My mom recently told me that as a baby, I was always an excellent sleeper. I rarely fussed when going to bed, and am a frequent nap taker even well into my 30s. I was the kid who purposely gave herself an early curfew so as to get more sleep at night, and in college I rarely went to bed past 10pm. When most kids were out partying until dawn, I retreated to my dorm room and pillow. Over the years though, I’ve adapted to my near-narcoleptic tendencies with just a few simple tricks that keep me going during the day, especially when insomnia (or a Breaking Bad marathon) have kept me up late at night. Like Scott Britton’s Sleep Mastery course, these simple steps will give you more time to be productive during your day, and will help you feel energized and refreshed despite the little amount of sleep you may have received multiple nights in a row.
Take your Vitamins
Maybe it seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve found that vitamin B helps me immensely when I’m feeling tired. If you’re not into taking pills, there are hundreds of vitamin-rich foods including spinach, Swiss cheese, and beef. Yogurt is also a low-fat way to incorporate vitamin B into your diet, and yeast spreads like Marmite offer a great vegetarian source of the vitamin. Dr. Jennifer Weinberg’s What to Eat? An Eater’s Guide to Health offers a number of excellent ways to increase your energy and improve your mental and physical health through the foods that you eat. Make certain you consult with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet, and be aware to consume these foods in small quantities, as many foods rich in vitamin B (especially vitamin B12) are also high in cholesterol.
Sleep When You Sleep
Perhaps one of the best ways to stay awake during the day is to make certain that your time sleeping isn’t plagued by insomnia or other interruptions. Turn off electronics at least thirty minutes before going to bed, and keep your personal hand held devices out of the bedroom. Create a space to sleep that’s cozy and quiet and dark. Our dog, who sleeps with us (don’t judge me!) is a very loud snorer and has been since he first fell into my lap 14 years ago. I quickly learned that the best way for me to sleep with him near me was to wear earplugs during the night. I also recommend avoiding caffeine after noon, and moving the television far, far away from the bedroom. When you sleep well during the night without interruption, you’ll have an easier time staying awake during the day.
I had a good friend in college who was a power-nap wizard. She’d hit the books for an hour or two and then the pillow for twenty minutes. She was incredibly productive and had trained herself to fall asleep quickly. She avoided those ever-popular all-nighters, and always looked as fresh as a daisy, even during finals week. In Emily Schwartz’ Time Management for College Survival, she provides advice and tips for organizing your time better which allows for more restful sleep and more productive days. Along with this course, I highly recommend power naps for anyone, college students, office workers, and laborers. Giving your mind a quick break during the day can energize and revitalize your ability to absorb information, and provide you with an opportunity to hit the refresh button.
When I was an undergraduate, I once asked my advisor her best trick for staying awake. It was late in the semester and I was floundering and overloaded with projects. She smiled and told me that her best advice to was to eat when I felt tired. She reasoned that nobody can sleep on a full stomach, and a late meal often gave her the energy she needed to finish last minute projects. While I’m sure some nutritionists recommend against doing this, the entire country of Spain eats their final meal close to 10pm, thus enabling them to stay up late into the night. Just make certain you’re eating foods high in fiber and low in saturated fat and sugar. The former will give you a great energy boost, and the latter two will most likely give you a great stomachache.
Caffeine and Water Are Your Friends
Perhaps the hands-down best way to stay awake is to consume small amounts of caffeine. The stimulate wakes up your senses and can provide a feeling of mental clarity and alertness. While I do not recommend cup upon cup, a couple cups coffee or tea in the morning or early afternoon can offer a quick pick-me-up to help you through the remainder of your day. My chiropractor told me once that for every cup of caffeine I drank, I had to finish it with an equal amount of water. Caffeine can deplete your body of water, and water can help combat fatigue, in turn helping you stay awake. I’ve found that water can often help wake me up more effectively than a cup of coffee, and I take regular water breaks throughout the day to keep myself hydrated.
By exercising regularly, your body is able to process illness quicker, and I’ve found it offers me a mental clarity and sense of calm that also gives me energy and helps me stay awake during the day. If you are unable to exercise regularly at an intense rate, try Ari R. Meisel’s Intro to Biohacking, or take short walks and stretching breaks throughout the day. My mom often spends her lunch break at a local park, resting on a bench to eat her sandwich, and then walking around the park a couple times to stretch her legs and get her blood flowing. A city block serves the same purpose, and if you’re unable to leave your workplace, practice jumping jacks for five minutes. I’ve found that I’m at my most tired between 2pm and 5pm, and if I’m able to get in a workout or at least stretch for five minutes in my office, I’m much more productive, and much less cranky for the rest of the day.
Finally, it’s important to remember that many of the best ways to stay awake rely on your ability to take care of yourself. Dr. Tracy Marks offers ways to cope with insomnia and sleep disorders in her course Master Your Sleep, which can help students improve their quality of life and increase their energy by sleeping well through the night. Drinking enough water and staying away from processed foods can make an enormous impact on how you feel during the day. While sugary foods and sodas may offer a quick fix and a sudden energy boost, taking care of yourself over a long period of time can give you more energy and a mental clarity that can often allude the overworked. Take care of your body and your mind and acquire more energy and stamina to get you through the day by drinking plenty of water, taking your vitamins, and getting plenty of exercise. These simple tips and tricks will help you endure difficult work hours, sleepless nights, and will help you stay awake longer to be