Life hack

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

Some days, I am just downright sleepy. Maybe it’s the late night writing, constant travel, or my busy social schedule in New York. But every so often, even with a good night’s sleep, I get to the middle of my day and I just feel ready for a nap. I find myself dozing off at the computer mid- Z z z. oh, sorry.

I suppose I could have coffee or an energy drink, but the caffeine makes me moody and just postpones my crash until later. Then I really feel like a snoozer. Well, whether or not you believe caffeine is healthy, there’s no need to ride the stimulant roller coaster. Here are a dozen surefire, natural ways I have found to wake up and feel revitalized.

1. Go Outside

All those florescent lights, computer screens, and conditioned air can take their toll. Go and spend 15 minutes walking around outside. Rain or shine, cold or hot, the fresh air and change of scenery will help you break the monotony of a sterile environment.

2. Get Physical

People might think you strange to start exercising in the middle of the office, but elevating that heartbeat will pump some oxygen through your body and right to your brain. Try jumping jacks, skipping rope or a little yoga. You can even go run up and down the office stairs. Just go until you break a little sweat.

3. Be a Brainiac

If you can’t stimulate your body, stimulate your brain. Try a crossword or play Sudoku. Better yet, grab a co-worker for a quick bout of Battleship so you get those competitive juices flowing.

4. Just Chill

Give yourself a brisk awakening. Try drinking super-cold ice water; add lemon. The more you drink the better. Splash a little on your face. You can also put ice against your wrists and temples, or suck on an ice cube.

5. Chow Down

A little mastication can actually wake you up, so have a snack. Avoid a heavy, carb-filled, sugary snack. Instead, choose an aromatic protein and a fruit. Try spicy beef jerky and some cucumbers with chili powder, or watermelon with a little cayenne pepper.

6. Pump Some Adrenaline

Nothing like a good fright to keep you alert and attentive. Watch some horror or action movie trailers to give you a nerve-shattering boost.

7. Move That Body

Perhaps the position in which you are sitting is a bit too relaxed. Reposition your chair. You can change it, sit in it backwards, cross your legs in the seat, or just remove it and stand up while you work.

8. Oil It Up

Keep a lotion or essential oil on your desk. Make sure it has a strong, bright scent like citrus, peppermint, or jasmine. Rub it on your hands and temples. If it’s real strong, put a little on your upper lip to awaken your senses and keep it from disturbing your neighbors. Stay away from lavender, though; it’s known to make you sleepy.

9. Dance! Dance! Dance!

Put on your headphones, punch up your favorite dance tunes and dance hard for five to 10 minutes. Sure some people may laugh at you, but the embarrassment will also help you wake up.

10. Make ’em Laugh!

Grab a co-worker and trade jokes for five minutes. The laughter releases endorphins and will get your body moving. If you don’t know any jokes, watch some funny videos to get things going.

11. Go Online Shopping

The rush of buying something new is always good for a perk up. Make an early birthday or Xmas list, or better yet, buy someone you like a gift. Thinking about doing something nice for someone else is sure to get your blood flowing.

12. Call Your Mom

It sounds strange, but a conversation with your mother is bound to wake you up. Possibly it’s the deep emotional connection to the woman who woke you for years. Regardless of your current relationship, either the stress or the charm of calling her will get you going. Besides, she probably thinks you don’t call her enough anyway, so it couldn’t hurt.

If these tips aren’t doing the job, perhaps it’s not sleep you lack but just more energy for your day. In that case, here are 10 ways to supercharge your energy at work.

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How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

So you’ve decided to give up caffeine—good for you (and godspeed). There are a ton of reasons why people give up coffee and other forms of caffeine, whether it’s to help with anxiety symptoms or to stop feeling such a crash in the afternoon. But whatever your reason, there’s no doubt that the first few days of caffeine withdrawal can be R-O-U-G-H. (Hello, caffeine headache, lethargy, and crankiness.)

But now if you’re left wondering how to stay awake without caffeine, don’t worry—it’s totally possible. We talked to nutrition and sleep experts to nab their best tips for staying alert and awake during the day when coffee is just not an option for you. No selling your soul required!

1. Prioritize eating for energy

Eat a healthy, balanced meal, recommends Amy Shapiro, RD, founder and director of New York City-based Real Nutrition . “If you go long without food, you’re going to get tired,” she says. She suggests reaching for a snack or meal every three to four hours, making sure that you include a mix of complex carbs, lean protein, and a healthy fat—say, a salad with chicken, avocado, and vegetables, or a quinoa bowl with roasted veggies and salmon. (You can find some other afternoon snack ideas here.) “This will balance your blood sugar and keep your energy up,” she adds.

2. Sniff on some citrus

“There’s some evidence that citrus—such as eating an orange or having some lemon in your water—can help energize you,” says Rebecca Robbins, M.S., Ph.D., of the Center for Healthful Behavior Change at NYU School of Medicine and co-author of Sleep for Success! . “When I need a pick-me-up, I often use orange-scented essential oils,” Shapiro adds.

3. Or reach for some ginger

“It increases energy production and circulation while reducing inflammation,” says Brooklyn-based registered dietitian Maya Feller, RD . Try this ginger tea recipe when you’re looking for a caffeine-free afternoon sip.

4. Get moving

It’s an oldie but a goodie because it works: “Getting your blood flowing will increase your energy levels, stat,” Shapiro says. Walking around your office, walking to fill your water bottle, visiting a friend’s office, or even just taking a quick jaunt around the block are all quick, easy ways to beat that notorious 3 p.m. slump.

5. Drink up (water, that is)

A telltale sign of dehydration is fatigue, says Shapiro. Whichever way you take your water—plain, sparkling, with lemon or lime—works. Time to refill your water bottle! (And if that’s a task, you might want to try this hydration app to keep you on track.)

6. Crunch on something

If your job mainly involves staring unblinkingly at a computer screen for hours on end, it’s easy to fall into a fog, which is why chef and dietitian Michele Sidorenkov, RDN, recommends throwing a crunchy snack into your tote every morning like an apple or a handful of almonds. Two reasons: Crunchy things “engage [your] auditory senses, and the more loud and abrupt the sound, the more you are engaging those senses,” Sidorenkov says. Second: If caffeine has been your main source of fuel until recently, you’ll need to find new ways to perk up, and “the more dense and hardy the crunchy food item, the more you’ll help fuel your body for the next few hours,” Sidorenkov says.

7. Get a change of perspective

“I’m not a coffee drinker, so the first thing I do after I meditate each morning is flip up into a handstand to get going sans caffeine,” yoga instructor Danielle Diamond says. “All that extra blood flow to the brain has a major energizing effect on the mind, plus it generates prana, or ‘life force’ in the body.” If you haven’t done a handstand since kindergarten, Diamond recommends bridge pose instead.

8. Practice good sleep hygiene when you go to bed

For most adults, that means getting at least seven hours of restful sleep per night. Additionally, try to maintain a consistent bedtime when possible—that means no going to bed at 9 p.m. on Monday then not hitting the sheets until 2 a.m. on Tuesday. “We call that a yo-yo sleep cycle, and it will throw your body out of sync with its environment,” Dr. Robbins explains. Prioritizing sleep and maintaining a consistent schedule “does so many favors for [you] if you can maintain it,” she adds. Most importantly, your body will be more likely to understand when it should be awake and when it should be asleep, giving you more consistent, balanced energy levels.

Is sleeping with a robot the new frontier of bedtime tech? If that’s not your speed, this low-tech breathing exercise will have you snoozing in no time.

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

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How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

Workdays can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster ride. Besides the ups and downs of day-to-day responsibilities, many people are also riding stressful peaks and valleys of energy and crashes, while trying to squeeze in as much productivity as they can between slumps.

Caffeine is a common fix, but the brief spurts of energy it produces offer only a short-term solution. To help you take back your day, here are six ways you can stay awake, energized and focused at work without caffeine.

1. Brief office exercises to get the blood flowing

If you’ve ever gone for a walk to clear your head, you’ve experienced the benefit that getting up and moving can do for your focus. But you don’t need to leave your workspace to get that benefit.

Try some desk squats by moving your chair back a few inches and placing your feet shoulder width apart. Then bend at the knees as if you were going to sit in the chair until you begin to feel the cushion beneath you, and stand back up in one motion.

More of an arms person? Do a set of desk pushups. Place your hands flat on your desk and take a few steps back so your body creates a 45-degree angle with the floor. Keep your core tight and lower yourself down toward the desk by bending at your elbows. Repeat.

2. Healthy foods that naturally stimulate the brain and help you maintain focus

One of the best ways to maintain your energy and focus throughout the day is by eating strategically. To achieve a state of sustained energy, pair carbohydrates and protein.

Carbs such as whole grains take longer to digest, which allows you to get energy from them over a longer period of time. Pair that with a protein, a large percentage of which your body converts into energy, for a long-tail spurt of energy. To kick your focus up a notch, add in some leafy greens. Foods such as spinach or kale are rich in vitamin B folate and vitamin K, which studies show contribute to improved brain function and focus.

3. Breathing exercises that help with oxygen intake

You probably don’t think about breathing often, but your oxygen intake can impact your focus. Breathing exercises help increase your oxygen intake, which can relax you and allow you to work smarter.

While sitting in a chair, place your shoulders firmly against the back of your seat and sit up straight. Breathe out as much air as you can, and then inhale slowly from your diaphragm, taking in as much air as possible. Hold for a count of five, and then exhale slowly. Repeat for a set of 10.

4. Scheduled breaks away from your computer, to rest your eyes and refresh your mind

You’re in good company if you get a headache, dry eyes or fatigue after staring at your computer screen for a while. Computer vision syndrome can produce these symptoms if you’ve been looking at a device screen for too long. The American Optometric Association recommends taking a 15-minute break every two hours to help combat these symptoms.

Not only will a break give your eyes a chance to rest, but switching up your environment can help refresh your mind. You might also try taking even more frequent breaks with the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, peel your eyes away from your screen and look at something 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This lets your eyes refocus and relax, and helps you maintain your focus longer.

5. Writing that uses your creative energies in a new and free-form way

Take 15 minutes to jot down some thoughts to clear your mind. Grabbing a pen and paper can put you in a different frame of mind than if you’re writing at a computer, and can help you regain focus.

If you find yourself struggling to figure out what to write, try going stream of consciousness: Write whatever comes to mind to get on an initial roll, and then zero in on whatever thoughts come to you.

6. Hydrating

Being a little dehydrated isn’t just uncomfortable — it can also be detrimental to your cognitive function. Research shows that even mild dehydration can significantly impact short-term memory and attention. To combat this, make sure you’re getting enough water each day. For men, the World Health Organization recommends 2.5 liters of water, and for women, 2.2 liters.

If being tethered to a water bottle all day sounds a little trying, don’t worry. You can get a good amount of water from foods such as fruits and vegetables during the day to help offset the amount you need to drink.

Some of these techniques may work better for you than others. To get the maximum benefits, try a few in combination over several weeks to see how your body and mind respond. With the right adjustments, you’ll begin to see a tangible increase in your energy and focus and be able to charge ahead toward your goals.

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

In New York City, telling colleagues you don’t drink coffee is like telling someone you meet in a bar that you don’t drink alcohol.

Usually, they assume I never acquired a taste for the bitter, caffeinated elixir. Far from it. Five years ago, when I worked as a barista in a café on Boston’s posh Newbury Street, I was hooked. I’d pound up to 12 shots of diesel-strong espresso in a single 8-hour shift, springing from the milk steamer to the bean grinder like Popeye the Sailor after a can of spinach.

That all changed when I started my first full-time desk job. Confined to a chair, coffee became too much. I was jittery and unfocused, and I’d crash from the caffeine high well before the day was over. The energy roller coaster killed my productivity. Worse, I started to feel anxious every time I drank coffee for pleasure.

A little over a year ago, I quit cold turkey. Save for two slip-ups, both of which were after-dinner cocktails mixed with Grand Marnier or Irish whiskey, I haven’t had a sip of espresso, drip or French-pressed coffee. And I did it all without the help of a 12-step program. (Yes, those exist for serious caffeine addicts.) I managed to stay on the wagon even amid the stress of starting a new job last March, for which I wake up at 5:30 a.m. each day.

“Are you serious?” a woman I went on a brunch date with just last weekend said to me as I ordered an Earl Grey. “I could never do that.”

But she could. Anyone could! To counter the need for a powerful caffeine kick each morning, I simply had to tweak some personal behaviors, which ultimately have made me a much healthier, more productive and more emotionally grounded person.

I now have a bedtime.

Until recently, I prided myself on being a “serendipitous sleeper,” which is really just a euphemism for “inconsistent insomniac.” Being awake at the witching hours of the night provided a certain type of solitude that is hard to come by. My time was mine entirely, and there were no interruptions except by fellow insomniacs or friends in vastly different time zones. That may have worked when I was a caffeine fiend — and 19 years old — but the routine left me exhausted.

“If you ignore your clock, your clock will interfere with sleep or it will interfere with waking,” Dr. Patrick O’Connor, a caffeine and exercise science researcher at the University of Georgia, told me. “When you’re out of sync with the clock, things go wrong.”

Now, I try to go to bed no later than 11 p.m. on weeknights. When I don’t feel tired, I take a melatonin pill or turn on my fan to let the white noise soothe me to sleep. By the time my first alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., I usually feel refreshed. It also leaves me enough time that if I need an extra half-hour of shut-eye, I can take it and still get from my apartment in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood to my office in Manhattan’s East Village by 7:30 a.m.

Admittedly, I should probably go to sleep a little earlier. Guidelines updated this month by the National Sleep Foundation recommend young adults age 18 – 25 (I’m 23 years old) sleep between seven and nine hours each night.

I drink a lot of green tea.

As I reduced my caffeine dependence, I decided I’d switch to green tea, which typically contains less caffeine than black tea. Though the leaves come from the same plant, the drying and aging process creates different levels of caffeine.

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

Green tea has between 24 and 45 milligrams of caffeine per serving, according to the Mayo Clinic. By comparison, black tea, which includes such strains as English breakfast tea and Earl Grey, contains up to 70 mg. A cup of coffee has between 95 and 200 mg.

I regularly drink up to five cups of the green stuff while at work, sipping throughout the day.

I’m not alone in making this switch. PANATEA, a New York-based company that sells Japanese fine-ground green tea called matcha, was founded by a couple who began having the same symptoms I felt from drinking coffee. Matcha can keep energy levels up for 3-6 hours with only 34 milligrams of caffeine, about one-third of a cup of coffee. It also contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that provides a feeling of “calm alertness.”

The green tea routine also allows me to keep black tea as an option when I’m not able to sleep enough. In fact, as I write this sentence now, I’m sipping a cup of Irish breakfast tea, having needed an extra boost after returning home late from a Monday night dinner party.

I take Steve Jobs’ advice literally and “stay hungry.”

Food comas can be the worst drag on productivity. Trust me, there are few things I love more than rewarding myself with a midday bowl of noodles or a lamb-stuffed banh mi sandwich for lunch. But my interviews, meetings or stories after that meal will suffer.

“Getting lethargic after a meal is relatively common,” O’Connor said.

A 2010 study found starvation nearly tripled the amount of time sleep-deprived fruit flies could survive. The insects became more focused and alert when their food was taken away. Their brains were determined to find food sources.

Obviously this is an extreme example. But I’ve found that by letting myself experience just a little bit of hunger, I get better work done. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat — I just eat several light meals throughout the day, instead of a three big ones. On a typical morning, I eat a piece of fruit on my way to work. Once in the office, I sup on a handful or two of raw almonds. By mid-morning, I’ll peel a banana or an orange. For lunch, I’ll either eat something light, such as a salad, or half a sandwich around noon and the other half a few hours later, when I feel hunger pangs yet again.

I exercise.

Perhaps one of the best perks in The Huffington Post’s New York headquarters is the small gym we have in the office. When I’m finding it hard to focus or stay awake, I will sometimes take a half-hour break and go for a quick run. Between the endorphins released by sweating and my increased heart rate, it can be a useful remedy.

This is nothing new. Research from 2006 found that regular exercise could increase energy levels among people suffering from fatigue caused by chronic medical conditions, such as cancer or heart disease.

But an in-office workout doesn’t require a treadmill.

No, I don’t really run in my regular clothes.

“A lot of workers have stairs in their building,” O’Connor said. “If they just go up a couple flights of stairs, that’s significant activity for them and that would have an effect.”

A stroll around the neighborhood helps, too.

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

There’s also something I call the B90X. The B stands for bathroom. Back when I worked for a small news site in Los Angeles, taking a walk in the neighborhood could be too much in the blistering sun. So, when I felt my eyelids growing heavy, I’d go in the bathroom, put the fan on and do 60 seconds of jumping jacks followed by 30 seconds of push-ups. (I put toilet paper on my hands before placing them on the floor.) This technique works best in a single-person bathroom, for obvious reasons. But be forewarned: You may need to take an extra 30 seconds to catch your breath. Nothing looks weirder than walking out of a single bathroom red-faced and out of breath.

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

Before I have my double shot of espresso in the morning, I am basically a zombie. Groggy, and irritable, I turn towards my morning fix of coffee to kickstart my day. But, counting on caffeine to boost your energy in the morning is the norm: A 2014 study estimated at least 85 percent of Americans consume at least one caffeine product every single day — through products like coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate, and pills.

On average, it takes around 10 minutes for you start to feel the effects of caffeine. However, the energy-boosting drug doesn’t hit peak concentration in your bloodstream until around 45 minutes after you drink a cup of coffee or tea. Though the energy-boosting benefits of consuming caffeine depends largely on the individual and how much caffeine is consumed, too much of it can lead to a caffeine crash and have negative impact on your health — causing symptoms such as nausea, insomnia, headaches, restlessness, or irritability.

Caffeine may be a staple of most people’s morning routines, but it doesn’t have to be the only source of energy you rely on to jumpstart your day. If you need a little boost, here are 11 science-approved ways to wake up in the morning — without caffeine.

Eat Breakfast

If you tend to choose grab-and-go meals like granola bars, or skip breakfast entirely, you may feel more tired in the AM. Food gives you calories, which equate to energy. So, fueling yourself with a good meal after sleeping all night may be an easy way to improve your energy in the morning. Classic breakfast foods like bananas, eggs, and yogurt are all energy-boosting options.

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Forget coffee, CAT VIDEOS are the best way to give your body a boost: Chemists reveal how to stay alert without caffeine

  • The American Chemical Society has produced tips to help stay awake
  • It recommends viral cat videos as they boost hormones involved in focus
  • Drinking water is also recommended as dehydration can increase fatigue
  • It says dancing and listening to music can also make people feel energised

Published: 15:25 BST, 25 August 2015 | Updated: 07:45 BST, 26 August 2015

Most of us have suffered from that mid-afternoon lull when it’s a struggle to keep our eyes open and we reach for a cup of coffee.

But this mid-afternoon pick-me-up can have a dramatic impact on sleep later that night.

To help keep people alert, without also damaging their night-time routine, a group of chemists has revealed how to stay awake without caffeine.

They suggest a series of ways of boosting the body’s energy levels, including watching viral cat videos, dancing, listening to music and turning on lights.

Scroll down for video

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

Many people struggle to stay awake at their desks in the afternoon (stock image pictured), but a series of tips from the American Chemical Society can help workers feel more alert without having to reach for a coffee

According to the video produced by the American Chemical Society, watching funny videos of cats, while perhaps not the best way to please your boss, can give you a mood boost.

This is because watching enjoyable clips can increase the levels of oxytocin, the so-called cuddle hormone, in the brain and decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, making it easier to concentrate.


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The video also recommends drinking plenty of water.

The chemists added: ‘Dehydration can lead to fatigue, not to mention more serious symptoms like confusion, heart palpitations and fainting.

‘The adult human body is 50 to 65 per cent water. We typically start to get thirsty when we have lost two to three per cent of our body’s water.

‘Believe it or not it can affect you mentally and physically when you have lost just one per cent.

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

Listening to music triggers the release of hormones like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin (illustrated above) which can provide a boost to mood and also help to make the brain more alert

‘This is because it is a major component the plasma in our blood, which transports oxygen, proteins and other nutrients your body needs to function properly.’

The chemists also recommend dancing to music as it can produce endorphins that leave people feeling happier and more energised.

Music is known to trigger pleasure circuits in the brain to release hormones like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin to give a mood boost.

The chemists suggest also turning on some bright lights or venturing outside. This is because bright lights can activate neurones in the hypothalamus to release a neurotransmitter called hypocretin.

This regulates wakefulness and appetite. People who suffer from the most common form of narcolepsy, where sufferers suddenly fall asleep, have a lack of hypocretin.

The chemists continued: ‘Some research has shown a direct connection between bright lights in general and alertness.

‘Getting out and taking a quick walk in the sun might just be all you need to get the rest of the day running smoothly.’

However they add that sometimes perhaps the only solution is to take a quick nap.


If you are able to use these tips to keep yourself awake without relying on caffeine, then a group of engineers might have come up with a use for all that left over coffee.

They have produced a polymer from coffee bean waste that can be used in 3D printers.

Called Wound Up, it produces a coffee-brown printed material which can be used in any 3D printer that uses traditional PLA thermoplastic.

The companies behind the material, 3Dom USA and C2renew, use waste from coffee bean hulls, meaning it is environmentally friendly.

Wound Up costs $49 (£30) for a 2.2 lb spool.

Between work, classes, and socializing, life can get pretty hectic. In response, we often rely on caffeinated drinks to keep us going. Sure, everyone knows that caffeine can give you a much-needed jolt, but at what cost? It can also cause headaches, breakouts, and mood swings, just to name a few negative side effects. The good news: there are better, healthier ways to get energy without all that caffeine clogging your system.

Have a Protein-Filled Snack

Feeling drowsy? Nosh on a protein-packed snack. This is a simple but effective way to keep yourself going throughout the day. Think crunchy apple slices with creamy peanut butter, turkey roll-ups with string cheese, or almonds and dried fruit. If you’re crunched for time, pick up a smoothie with a protein boost—most places offer free “boosts.” Jamba Juice has a great energy one that has B vitamins in it to help physical and mental stamina. Bonus: it helps your metabolism too!

Pop a B Vitamin

Vitamin B deficiency has been linked to low energy levels, among other things. In fact, mood changes, poor concentration, anxiety, and depression can all be signs of a vitamin B deficiency. So if you’re feeling tired regularly, try popping a B-complex vitamin. Most grocers and health food stores carry a variety of brands that you can choose from. Another option is to take a multivitamin, which will help ensure that you’re not deficient in other minerals or nutrients. For the best results, take your multivitamin during a meal—preferably breakfast. According to NutriHealth, the nutrients are better absorbed when mixed with the healthy fat in your food.

Try a Quick Workout

When you’re tired, hitting the gym is the last thing you want to do. But studies show that a short sweat session can kick up your energy levels for the rest of the day. According to Fitness Magazine, you don’t need to pound the treadmill for an hour—a quick jog around the block will do. Feeling unmotivated? Pop in some headphones, cue up your favorite upbeat tunes, and hit the pavement! If you want to stay in your room, a quick set of 25 jumping jacks can help give you a boost.

Take A Cold Shower

Hot showers are the best for relaxing and winding down. But if your goal is to do the opposite, consider changing the temperature. Cold water stimulates your system and speeds up circulation, resulting in a more alert you. Don’t want to give up the soothing heat completely? Try taking a regular shower, then cooling it down for the last 5 minutes or so. It’ll still do wonders for your mental awareness. Really not into the cold shower thing? Splash cold water on your face for a midday refresher.

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

According to Terri Fant-Franklin, a nutritionist at Kaiser Permanente, changing your eating habits can greatly increase your energy levels. “Having smaller, more frequent meals will keep your calorie flow at a more even pace which helps with energy,” Fant-Franklin says. Heavy meals often leave us feeling drowsy, while smaller portions can have the opposite effect. Try to avoid sugary drinks, which are often loaded with caffeine and additives. Chances are, you’ll end up crashing later.

Go To Sleep 20 Minutes Earlier

It’s easy to procrastinate during the day and put off projects until the wee hours of the night. But this pushes your bedtime back later and later. Before you know it, you wake up on four hours’ worth of sleep, tired and cranky. Let’s just say that this situation is less than ideal. But there’s a simple and effective way to change your habits. Instead of being unrealistic and wishing you could sleep through that 7AM alarm, take action the night before. Aim to hit the sack 20-30 minutes earlier and chances are, you’ll end up getting significantly more sleep.

Take a Walk

Taking a brisk stroll has similar effects to working out. According to WebMD, moving your body (even at a slow pace) will have you feeling more alert in just minutes. Since the weather has cooled down, the chilly winter air will also help wake up your senses. Worried you’ll get bored? Grab your camera and snap photos of the beautiful fall foliage you see along the way. You can also incorporate this tip into your daily routine by walking instead of taking the bus or driving. Bonus: a leisurely walk is great for clearing up brain fog, which can result from hours spent at a desk or too much computer time. So next time you need a break from doing work or studying, head outside.

Get A (Reflexology) Massage

In the practice of reflexology, your hands and feet are filled with pressure points that relate to specific areas of the body. For example, the top part of your thumbs correlates with your pituitary gland. Massages generally leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, but reflexology takes things one step further and pinpoints specific areas that need work. According to The American Reflexology Certification Board, the practice helps restore balance to the body. Try making an appointment with a specialist or give yourself a quick massage (or recruit a friend to) for a DIY midday pick-me-up. Apply pressure to the different areas on your hands and feet, alternating to stimulate multiple organs. It’ll double as a mental break, preparing you for the rest of your busy day!

Talk It Out

Next time you’re feeling down and tired, try talking to a friend. Studies show that chatting can help make you feel more alert. Being socially disconnected can trickle into other areas of your life, resulting in negative thoughts and lower levels of productivity. Catching up on gossip will pique your interest and keep you going. Friends too busy to talk? Calling someone works too. Dial your mom’s cell and catch up on the latest family news.


The mind is a powerful tool. It’s been proven that visualization exercises can help bring you closer to achieving your goals. A recent Miller-McCune article discusses the many benefits of meditation. Next time you’re feeling zapped for energy, try this simple exercise: sit on a chair with your back straight and your hands on your knees. Close your eyes and envision yourself feeling positive and energized. Take deep breaths and keep your posture strong. Before long, you’ll have an increased sense of mental and physical awareness.

Dani Wong is a sophomore at the University of San Francisco, where she is double majoring in media studies and journalism. Her true loves include traveling, taking photographs, playing sports, and anything food related. is the #1 online community for college women with over 1 million monthly users. Written entirely by the nation’s top college journalists—with 3,000+ contributors and counting— features national content on Style, Beauty, Health, Love, Life, Career, and High School supplemented by local content from 200+ campus chapters across the country. Her Campus covers everything you need to know as a college girl—it is “a collegiette’s guide to life.”

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If the Monday after the time change is hitting you hard, you’re not alone. Losing an extra hour of sleep is tough, especially if you’ve already been running on empty due to pandemic stress or garden variety not-getting-to bed-on-time. So here are some strategies for getting through the day.

Before we get started, let’s get one thing straight: this isn’t going to be a cakewalk. When you’re really tired, working is tough no matter what you do. That said, there are ways to help make the day easier and actually get things done. You’re not going to feel bright and cheery, but you can avoid turning into a zombie. We’ve looked at quick fixes for feeling tired , but in this post we’re going to examine what you can do to help yourself during the entire day. Essentially, your goal will be to give yourself extra energy and avoid behaviors that will make your exhaustion worse. With a little bit of effort, you’ll be able to avoid passing out.

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Be diligent about what (and how much) you eat and drink

When you’re tired, food is a difficult affair. You need to eat enough to provide your body with the energy it needs to get through the day, but you also need to be sure you don’t overeat (or undereat!) or you can end up feeling worse. Serve yourself whatever you would normally eat, in a normal size portion, rather than asking your poor tired brain to come up with new ideas or guess how hungry you are.

If you have multiple options for breakfast, avoid sugary foods—which sometimes cause a post-meal energy slump —and go for something filling that includes protein and fiber. (Consider a veggie omelet, or a high-protein yogurt with fruit and nuts.)

Drink plenty of water, too. If you end up getting dehydrated during the day you’ll worsen your situation as well.

Get your blood flowing with quick and simple exercises

Not all exercise will wake you up—and a long workout can wear you out—but doing small amounts of exercise during the day can help you stay alert when you’re tired. For example, do three sets of pushups with 30 second breaks in between. Do as many as you can in each set. This shouldn’t take you more than five minutes, you shouldn’t sweat too much in the process, and it’ll wake you up. If pushups aren’t your thing, check out this 10-minute workout that you can do with air squats or lunges.

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Work standing up

We all know that sitting down all day is bad for us , but standing up isn’t an exciting prospect for most people, either. You’re probably used to working in chair because it’s more comfortable. When you’re tired, though, you don’t necessarily want to be uncomfortable—you just don’t want to fall asleep. This is another good excuse to work in a standing position. You may not have the desk for it, but see if there’s a way you can shift your workspace so that you can keep your monitor and keyboard at standing height. Stacks of books are your friend, or if you’re at home, find a shelf or countertop that’s an appropriate height.

Use caffeine intelligently (if necessary at all)

Caffeine is what most people use to stay awake when they’re tired, but overuse can lead to problems like headaches. If you’re a frequent coffee drinker, or you consume caffeine regularly, this section doesn’t have much news for you. You’re probably already brewing your third mug of the morning, which will help a little.

If you’re not a regular consumer, starting your day off with a reasonable amount of the stuff (around 65-100mg, about one small cup of coffee) can help prevent you from feeling more and more tired as the day goes on. This is because your active brain is constantly producing adenosine as a byproduct of its activity. When your adenosine levels are high enough, your brain knows it’s time to get some rest. Caffeine can, essentially, impersonate adenosine and bond with its receptors, putting off your brain’s job of letting you know it’s time to sleep. This works perfectly well if you’re not a constant consumer of caffeine, but won’t do so much for you if your body expects it.

The important thing to remember is to avoid caffeine in the later hours of the day, as you’re going to want to sleep eventually. Stop taking caffeine after 2 p.m. or so, or else you’ll keep yourself up late again tonight, and you’ll be rereading this article tomorrow.

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Plan a well-timed power nap

Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you can’t find a little time to sleep. Hopefully your boss is understanding enough to let you escape for 20 minutes to take a quick nap, but even if not, you can still fit one in. Napping at the wrong time of day can throw off your circadian rhythms, but if you keep that nap to 20 minutes and take it between 1:00 and 3:00 PM you can actually boost your cognitive ability without screwing with your sleep schedule. Presumably you have a lunch break, so go take a 20 minute nap in your car (or somewhere more comfortable, if you’ve got it) and take your lunch back to your desk. You can eat it there feeling a little less exhausted.

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This post was originally published in June 2012 and was updated on March 15, 2021 by Beth Skwarecki with additional information, updated links, and to meet Lifehacker style guidelines.

Chris Vincent, MD, is a licensed physician, surgeon, and board-certified doctor of family medicine.

When you feel sleepy but you need to stay awake, there are tactics you can use to do so, as well as ways to prevent that sleepy feeling in the first place. You may have excessive daytime sleepiness, an underlying sleep disorder, or you may simply want to stay up late.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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Hero Images / Getty Images

The best defense against feeling sleepy during the daytime is getting a good night’s sleep. Simply not getting enough sleep is the most common cause of sleepiness.   This sleep restriction will increase your desire to sleep and could cause you to fall asleep at the wrong times.

If you have an underlying sleep disorder that keeps you from getting enough sleep, see your doctor. Otherwise, you may not be able to be as awake and alert as you should be.

Take Frequent Breaks

Prolonged, sustained attention and concentration can make you feel quite fatigued. In fact, the quality of your work is likely to suffer and you will be prone to making mistakes.

To counter these tendencies, it is advisable to take frequent short breaks when working. These interruptions will allow a return to sustained focus. A break may be especially important when you feel sleepy after lunch.

Consume Caffeine

Caffeine is a very effective, inexpensive way to boost alertness.   It is a natural stimulant. Second only to water, caffeinated beverages are one of the most commonly consumed fluids in the world. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and soda are popular options. Caffeine can also be found in certain foods, such as chocolate.

Excessive use of caffeine may rarely have adverse consequences, such as a rapid heart rate, nervousness, or a withdrawal headache.

Alternate Your Activities

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Paul Bradbury / OJO Images / Getty Images

If you are having trouble staying awake, you may find it helpful to alternate your activities. Breaking larger projects into smaller tasks and working at them in short, scheduled bursts may allow you to be more productive.

Sustained concentration can be taxing. By shifting your focus you can be more attentive to the new tasks you undertake.

Get Some Light and Fresh Air

Natural conditions can have a significant beneficial effect on our ability to stay awake. For those with circadian rhythm disorders or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), properly timed exposure to natural light, or even the use of a light box, can help substantially.

For everyone else, our body’s circadian rhythm relies on exposure to natural conditions, most importantly light.   So stepping out to get some fresh air during periods of sleepiness may be of benefit.

Take a Nap

If you are fighting excessive sleepiness, the simple relief provided by a nap may recharge your batteries. Studies have shown that naps are helpful in improving learning and memory.   Many societies incorporate a midday rest into their daily routines.  

Shorter naps lasting 15 to 20 minutes are generally preferred. Longer naps (lasting multiple hours) suggests that you may not be getting enough nighttime sleep or that you may possibly have a sleep disorder.

Have a Snack

Most people eat and drink fairly frequently throughout the day, and appropriately timed snacks may be helpful in staying awake. You may do well to choose lighter fare and limit the portions.

Foods containing sugars and caffeine may give you a needed boost. Be mindful of the additional calories, however, as these may creep up on you over time and lead to weight gain.

Exercise and Be Active

In most cases, you are likely to only feel sleepy when you are engaging in sedentary activities. Sitting in a conference room, driving long distances, or working in your cubicle may make you drowsy. Rarely should you find yourself dozing off while going for a walk, cleaning the house, or running errands, unless you have narcolepsy.

Taking a break from sedentary activities by exercising or doing other engaging activities will help relieve sleepiness. When you return to your prior task, your thinking will be clearer and you’ll hopefully feel less drowsy.

Keep the Environment Cool

If you have ever found yourself dozing off in a room that is a bit too warm, you certainly recognize the benefits of keeping things a little on the cool side. Our environment can have a significant impact on our sleep and our ability to maintain wakefulness.

By turning down the temperature (to a level that is within reason, perhaps 68 F or even a few degrees cooler), it will help you to stay alert.

Medications as a Last Resort

How to keep yourself awake at work without caffeine

The last option should be the use of prescription medications called stimulants. These medications may include Ritalin, Provigil, and Nuvigil. They act via various mechanisms on the brain to promote attention and alertness.   They can be addictive, however, and are rarely used to treat excessive daytime sleepiness.

In some sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy or severe sleep apnea, they may be indicated, as well as in other conditions such as the fatigue associated with multiple sclerosis. If you wish to use these medications, you should consult your doctor.