Do you need toothpicks to keep your eyes open to stay awake at work? Do you have difficulty making it through the day without trips to the coffee machine or Starbucks for a high-octane, no-holds-barred, super-strong cup of Joe? Or maybe you’re a soda junkie. Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew—you love it all.
If you’re downing an excessive quantity of either of these highly caffeinated beverages at work just to keep yourself chugging through daily tasks, assignments, and projects, well ... you’re not doing yourself any favors. You stand a better chance of A) experiencing sleeplessness at bedtime, or B) having to book an appointment with a dentist for a cavity filling. Or, if you’re really unlucky, both of these fates may befall you.
If you’re trying to kick your caffeine habit at work—but fear you’ll fall asleep face down at your desk if you give it up—here are seven totally caffeine-free tips for how to stay awake at work.
1. Listen to Music
Music can help you stay awake at work and increase your concentration levels, experts say. A MindLab International study shows “that 9 out 10 people worked better when they were listening to music.” You can also get a boost by choosing the right kind of music for whatever you’re trying to accomplish.
For example, “stick with instrumental music when it’s time to focus” but use “music in a major key to lift your mood” (upbeat music) and “try listening to ambient noise if your work involves thinking up ideas.”
2. Add Water
The benefits of H20 are plenty. A nice cold splash of water on your face can do wonders with waking you up, and of course, drinking water is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body.
Drink water throughout the day. You’ll keep yourself hydrated, which should result in increased oxygen levels that boost energy and keep your mind sharp.
While you might be tempted to go for a sugary energy drink, those empty calories will spike your energy only temporarily and then drop you to a lower point than where you started.
Frequent water consumption can also lead to frequent trips to the bathroom -- while this might prove to be a slight distraction, especially if you’re really under the gun, it also forces you to get up and engage in a brief physical activity, which can boost your energy and rejuvenate your senses.
Being stuck in front of a computer all day can be a real pain in the neck (literally). After a while, your body can feel achy and stiff, which in turn can leave you feeling not only distracted (by the discomfort), but also exhausted. Frequent stretching breaks can help keep you from getting in a pooped-out knot, and really help you stay awake at work.
You don't have to be a yogi to benefit from stretching. Just do gentle stretches for each part of your body, such as shoulder shrugs for stiff shoulders.
Sit or stand, and lift your shoulders up toward your ears. Squeeze them as hard as you can, and hold for one or two seconds. Then roll them back as you relax your shoulders down. Repeat eight times.
Search YouTube for other stretching ideas and exercises for where your body needs it most.
4. Snack Smart
Grab a piece of fruit, some raw nuts or vegetables, or a granola bar (watch the sugar levels, though) to munch on during those mid-morning and mid-afternoon lulls. Keeping your energy level up with healthy snacks will serve you well!
Try to avoid greasy or excessively carb- or calorie-filled snacks, like potato chips—you won’t do your energy level any favors by feasting on that mini-tube of Loaded Baked Potato Pringles!
While we’re on the subject of food and how it can keep you awake at work, know that an excessively huge lunch—four pieces of pizza, or, say—something that comes out to the equivalent of a Thanksgiving meal—could very well leave you in a near-comatose state for the afternoon portion of your workday.
Keep portion control in mind when it comes to lunch, and considering putting healthy, energizing greens (like spinach or kale) on your plate instead of an extra plate of garlic bread.
5. Engage with Energetic Colleagues
The world of work has gotten a bit isolating for many, due to how many jobs now call for extensive periods of time alone in front of a computer. All of this alone time focused solely on a computer can really take a toll on your energy level, and leave you feeling a bit numb (as well as lonely).
Which is why you should consider taking brief breaks to engage with colleagues on work-related topics (or even non-work-related topics). In-person interaction and conversation can prove to be just the bit of stimulation you need to snap to and find new verve as you plow through a work day.
6. Take a Walk
Another way to engage colleagues (and stay awake at work!) is to walk with them. A University of Georgia study showed that taking a 20-minute walk can boost your energy levels and decrease fatigue. Low-impact exercise seems better than higher impact exercise for fatigue levels, so know that you don't have to be a power walker to see benefits.
A great time for a walk is right after lunch, and for the most benefits, walk with others, somewhere in nature or in a park, and if you can, go barefoot on grass. Making this a daily habit can add seven years to your life! Another plus is people who exercise tend to sleep better (and not at work!).
7. Rest Your Eyes
If you don't take breaks from staring at your computer you can end up with headaches, eyestrain, and fatigue. A brief, well-timed eye break can keep your eyes healthy, happy, and alert, and really help you stay awake at work.
If you’re eyes are feeling fatigued, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Distance vision helps relax your eye muscles, which stops eye fatigue in its tracks. For the ideal eye break, get to a window and look far off into the horizon.
8. Bonus: Power Nap (If Possible)
Find a quiet place at work where you can lay down. Set a timer on your phone to go off after 25 minutes. Use earplugs so your own heartbeat can relax you, then cover your eyes with a hat or something else and let yourself go. Enjoy the silence.
Once the alarm rings and you wake up, you’ll feel refreshed within minutes.
If you do all these things and you still can't stay awake at work, it may be a sign that you're just bored with your job. Take serious stock of your current level of job satisfaction, and make changes if necessary.
If you decide it's time to move on from your current job, put LiveCareer to work with helping you get to the next step in your career. Our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder allow you to generate the top-notch, attention-getting documents you'll need to get your foot in the door at a new company. Also find help with interview questions of all stripes -- some common, others not-so-common.