Career Development

How To Stay Awake at Work When You Feel Tired

July 15, 2021

No matter what industry you work in, you need to have the energy to remain productive and engaged. Feeling tired at work can make it difficult to handle your everyday tasks and engage with those around you in a positive way. Everyone has days at work when they feel sleepy or unmotivated, but figuring out how to come out of that feeling of tiredness can help to boost your performance. In this article, we discuss how to stay awake at work when you're tired.

Why it's challenging to be tired while at work

Productivity is a key measurement of workplace success, but being productive requires energy. If you're feeling tired because you didn't sleep well the night before or you stayed up too late, you may have trouble being productive and remaining engaged. It's tempting to nod off at your desk, but doing so can have worrisome consequences. Remaining focused and alert during your workday can help you achieve your individual and organizational goals while being a valued and important member of the team.

Sleepiness can also make it more difficult to focus on your tasks, which could cause you to fall behind at work. In certain roles, being tired could jeopardize your safety and the safety of those around you, particularly in jobs that require the use of machinery or equipment or the following of critical safety protocols.

Related: How To Be More Productive

How to stay awake at work when tired

Although everyone has days when they feel more tired than usual, it's important to take action to alleviate the sleepy feelings as much as possible. Follow these tips to increase your awareness and resist the desire to take a nap.

Take a walk

When you sit still for too long, you might start to feel tired and sluggish. Moving your body can improve blood circulation and help you feel more awake. When you're feeling sleepy at work, get up and walk around the office or head outdoors for some fresh air.

Turn on the lights

The human body follows circadian rhythms for sleep, and one of the strongest external cues that affect these rhythms is the amount of light we can see. Combat tired feelings by turning on more lights in your workspace. If you have a window nearby, open the blinds or curtains to let natural light into the space. If you don't work near a window or you work after the sun has gone down, turn on overhead lights and lamps to brighten the workspace.

Related: How To Prepare To Start Work at 5 A.M.

Take scheduled breaks

When you sit or stand still for a long period, you might start to feel tired. Schedule breaks on your work calendar that allow you to stand up and move around. You could take a short break to walk around the building or jog in place for a few minutes. By scheduling movement breaks into your workday, you become more likely to take that time to refresh and rejuvenate yourself.

Get a drink

Dehydration can make it difficult to concentrate and cause sleepy or sluggish feelings. Make sure you're drinking plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and avoid these unpleasant side effects. Drinking cold water can also help you feel more refreshed and awake, so add some ice to your bottle.

Consuming caffeine is another way to give yourself a boost of energy. Whether you like coffee, tea or caffeinated soda, you might find that drinking one of these beverages at the start of your shift can help you feel more energized throughout your workday. Sipping a cold, caffeinated drink might also provide that refreshing feeling that keeps you feeling alert.

Eat a healthy snack

Another factor that can cause you to feel tired is your body's blood sugar levels. When the levels drop, you might feel sleepy or have trouble concentrating on your work. Eating healthy snacks throughout the workday can prevent the crash and help you feel more awake. Try to keep snacks available with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, such as:

  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Wheat crackers and peanut butter
  • Vegetables and cottage cheese
  • A hard-boiled egg and a slice of wheat bread

Related: 48 Healthy Snacks for the Office

Smell something energizing

Certain scents can revive the brain and help you feel more alert. Peppermint and citrus scents are the most commonly used for energizing. Keep a bottle of essential oil on your desk and smell it when you're feeling sleepy. You might also add an oil diffuser to your workspace and diffuse energizing scents during the times of day when you tend to feel most tired.

Complete easier tasks first

Feeling sleepy can make it more difficult to focus on challenging or complex tasks. If you feel tired at any point during your workday, try to use this time to finish some of your easier tasks, such as organizing your files or clearing out your email inbox. After completing these tasks, you might find that you're feeling more energized and ready to take on the more difficult tasks.

Listen to music

Music can also stimulate your brain and help fight sleepy feelings. If you share a workspace with coworkers, wear headphones to avoid disturbing them. If you're working at home or by yourself in the office, turn up the volume and enjoy some rock, pop or classical music.

Talk to a coworker

Engaging in a conversation is also stimulating for your brain. When you're feeling tired, walk over to talk to a coworker in person. Even if you're talking about work tasks, engaging in a face-to-face conversation can help you feel more alert than sending an email on the same topic.

Improve your sleep habits

If you're constantly tired at work, you may need to make some changes to your lifestyle and habits. Try to avoid using caffeine and other stimulants in the afternoon and evening to help your body prepare for sleep. You can also create a more restful environment in your bedroom with light-blocking curtains or a white noise machine.

Related: How To Reduce Tiredness at Work

Go out into the sunlight

When exposed to sunlight, the skin makes vitamin D, an essential nutrient that helps with many bodily functions. Getting outside into the sunshine can also help you feel more energized and awake. Natural light is an effective tool in the circadian rhythms of sleep, so if you're feeling extra tired at work, take a few minutes to walk outside and get some sunlight.

Stretch at your desk

If you can't get up and move around, simply stretching at your desk or workstation might help boost your energy levels. Roll your head from side to side, twist your torso or stretch your arms up above your head to get the blood circulating in your body.

Cool yourself down

Splash some cold water on your face to cool down your body and jolt it awake. When any part of your body cools down, it must then work to restore the lost heat, which can help you feel more alert. If you can't splash water on your face, try removing an outer layer of clothing or lowering the indoor temperature.


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