Tips for staying awake naturally

When you’re not getting enough sleep, it can be tempting to rely on energy drinks or caffeine to keep you going throughout the day. However, consuming these types of drinks to combat sleepiness can create a vicious cycle. While caffeine can help you stay awake, it can take up to eight hours to wear off and may decrease the quality and quantity of your sleep. So, how can you stay alert without relying on stimulants?

1. Stay hydrated to prevent fatigue

Dehydration can leave you feeling tired and sluggish, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Aim for at least eight glasses of water a day, and don’t forget to eat water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, which can also help keep you hydrated.

2. Regulate your sleep cycles with sunlight exposure

Our circadian rhythms, which control our sleep-wake cycle, are heavily influenced by daylight. It’s important to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure every day to regulate these rhythms. If you have insomnia, sleep experts recommend getting an hour of morning sunlight each day. Even stepping outside for a few minutes to take a breath of fresh air can revitalize your senses.

3. Boost your energy and fight fatigue with exercise

According to a 2006 analysis by the University of Georgia, involving more than 6,800 people, exercise is more effective in increasing energy and reducing daytime fatigue than some medications used to treat sleep problems. Besides, regular exercise improves the quality of your sleep. Try to engage in physical activity for 30 minutes every day. Note that if you decide to do a more intense workout, your energy levels may initially drop before surging for a few hours. To lessen the initial energy loss, eat a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours after a heavy workout. However, ensure to finish your exercise routine a few hours before bedtime, so that you’re not too energized when you want to sleep.

4. Take a breather with the Wim Hof Method to feel alert and energized.

This breathing technique, named after its creator, Wim Hof, is based on a combination of deep breathing and breath retention. By practicing the Wim Hof Method, you can increase your oxygen levels, improve circulation, and reduce stress. To perform the Wim Hof Method, follow these steps: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. 

Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs to their maximum capacity. Exhale deeply and completely, pushing all the air out of your lungs. Hold your breath for as long as you comfortably can. Inhale again deeply and hold your breath for 10-15 seconds. Exhale and repeat the cycle for 2-3 rounds. You can practice the Wim Hof Method anytime and anywhere to feel more alert and focused. It is particularly useful before a big meeting, a workout, or any task that requires mental or physical effort.

5. Recharge with a Nap

A power nap can be a quick and effective way to combat sleepiness and increase alertness. However, it’s important to keep in mind two things: limit your nap to one and don’t take it too close to your bedtime. According to sleep expert Barry Krakow, MD, author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: Seven Keys to Sleeping Through the Night, the ideal nap should be between 5 and 25 minutes. It’s best to nap approximately 6-7 hours before your usual bedtime. If you need to take a late nap, make it a short one. If you need to nap at work, use your break time and consider using a vibrating alarm clock to prevent oversleeping. While sleeping at your desk may not be ideal, some companies now offer designated nap rooms for employees. If you can’t nap, simply resting quietly with your eyes closed for 10 minutes can also be helpful, according to sleep researcher Allison T. Siebern, PhD, from the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center in Redwood City, California.

6. Elevate your energy levels with a healthy snack

Although sugary snacks can give you a quick energy boost, they often lead to a subsequent crash that leaves you feeling even more tired and lethargic. To promote sustained energy throughout the day, try incorporating these healthy snacks into your routine: Whole wheat crackers or celery sticks with peanut butter A serving of yogurt paired with fresh fruit or a handful of nuts Baby carrots dipped in low-fat cream cheese Not only do these snacks provide a more stable source of energy, but they also contain essential nutrients that support overall health and well-being.

7. Brighten your environment to reduce fatigue

If you find yourself feeling tired or drowsy, take a look at the lighting in your environment. Dim lighting can exacerbate feelings of fatigue, so try increasing the intensity of the light source around you. Studies have shown that exposure to bright light can reduce sleepiness and increase alertness. This could mean turning up the lights in your workplace or even opening the blinds to let in natural light.

8. Stimulate your mind by switching tasks

Studies have shown that monotonous work can be as harmful to alertness as sleep loss, especially for those working long shifts. To combat this, try to schedule more stimulating tasks during your sleepy times. Alternatively, switch to more engaging work responsibilities to keep your mind alert and active. By varying your tasks, you can keep your brain stimulated and help prevent fatigue from setting in.

9. Give your eyes a break to avoid fatigue

Staring at a computer screen for long periods can cause eyestrain and exacerbate sleepiness and fatigue. To prevent this, take breaks from your screen every 20 minutes and look away for at least 20 seconds. This will help relax your eyes and reduce strain. You can also try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This technique can help reduce eye fatigue and improve your overall focus and alertness.

10. Engage in conversation to boost mental alertness

If you find yourself feeling drowsy and struggling to concentrate, starting a conversation can help wake up your mind. Engaging in an interesting conversation can stimulate your brain and increase mental alertness. According to Dr. Barry Krakow, Medical Director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M., discussing topics such as business ideas, politics, or religion can be particularly effective as they provide strong behavioral stimulation. So, next time you feel your energy levels dropping, strike up a conversation with a colleague or friend to help reinvigorate your mind.

11. It is crucial to pull over and take a break when feeling sleepy while driving.

According to Siebern, driving while drowsy is as risky as driving under the influence of alcohol. Strategies like opening windows or turning on loud music might only provide temporary relief. The best option is to have another person take over driving or stop and take a nap until you are no longer sleepy. If you are on a long road trip, make sure to switch drivers regularly. Take a break at least every two hours to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. These stops can also be an excellent opportunity to rehydrate and have a healthy snack to keep you energized for the road ahead.