Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could take a quick break from work to nap every time you felt you needed it? Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most people.
Tiredness at work is common whether you work part time or full time, day shift or night shift. It can harm your work performance and make work less enjoyable. And in some careers, it can be downright dangerous.
If you’re struggling to stay awake at work and the coffee’s just not cutting it, try some of these tips:
1. Go for a walk before work
Getting some fresh air and moving your body before work can help keep you awake. A walk is especially effective at increasing your alertness if you take one when the sun’s up.
2. Take a nap before work
While it’s often impossible to take a nap on the job, taking a nap before work can help increase your alertness. This is an especially important tip for shift workers, who may be required to work odd or alternating hours. Napping for as little as 15 to 20 minutes before work can help improve your alertness throughout your shift.
3. Take activity breaks
Sitting or standing still for too long, such as at a desk or cash register, can make you feel tired. Staying active can help you feel more alert and think more clearly. Get up and take activity breaks every few hours if possible. For example, try walking around your office or workplace while you take that phone call. You can also try these exercises you can do at your desk.
4. Keep your workspace bright
If you work during the day, keep your workplace window shades open to let in sunlight. If you’re working when it’s dark or dim, turn the lights on to help keep you awake and alert.
5. Drink water
Sipping caffeine can give you a temporary energy boost, but drinking water throughout your shift is much healthier and is also effective in keeping you alert. That’s because dehydration can make it more difficult for you to concentrate on your work.
6. Drink caffeine early in your shift
Consuming some caffeine early in your shift can boost your alertness early in your day. Be sure to consume it only at the start of your shift, though. Caffeinating too late can interfere with your ability to sleep after work.
7. Keep snacks handy
Eating healthy snacks during the day can help keep your blood sugar — and attention — steady all day long. Look for foods with a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Good snack options include:
- peanut butter and whole wheat crackers
- granola and yogurt
- nuts and fruit
- baby carrots and cheese
Avoid consuming foods and beverages with added sugar, such as candies, energy bars, and soda.
8. Get the easy stuff out of the way
It can be hard to focus on complex tasks when you’re tired. If possible, complete the easiest tasks when you’re tired, such as replying to emails, filing documents, or reorganizing your computer’s desktop. Usually your energy will return as you complete these simpler tasks.
9. Use energizing scents to wake you up
Keep scented candles or an essential oil diffuser at your desk. Look for scents that are strong and energizing, such as jasmine, citrus, or peppermint. You can also rub essential oil on your hands and temples to help keep you energized.
10. Turn on some tunes
Listening to loud, energizing music such as rock or pop can sometimes help increase your energy level. If you work in a shared space, make sure to wear headphones so you don’t disturb your coworkers.
The above tips are great short-term fixes to staying awake at work. But to help stay alert at work in the long term, you need to make some adjustments to your daily life.
Here are seven lifestyle changes that can help increase the quality of your sleep, making it easier for you to stay awake at work.
1. Avoid light before bed
Your body’s production of melatonin, which helps you sleep, is influenced by light and dark. It can be challenging, especially for shift workers, to avoid light before bed. Sunlight can make your body feel more energized when you’re trying to wind down.
Reduce your exposure to light before bed by limiting your screen time from your TV or cell phone. In addition, try wearing an eye mask or hanging darkening shades on your windows if sunlight keeps you up when you’re trying to sleep.
2. Avoid consuming stimulants before bed
Don’t consume caffeine or other stimulants during the second half of your shift. Doing so can make it much more difficult for you to fall and stay asleep at bedtime.
3. Make your bedroom quiet
Turn off all electronic devices, such as your TV, and use earplugs to keep your bedroom quiet. Use a white noise machine to drown out loud or distracting noises if necessary.
4. Make napping part of your routine
Setting up a nap schedule can help regulate your sleep.
5. Limit your shift changes
Changing shifts often makes it harder for your body to adjust. Limit these changes when possible.
6. Pay attention to your body when it comes to exercise
Exercise is helpful in promoting sleep. However, for some people, exercising right before bed can make it harder to fall asleep. For others, exercise may not affect their sleep patterns at all. Get to know your body and what feels best.
7. Avoid smoking and drinking before bed
These habits can make it more difficult for you to fall and stay asleep.
Feeling tired at work can make your workday less productive and less enjoyable. Luckily, there are things you can do today to help make you feel less sleepy and more alert at work. Making certain lifestyle changes to promote sleep after work will help you stay alert at work in the long term, as well.