How To Stay Awake At Work

Five tips for a better work environment

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Not long before I graduated from college, I met up with a former boss to catch up, talk about my still-forming plans for work after school, and learn more about what that transition was like for her.

She imparted as much wisdom as she could and was very encouraging, but one of the tidbits I later came to appreciate most was about sleep. After she graduated and started working regularly, it took her weeks to feel awake at work. She didn’t snore in the middle of the office, but she definitely felt it — and so did I.

After I landed a job, I spent at least a month marveling over why on earth I was so exhausted at the end of the day, no matter how early I went to bed. Nothing was wrong; my body was essentially acclimating to a roughly 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday work schedule that I hadn’t kept since high school. Plus, I’m not a morning person. At all.

Whether you’re adjusting to a new schedule, need a way to get past the post-lunch energy drop, or simply need a few energy boost tips to keep you alert, here are some options.

1. Do Go To Sleep: Not everyone can get away with this of course, but Tim Herrera, a writer at The New York Times, recently engaged in a spirited defense of taking naps at work. I don’t encourage that myself, but his workaround of finding a nearby spot to doze for 15 (a café, a library, a park in nice weather) could be workable for some.

2. Establish A Sleep Routine: Again, this sort of thing has to happen outside of work, but it could reframe your days. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, but feel full-on drowsy by the time you have to go to work, ask yourself: Am I having aches and pains? Am I dealing with anxiety? Am I taking more daytime naps than usual? Those questions and others, which examine your typical sleep schedule might unlock a few trouble points. Work on shifting those, and you might gradually feel less ready to knock out during the day.

3. Grab A Window Seat: A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that workers in sunlit office spaces “slept better and longer than their daylight-deprived counterparts,” during the work week and on the weekend. The participants who worked near natural light self-reported this to researchers, but those results also matched findings pulled from sleep-tracking devices they wore. The amount of time they slept longer: 46 minutes — that’s at least four snoozes on most alarms. You might not be able to boot out the lucky person that soaks in vitamin D at work, but you could try taking a quick, 10-minute break to stand outside, or ask to open the blinds if the person near the window seat is amenable.

4. Drink Water: Many people rely on coffee for a buzz that keeps them animated throughout the day, but if you’d rather avoid caffeine stimulation, try drinking a glass of water or even grab yourself a healthy smoothie. Fatigue can be a sign of mild dehydration — one easily addressed with a few ice cubes and a tall glass.

Fatigue can be a sign of mild dehydration — one easily addressed with a few ice cubes and a tall glass.

5. Work It Out: Not everyone is a fan of exercising midday, then going back to work. For one thing, it can require a lot of extra packing: a nearby gym to visit, a change of clothes, space to stash those clothes, a place to shower if you work up a sweat, and time during the day to make it happen in the first place. If all of those factors align, though, working out at some point during the stay could help stave off workday sleepiness. Whether you take a meditative class that is rejuvenating, or a more cardio-heavy workout that gives you a boost, getting a break before you finish things out might help you avoid crashing.

By: Judith Ohikuare

Originally published at

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