How to Stay Awake: 7 Tips For When You’re Feeling Tired

Updated in February 2022

To stay awake during the day, at work, after meals or to study, a good tip is to consume natural stimulants like coffee, guarana and black chocolate.

The most effective way to get rid of drowsiness is to get adequate sleep at night. Ideally, you should sleep for 7 to 8 hours per night. However, this amount can vary - if you feel energized with 9 hours of sleep, then you should aim for that amount of time. 

Some ways to stay awake during the day are: 

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1. Consume stimulants

To get rid of drowsiness, you could eat or drink stimulant food like:

  • Strong coffee
  • Powdered guarana
  • Açaí
  • Black chocolate
  • Ginger tea

These foods are stimulants and can improve your mood and increase heart rate, which can improve blood circulation and help you stay awake.

However, these foods should be consumed in moderation as they excessive use can lead to cardiac disease. They can also interfere with calcium absorption, which can affect your bones. 

2. Take a 15 minute nap

Another good tip for those who are unable to get a good night's sleep is to take a quick nap. Naps can even be taken when traveling to work. Although naps are not as energizing as sleeping throughout the night, even a few minutes of rest can help to recharge some of your energy and help you improve your focus. 

Ideally, you should nap for 15 to 30 minutes. Going over this time can increase your risk for being even more sleepy, especially if you enter the REM phase of sleep, as it can make it more difficult for you to wake-up. 

People who work different shifts, like health care professionals, firefighters and security guards, are more at risk to experience sleepiness throughout the day. People with this type of lifestyle are advised to rest whenever they can. 

3. Exercise every 30 minutes

Another effective way to increase your energy is to be active every 30 minutes to stimulate blood circulation. Some good examples are to stretch (e.g. touch your fingers to your toes) or even perform some push-ups. 

Exercising can provide you with another 20 to 30 minutes of energy

4. Move to a less comfortable environment 

Sleepiness normally only appears when you are in a comfortable position or environment that is quiet and at a good temperature. Fighting against these factors is one way to stay awake. Some examples include playing music, opening a window and avoiding studying in your bed. 

5. Eat a healthy snack 

Eating small snacks while you are working or studying can help to keep you awake, especially if they are light snacks that can stimulate brain activity. Some examples include: 

  • 1 avocado with walnuts or oats  
  • 1 yogurt with granola
  • 1 avocado smoothie

These snacks are rich in antioxidants and good fats, which help with brain function. They can be a good complement to a stimulant food as mentioned above.

6. Breathe deeply 10 times

Deep breathing can increase can help to increase the amount of oxygen reaching the blood, which can help to combat excessive fatigue. You should breathe deeply through your nose, hold it for 2 seconds, and then exhale forcefully through your mouth. You can repeat this breathing exercise 10 times.

Another efficient breathing technique is as follows: 

  1. Press one nostril to close it with your index finger and breathe through the other nostril 
  2. Hold your breath and let go of the blocked nostril. Then press the opposite nostril and exhale.
  3. Repeat the process, alternating nostrils. 

7. Talk to another person

Talking for a few minutes with a work colleague or someone on the phone, ideally about an interesting or funny topic, can help to stimulate the brain and make you more alert.

How to prevent day drowsiness 

The best way to prevent drowsiness during the day is to have good sleep habits. You should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  You should sleep for 7 to 9 hours, without exceeding this time, as sleeping too much can also make it more difficult to wake up.

Some tips to help you fall asleep and have a deep sleep throughout the night are: 

  • Avoid bright screens, like a computer or television screen at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Sleep in a quiet and comfortable room. You can use ear-plugs if it is too noisy.
  • Wait 1 hour after eating before lying down to optimize digestion.
  • Avoid worrying too much before going to bed. Think instead about calm and serene thoughts. 

Some conditions can lead to day drowsiness, like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, obesity, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and sleepwalking. These conditions should be assessed by a doctor, as a good night's sleep is important for daily functioning and body recovery.