How To Look Great When You’ve Had No Sleep

I have a riddle for you. What does a college student who stays up late working at a bar have in common with a single working mother? Well for starters, me. I’ve been both. Other than that, both have to learn how to function on very little sleep. While cocktail waitressing I had to work until 3am and wake up for an 8am class. On those depressingly exhausted mornings, I always tried my best to look more awake than I was. When you’re in small classes, walking in with streaky make-up and sweat pants just begs the teacher to call on you. Even if I was walking dead, I didn’t want the professor to know.

Seven years later, I’m still putting the tips I learned back then to use. Motherhood teaches us a few new sleeping skills, like how to get rest in 45 minute increments. But the general process for faking a good night’s sleep is the same now as it was in college. Even though no teacher is going to be testing my comprehension of One Hundred Years of Solitude, I still don’t enjoy looking as tired as I feel, especially if I have meetings with my bosses or clients. So I’ve perfected a few tips to battle the look of exhaustion. As I’ve said before, the only thing worse that coming to work on 2 hours sleep is being told that you look like you got 2 hours sleep.

Whether it’s the most optimal way to go through life or not doesn’t always matter. Sometimes, we all have to deal with being tired. Whether you have two jobs, two toddlers, or two new puppies, there’s always a possibility that you’ll have to function on two hours sleep. These are a couple of my strategies for making sure that I don’t look like a zombie:

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    • Eileen

      I love this article.

      If I may suggest, though, for those of us without the coordination to make a bun (yes, I can French-braid my own hair but I can’t make it into a ballerina bun), considering these clips? They’re ridiculously easy to use, tuck your hair out of your face really nicely, and always garner lots of comments from people who think that I’ve done something pretty and sophisticated to my hair instead of just taking a shower and winding it up. I’ve been wearing them for over a year, and they’re second only to my wristwatch in “most-worn accessory.” Plus, they’re fair-traded and offer support to sex-trafficking victims (and no, I don’t work for this company).

    • oja

      …I don’t think I own any clothes that require ironing.

    • KJ

      My favourite trick is using white or silver eyeliner – it makes you look way more awake, but it’s not noticeable if you smear it when your eyes inevitably get either so dry you rub them or so tired they tear up.

      • Lindsay Cross

        That’s an awesome tip! I’d never heard of that before, but I’ll have to remember it!

    • Lisa

      My hair bun trick is a Scunci octopus clip. I actually didn’t know it was officially called that but it looked so much like an octopus helping my hair out (though it could use some googly eyes) that I came up with the octopus name independently! It’s a “no-slip grip” product, so I suppose it would be good for straight or thin hair, and mine is thick and curly, but on days when I haven’t washed my hair and it’s not holding itself up as well as usual this clip totally keeps it together. Not fair-trade or in benefit of any cause, as far as I know, but functional.


      • Eileen

        Oh, my sister and I like those, too! Gotta love things that allow me to put up my hair without bobby pins…

    • Jen Dziura

      I endorse this article! All great techniques. I’m a bit of a dry cleaning addict — when you’re feeling like a zombie, there’s nothing that hides it better than something ironed by experts and stored in plastic sheathing.

    • Lily

      Excellent article- I just want to add a life hack to save you ironing in the morning :) Pop whatever article of clothing into the tumble drier for 5 mins and it will get rid of the creases; it works a treat *and* gives you more time to get that extra coat of mascara on <3

    • carissa

      How can I read this article? I Cant find out how to…there appears to be no option