You didn’t get much sleep last night because you stayed awake a little longer than you should and now you wish you hadn’t, but you can’t turn back time. Or, maybe your job is boring at times and you just need help keeping those eyes open. You know that feeling right? If you’re desperate of what you need to do to stay awake and alert at work, but you’re not into coffee, well, here are things you should consider doing.
1. A healthy breakfast
Start your day right. Researchers have found that you will feel more alert after consuming a meal first thing in the morning. If the meal was high in sugar like doughnuts, the alertness wears off quickly. But if the meal is high in fiber and carbohydrates, like oats, alertness will last longer throughout the morning. Another study found that breakfast which is high in fat tastes better but led to consuming food throughout the day, compared to a high fiber and carbohydrate breakfast, which satisfies hunger and increases cognitive function throughout the day.
2. Low carb snacks
Apples, Oranges, grapefruits, and raspberries – these low carb fruits are great for boosting your energy. Avocado crisps, fruit kebab, lemon cheesecake bars, and scoops of spicy salsa on a few crackers are ideal options too. Just be sure to stay away from bread, meat, and dairy products for you will feel sleepy once your belly is full with them.
3. Drink Orange Juice
Citrus fruits like oranges are rich in molecules called flavonoids. Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in almost all fruits and vegetables. This molecule is linked to slowing cognitive decline due to aging and decreases the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. One study found that participants who consume flavonoids had increased alertness and cognitive function compared to their counterpart.
4. Find the light
Melatonin is a hormone created by the brain and is critical in regulating your sleep. When it’s dark it produces more melatonin making you sleepy and when it’s bright, the production of melatonin drops. So if you are cooped up in the office all day, open those blinds up on your windows. Go outside and expose yourself to the light in the morning, during your break, or lunch to increase melatonin production and physiologically wake your body up. Change the lighting at your job as well. If you are working in fluorescent lighting, the ones where the pole-like bulbs seem to last a century, then they probably need changed to brighten the room up!
5. Take down notes
If you’re in a meeting and you suddenly felt tired and sleepy, try taking notes about what people are saying. Do this even though you’re not required to do so. This way your senses and your brain will be stimulated, and you will be more alert. This is an old college lecture trick that sometimes could save the day! If you were about to fall asleep listening to the professor, then hurry, take notes!
6. Pull down your earlobes
This might sound strange, and you may feel awkward about this, but pulling your earlobes down could help you stay awake and alert when you are drowsy. Curious if this really works? Try it. I’m not sure the science behind this, but it has something to do with acupressure points. This is not the only place you can stimulate (between your thumb and index finger, behind your knee, and many others) either. It is just probably one of the easiest ones.
7. Be physically active
Be physically active in the morning. Studies found that physically active students perform better on a test than those who are less active students. Physical activity enhances our cognition due to the increased blood flow throughout the body, providing our brain with more oxygen and it also increases mental performance. Also, the hippocampus, which is part of the brain – critical for thinking and learning – is highly active during exercise. Therefore, don’t sit at your desk all day, if that is what you do normally. Walk around your office or work place intermittently throughout the day. Trust me, it does wonders and probably is the best tip for me personally out of these 10!
8. Listen to music (if possible)
Music has the ability to create a state of arousal, causing pupils to dilate and blood pressure to increase. It can also increase activation in regions of the brain associated with movement and emotion while potentially releasing the “feel good” chemical, dopamine, throughout your body. I know this may not be possible depending on the work environment, but if you can’t listen to it at a low volume then maybe you can use earbuds?
9. Play a video game (if possible)
I know, playing games at work can’t be a good thing. Well, if you are struggling to stay awake at work because you have nothing to do then sneaking a quick game in can actually help! There are lots of cool games that you can download at Apple store or Google play store. You don’t need to finish the whole game or consume one whole hour playing (don’t get hooked!). Just a few minutes of fun time would wake your senses up and boost your brain. Think puzzle games.
10. Have fun
Watch a humorous video clip on youtube or scroll facebook for a few min. and watch something. Again, not something you need to be caught doing at work, but something you can get away with to stay awake! If electronics are not a good idea at your work place, then go strike up some conversation with your employees. Conversation usually always stimulates the brain which will keep you awake! A good laugh never hurts anyone and this is definitely true when you apply it to staying alert.
Ethan Wright is a health enthusiast who believes every great day begins with a good night sleep. He is currently a researcher and writer for Bedding Stock, an online retailer of gel memory foam mattress in the USA. When not wearing his writing hat, you will see him traveling to places with his journal.