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Only slept for a a few hours? 7 tips to help you stay alert all day

Attendees work in the coding competition booth at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in San Francisco, California.
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Attendees work in the coding competition booth at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in San Francisco, California.

Did you only sleep four or five hours last night, and have a big day today? While sleeping so few hours isn't a sustainable way of life, there are some strategies you can implement today to get by on minimal sleep. Here are a few tips to help you be productive while feeling tired.

1. Wake up with your alarm clock

While it may go against your nature to snap yourself out of snooze-ville and into the waking world after minimal sleep, this is one of the best ways to ensure you stick to your schedule.

"Whether you wake up and start a workout or you take a shower, you'll have more energy for the rest of the day if you follow a routine," said Dr. Christopher Colwell, a sleep expert. "The mindset of just getting up according to a schedule will instantly signal to your mind and body that you're going about your day like business as usual."

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Erica Joy Dunn, a reiki practitioner, noted that meditation can help to reduce stress levels while boosting energy levels, which allows us to feel fully recharged. Try sitting up in bed and doing a quick 60-second meditation, breathing in through your nose and bringing in energy, and breathing out through your nose and breathing out tiredness.

2. Move it

Once you're out of bed do something quick like a light jog in place combined with body-weight movements. New York City personal trainer James Shapiro said that by sweating during a quick workout, you'll lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone linked to higher levels of body fat. Exercise gets the blood flowing and also raises energy levels.

Don't have time for a real workout? "Just wiggling your toes and pumping your arms in the elevator can work," Dr. Yael Varnado, a physician and preventative health care expert, told TODAY. She explained that your muscles will release epinephrine, which is more commonly known as adrenaline — and it's just the thing you need to rev your mental and physical motors.

English soccer player John Terry sits in an ice bath to assist recovery from an injury.
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English soccer player John Terry sits in an ice bath to assist recovery from an injury.

3. Take a cold shower

Speaking of shocking your system … Ever heard of taking an ice cold shower to wake up? Well, it turns out that it's not a myth. In the morning, taking a cold shower starts to trigger a nervous system reaction. "Your hyperventilation causes more oxygen going into your body and therefore starts to increase your heart rate," Varnado said. Once your heart rate increases, you become more present and focused.

4. Eat a hearty breakfast

Complex carbs and protein in the morning provide more energy because of the digestive properties behind them. Registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of "The Superfood Swap," recommends complex carbs like oatmeal in the morning because they break down more slowly and give off more steady energy.

"Pair oatmeal with a protein (which has a high-satiety level, or feeling of fullness), and you have the dynamic duo to keep you energized all morning," she explained. Think oatmeal with almond butter stirred in or have chicken sausage or a hard-boiled egg on the side.

5. Stay hydrated

"Dehydration will only add to the feeling of exhaustion and the impact that lack of sleep has on your body and mind," Varnado said. When you're tired, you'll most likely be looking for an energy boost from caffeine, but this can be counterproductive because caffeine will dehydrate you. To break this endless cycle, continue to drink water throughout the day.

6. Take a minute to stretch

"Holding one position for a long time can trick your body into thinking it is nap time," said Alessa Caridi, a certified Pilates instructor. "Especially if you are already sleep deprived. So get up, reach your hands up to the lights and reach down to your toes."

If you're in the office and don't have a lot of space, stretch your body by straightening out your legs underneath your desk. You could also go to the restroom and lean your upper body to one side to stretch the other side, then repeat on the opposite side.

Dr. David A. Greuner, a cardiovascular surgeon in New York City, added that any time of day that you exercise and get your blood pumping, you'll increase alertness for at least a few hours. If you do go to the restroom to stretch, he also suggested splashing cold water on your face. Or, extend your restroom trip by walking up and down the stairs at work to help you stay more alert.

7. Try a L-theanine supplement

If you're looking for some energy support in the form of supplements, try 200 milligrams of L-theanine (but always check with your physician before taking any supplements.)

Dr. Darshan Shah, who specializes in functional medicine, suggested L-theanine because it is the active ingredient in green tea. "It improves alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with a more alert state and less drowsiness," Shah explained. A 2008 study supports this idea and found that L-theanine has a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness.

So there you have it. If you're running on less than your usual seven or eight hours of sleep a night, add these tips to your daily routine for energy bursts throughout the day!

Stephanie Mansour is a lifestyle and weight-loss coach for women.

This article originally appeared on TODAY.