Sleeplessness and insomnia have become global epidemics. Most of us do not get a good night’s rest these days and, resultantly, feel tired during the day. Inadequate sleep results in decreased productivity and can negatively impact our health and wellbeing. While the best way to stop feeling sleepy at work or in school is to get proper rest of at least 7-8 hours, there are some tried and tested ways to avoid falling asleep in the office or while studying:
1. Walk around
Nothing recharges your batteries like exercise. Lace up your sneakers and walk around briskly for 15-20 minutes. You can even walk around while studying. Take a brisk walk or jog around the block and then come back to the work you are doing. Research has shown that this simple task can keep you energized for nearly 2 hours. A study has demonstrated this for a fact. A group of people were given a candy bar and also asked to walk about. The candy bar energized the participants temporarily but it also gave an ‘energy crash’ an hour later. On the other hand, the brisk walk kept the participants active and energized for nearly 2 hours. Tips to move around more:
- At work, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk over to a colleague’s desk or cabin, instead of emailing or calling
- Take a brisk walk after lunch.
- If you sit at a desk all day, try standing every 30 minutes for a period of 10-15 minutes.
2. Take a short nap
Sometimes, the only way to stay awake after no sleep is sleeping! Take a short nap of 15 minutes for a quick burst of energy. Of course, you cannot nap at school or in the office. But some offices do provide nap rooms these days, or you could nap in your car. Sometimes, simply closing your eyes and meditating for 10-15 minutes can also help you avoid sleepiness in office or school. Use a vibrating alarm to wake you up if you choose to nap at school or work. A couple of things to remember about daytime naps:
- Never take too many of them during the day; they could affect your sleep quality at night.
- Avoid napping too close to your bedtime.
3. Prevent eye strain
Students and office workers who work long hours in front of the computer or have to read fine print can suffer from tired eyes. If you have to go for long periods without rest, do close your eyes from time to time. Wash your eyes with cool water and perform some eye exercises as below:
- Stare at an object on the horizon for up to 5 minutes.
- Roll the eyes round and round.
- Squeeze the eyes shut for a few seconds and then relax the eye muscles.
Also apply cucumber or potato slices on the eyes to soothe tired eyes.
4. Eat energy boosting foods
In order to stay awake in the morning, eat energizing foods. Avoid excess simple carbohydrates as they tend to make one feel drowsy. You can drink caffeinated beverages but avoid excess consumption. Some breakfast ideas for long lasting energy include:
- Quinoa with veggies
- Yogurt with fruit
- Peanut butter with sourdough bread
- Tuna on whole wheat toast.
These foods can help prevent low blood sugar which results in daytime drowsiness. You can also check out what to eat to avoid sleep in this guide.
5. Expose yourself to bright light
A great way to not feel sleepy in class or office is to work under bright lights. Avoid environments with dim lights as they make one feel drowsy and trick the body’s circadian rhythm into thinking it is bedtime. So use bulbs and tube-lights with high intensity that reduce sleepiness and make you feel awake and alert instantly.
6. Try meditation and deep breathing
Deep breathing helps increase oxygen levels in the blood and instantly increases alertness and energy levels. So if you want to not feel sleepy while studying, take a few deep breaths. Try breathing in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts and release or exhale for up to 6 counts. Repeat this exercise 3 times. You could also meditate for a few minutes using guided meditation videos or music. This will instantly increase productivity at work and study.
7. Perform stretches and simple exercises
Here are a couple of exercises to instantly energize your body and mind:
- Roll the shoulders in forward and backward motion a couple of times.
- Inhale and squeeze the shoulders.
- Shrug your shoulders towards the ears.
- Exhale while pushing the shoulders back.
- Finally drop the shoulders to normal position.
- Stretch your legs. Touch your toes.
8. Inhale energizing scents
Aromatherapy can help you stop feeling sleepy at work or school. Carry a roll on bottle with an energizing scent such as peppermint, tea tree, lemon, orange, bergamot or rosemary essential oils. You can also add a few drops of these oils on a kerchief and sniff it from time to time. These scents can give you an instant lift.
Our feet have certain energy points, pressing which can make you instantly alert. Use your knuckles to press down firmly on the central arch of each foot. This will stimulate the area in your brain that instantly awakens you. Do this several times until you feel awake.
Drink a couple of glasses of cold water as dehydration can sometimes make you feel tried and drowsy. Avoid energy drinks and caffeinated beverages which only give you a temporary high, only to be followed by a crash. So opt for cold water as far as possible. You can also splash your face with cool water to stay awake.
11. Change the activity you are doing
In order to not feel sleepy in class or at work, change the activity you are doing. You could solve a puzzle, read a different subject or finish off another task that is pending. This will change the brain wiring and keep you more alert. It is important to select a stimulating activity.
12. Spend time in the sun
Natural daylight is an energizer and can instantly wake you up. So step outside and get some fresh air. Each morning, try to spend at least quarter of an hour in the warm sunlight to increase your vitamin D levels. This will help you regulate your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm and lead to deeper sleep each night. And better sleep will naturally translate to increased productivity during the day.
13. Exercise every day
Each of us must exercise for at least 30 minutes (longer if possible) every day. This will improve sleep and metabolism. Healthy sleep at night will automatically help you to stay awake in the morning. Avoid exercise just before bedtime.
14. Listen to Bach
Bach’s music is known to increase concentration and help you study better and work more efficiently. So listen to Bach for a few minutes when you are feeling low on energy and tired or sleepy at work or while studying.
15. Turn to herbs
The problem of daytime sleepiness can be alleviated by sleeping better at night. Take a cup of soothing herbal tea like chamomile or Lavender an hour before bed. This will relax and soothe pain, tension and stress and help you get a deep sleep. For morning wakefulness and alertness, turn to herbs like Gingko, Ashwagandha and Maca to energize the body. You need to take these herbs for at least 8 weeks to see results.
Sometimes, excess daytime sleepiness could be related to a health condition. So see your doctor if you are feeling overwhelmingly tired and unable to stay awake at work or in school.