivation; it impairs your judgment. In other social matters: You shouldn't date if you're overly tired. You won't be your best self. Or even yourself. Which is not a great thing when you're trying to form a relationship. I once had dinner with a man who bragged to me that he'd gotten only four hours of sleep the night before. I resisted the temptation to tell him that the dinner would have been a lot more interesting if he had gotten five!

— Arianna Huffington

Tackle the hard stuff.

Especially at work. If you have a big meeting or a job interview, you need to be on your toes, ready to respond to questions. Don't yawn in front of someone important! It's particularly hard for new parents. We often have to come back to work long before we start sleeping well. When I returned from my maternity leave, I misplaced a $10,000 piece of computer equipment. I knew I had put it somewhere safe, but I couldn't remember where. I eventually found it. At the time, I had no idea how sleepy I was. The best way to do your job well is to get enough sleep.

— Kristen Knutson

Tempt yourself.

Don't go to the doughnut shop when you're sleepy. Being tired heightens your impulsivity, so you're more likely to grab the cream-filled with chocolate icing. In a double whammy, lack of sleep also disrupts the digestive system, especially two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which help regulate hunger. You're more likely to crave carbs, and at the same time your metabolic system has slowed down. That midnight pizza, along with the doughnut, will be stored in your hips rather than metabolized.

— Frederick Brown

Assess just how tired you are.

People are bad at recognizing when they're fatigued and less alert. They think they're doing fine even though they got four versus their usual eight hours of sleep. Lab studies show that scores on a standard performance test are worse after even one short night. And if sleep restrictions are chronic—say, over a two-week period—the performance declines dramatically. Yet tired people rate themselves as doing better than they actually are. It's a misconception that we're coping better with sleep deprivation than we really are.

— Kevin Gregory

Try to be superparent.

You don't have to stick every landing without help. On our first solo day home with our twins, I told my husband to grab a much needed nap, figuring, I can handle two infants by myself. I am their mother. I scooped them up onto my lap, where they promptly threw up on each other's faces and started screaming. I was so groggy and shaken, unable to get them back into the bassinet, so I folded them into some kind of baby-and-barf taco long enough to wake my husband by pinkie-dialing his cell. In retrospect, I should have asked a friend to come over. There's no shame in calling for backup when you're exhausted. Life is teamwork, after all.

— Heather Cocks