Imagine it’s only 1:30 p.m. You’re yawning into your coffee, struggling to keep your eyes open, and watching the clock waiting for the end of the workday — and it’s been happening a lot more recently.
You might be asking yourself, “Why am I falling asleep at work?” Your productivity levels aren’t what they used to be, and more often than not, you feel moody around your co-workers. Guilt creeps into your mind. So what’s the deal?
Perhaps it’s because a car alarm kept you awake all night, or you were binge-watching a hot new series, or drinks with friends ran later than anticipated — hey, no judgment.
However, if you’re regularly having issues with staying awake at work, your body might be telling you that something’s up.
In this post, you’ll learn our best tips to stop falling asleep at work so you don’t sleep through an important meeting.
You may reach for tea or coffee when you’re feeling tired, but be aware that they may not help if you’re dehydrated. Instead, try drinking a glass of water before your cup of morning joe.
Your body contains around 60% water. Water helps lubricate your joints, carries nutrients to your organs, and keeps your immune system working.
Your brain needs a considerable amount of water to function properly. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies calculates that the ideal water intake is around 10 glasses of water daily. That equates to:
Tip: If you struggle with actually drinking the water you set aside for yourself, try setting reminders on your computer every hour to drink water.
Warmer rooms tend to make you feel more drowsy, because when our bodies regulate temperature, we sweat, and the sweat exerts energy. The more your body works to cool you down, the more of an effort your body has to make, which can ultimately lead to fatigue.
Tip: Consider using an AC, fan, or cracking a window to let in a cool breeze to wake you up if you’re falling asleep at your desk.
Did you know cold water can help circulate your blood? Cold water striking the face is a shock to your system and can instantly make you feel more alert.
If you need instant relief, head to the bathroom, and turn your water on cold — maximum cold. Take a pool of water in your hands and bring your face to your hands so you don’t spill it all over your clothes (or Snoozewear™ Blanket Robe if you work from home), then splash upwards. Pat your face dry after.
Voila! Instant energizer.
Tip: You can also take a quick cold shower if you work from home for similar results.
Consuming foods and beverages high in sugar can cause your blood sugar to spike. You may have heard of a little phenomenon called a “sugar rush.” This could give you the quick burst of energy you’re seeking, but it doesn’t take long for that to settle and drain your energy levels overall.
This leads to elevated feelings of sleepiness and may make you feel tired at work. If you like to snack during the workday (who doesn’t) reach for something less sugary. We have a few handy options below.
Sometimes all you need is a quick break to reset your brain. The Pomodoro technique is a technique to engage your brain for 25 minutes at a time, then give yourself a five-minute break in between tasks.
The goal is to make a list of tasks you need to hit and set a timer. Having a running clock produces a psychological effect that enables you to become more productive. This maximizes efficiency and gives you the chance to structure your day.
Tip: If you find you get distracted if you grab your phone, try out an online timer that uses the Pomodoro method.
Not a fan of diving into the deep end first thing? Don’t worry — we get it. That’s why we recommend easing into the workday by placing simple tasks at the top of your list. These can be checking your email, responding to Slack messages, and conducting light research for an upcoming project.
Leaving the bulk of your work for a time where you focus best is the right attitude to cultivate into your routine.
Tip: Unsure of when that time might be? Discover and learn more about your chronotype for deeper insight into your biological clock.
Fueling your body with healthy food helps give you the good energy you need to stay stimulated. Examples of healthy snacks include:
And if you’re finding you like to sneak a snack in at late night (because you know, you’re a wolf chronotype) check out our list of healthy late night snacks.
Tip: Avoid grabbing carb-heavy snacks like potato chips or ice cream. Opt for crackers and hummus or a handful of nuts instead.
Mmmmm, so you’re craving a large slice of pepperoni pizza and a cola for lunch. We hate to be the one to tell you this, but you may enter into a food coma if you eat that.
Eating heavy carbs drains your energy levels, leaving you feeling tired and ready to fall asleep during your next meeting. Opt for the healthier option to increase your energy levels after your lunch. You’ll notice your body reacts well to the nutrients and energy you receive from healthy food rather than the sluggishness of a carb-heavy meal.
Here are some meals that promote feeling energized for the rest of the day:
These are just some of the endless lunches you can whip up quick or prep and take to work that will leave you full, yet energized.
Tip: Steer clear of carb-heavy lunches in the afternoon. Try a lighter, protein-packed meal instead.
Sometimes it takes hanging out with friends or coworkers while you work to keep your spirits up. This is especially relevant if you work in a remote position and are extroverted.
Extroverts usually get energy by being around other people. Try meeting up with your colleagues or fellow remote workers to have some company and engage in casual conversation while you work.
If you’re more introverted, look into local coworking spaces that give you the chance to be around other professionals. You could also go to a library or work from a coffee shop to avoid paying for a membership.
Tip: Work from a different location where you’re around other professionals for a change.
Music can distract you, put you to sleep, or wake you up — depending on the kind of music you listen to.
We suggest listening to lo-fi beats or instrumental music while working. Other tunes like classical music and piano for focus are good options as well. You can find curated playlists on pretty much any music platform.
Tip: Listen to upbeat music to get you in the groove.
You’re tired, you’ve reached for water, you’ve completed your easy tasks, and you still want to crawl into bed. Taking a walk is a great way to get your blood flowing and it gives you a natural boost of energy by releasing endorphins. To hold yourself accountable for taking the time to go for a walk, schedule them on your calendar in between tasks and meetings.
Tip: Schedule time in your calendar to take a break and go for a walk.
Massaging pressure points are said to give you a boost of energy. One such place is the area above your wrist. Try pressing and massaging in circular motions to boost your energy.
Some people believe that all pressure points are connected to the rest of the body and pressing on specific points could release energy flow, improving blood circulation and energy levels.
Tip: Try massaging your pressure points — like the area above your wrist.
Power naps were advocated and encouraged by some of the most influential people in history. In fact, Albert Einstein was a fan of power naps and attributed them to his success. Taking a power nap can give you the push you need to get back into focus for your day.
The optimal length for a power nap is about 20-40 minutes to avoid feeling groggy or more tired than before. The best time to take a nap is between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Tip: Take an afternoon 30 power nap to feel more restored.
A bright workspace could be just the motivation you need to stay awake at work. Consider looking into a desk lamp, fun-colored picture frames, or plants to liven up your space and make it more comfortable.
You can also look into placing a blue light on your desk. Blue light is said to stimulate your alertness and mental sharpness.
Tip: Add bright and colorful items to your workspaces, like a sun lamp or blue light.
Sometimes consuming caffeine early in the workday is your best defense for fighting fatigue while you work. However, it’s important to drink water alongside your coffee or caffeinated beverages to avoid becoming dehydrated — which could cause further sleepiness.
That being said, the best time to drink your morning coffee is from the mid-late morning when your cortisone levels tend to be lower. Avoid coffee later in the day as it can impact your sleep at night, contributing to a cycle of sleepiness at work.
Tip: Drink coffee during the mid-late morning for optimal effect.
There are certain scents and smells that are linked to feelings of being energized and some that make you feel sleepy. Here are some scents that help you feel more awake:
Other scents like lavender, jasmine, rose, and chamomile actually provoke feelings of sleepiness. Stay away from these relaxing scents during the workday.
Tip: Use uplifting scents like citrus and peppermint to keep alert and avoid traditionally sleepy scents like lavender or chamomile.
If you work at a desk job and remain sedentary often, consider purchasing a standing desk. If you don’t have time to go for a walk during the day but you want to avoid sitting down for seven or more hours, a standing desk can do the trick. These help keep your blood flowing.
Other benefits of a standing desk include:
Tip: Break up long periods of sitting by investing in a standing desk. Try one hour sitting and 30 minutes to an hour standing.
We live in the age of the internet, and it’s great. Have you ever heard of using a body doubling tool?
A good tactic for remote workers is using a body doubling tool. A body doubling tool is used for procrastination, keeping yourself accountable, and staying awake at work. The premise is that you schedule a time to remain on a call for an hour with someone else (totally random). You state your intentions and your goals for the hour and then mute your mic and go about your tasks. At the end of the hour, let the other person know what you accomplished and sign off.
These are great alternatives to meeting up with someone in person and working alongside them.
Tip: Schedule time with a body doubling tool to hold yourself accountable.
It’s recommended to cut-off caffeine six hours before bedtime. This means if you reach for a coffee at 4 p.m. to curb that creeping feeling of sleepiness, you may not be doing yourself a favor. Try to skip the afternoon coffee so your sleep cycle isn’t affected.
If you can’t imagine your day without coffee, don’t worry. You won’t have to give it Just remember that the best time to drink coffee is around mid-late morning for optimal performance.
Tip: Skip the afternoon coffee as it could impact your ability to fall asleep later.
While exercising right before bed may seem like the best way to tire yourself out, it can actually have adverse effects. This is because your body needs time post-workout to relax and unwind. If you exercise right before bed, you could feel it the day after when you’re struggling to stay awake at your desk.
If you still prefer to exercise at night, do so at least 90 minutes prior to settling down to minimize the chances of it affecting your sleep.
Tip: If you plan to exercise in the evening, do so at least 90 minutes before settling down.
Did you know that nicotine is a stimulant? Additionally, drinking alcohol before falling asleep can wreak havoc on your quality of sleep. While drinking may make you feel sleepy at first, it is actually linked to more frequent awakenings, night sweats, and headaches during the second half of your night.
Instead, brew a cup of chamomile tea to help promote feelings of drowsiness.
Tip: Instead of smoking or drinking alcohol before bed, try drinking chamomile tea.
Getting a good night’s sleep today can help lead to a more productive day tomorrow. Try keeping your lights dim before falling asleep to ease into your sleep cycle. Alternatively, staying up looking at your phone or watching TV actually hinders the sleep you get due to the blue light they emit.
If you don’t have smart lights or a dimmer on your light switch, consider looking at putting a glow light in your bedroom. This can help ease you into sleep without the harsh light some other plugins put out.
Tip: Dim your lights before bed to ease you into sleep.
Falling asleep at work is, of course, not a great way to spend your time on the clock — your tasks might pile up until they become unmanageable. In turn, you won’t have the chance to grow your career and fully realize your skills. If this is becoming a habit for you, your colleagues could notice. Nip it in the bud to protect your career and all you’ve worked for.
Getting a good night’s sleep sets you up for a more productive day. You want to make sure you feel well-rested so you can be more energized at work. Keep in mind that the amount of sleep you need differs from person to person. If you’re not getting enough sleep, this can be the culprit of your daytime sleepiness. Try utilizing our tips to stop falling asleep at work!