Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Or want to beat the afternoon slump? Whatever reason you're feeling sleepy, here’s eight Sleep Expert approved tips to feel energised quickly, whatever the time of day.
You might think downing a coffee or energy drink will give you a boost - which it may well do - but the inevitable crash that comes afterwards isn’t always worth it. So, these tips are caffeine-free, super simple to follow, and easy to incorporate into your daily life. Plus, we'll explain exactly what causes you to feel tired every afternoon...
1. Shock your body and senses
Stimulate your senses by splashing cold water in your face, or chew on a sour sweet or strong peppermint gum.
By suddenly shocking your senses, you’ll encourage circulation to your head, giving you a quick boost of energy. Splashing water on your face will also feel refreshing, washing away any grogginess and helping you feel more alert.
2. Drink a glass of water for an instant energy boost
Keeping hydrated is not only proven to be energy-boosting, but it can boost your metabolism, too. Even mild dehydration can leave you feeling sleepy and tired, whilst negatively disrupting your mood.
3. Make sure you’re letting natural light into your room
If you’re laying in bed trying to find the energy to get up, keep your curtains open.
Light is the most important external factor affecting sleep. It plays a central role in regulating your body’s internal clock, otherwise known as your circadian rhythm. This signals when to be alert and when to rest. You should, therefore, open the curtains and blinds as soon as you wake up - if you’re tired after a relatively early alarm, this will help to signal to your body that it's time to wake up, helping you feel more alert.
4. Complete a 30-minute workout – even if it’s just a mid-afternoon walk
If you feel a dip in your energy in the afternoon, you should exercise for 30 minutes. Not only will it give you an instant energy boost, but it’ll help you sleep better that night. Many studies show that exercise and sleep are deeply interconnected. Exercising can improve your sleep quality and duration of sleep, whilst a healthy sleep-wake cycle ensures more strength and endurance when working out.
5. Exercise outside whenever you can
Whilst this may not always be possible when it’s cold, you should head outside for your workout or walk. Just 10 minutes spent in the sun can help boost your serotonin and stop you from feeling sleepy and/or sad. Plus, moving more is proven to help you sleep better, so you should try to move as much as you can throughout the week. It will help you feel tired that night, as your body will be itching to get some rest, so you'll sleep more deeply.
6. If you can, take a nap - but make sure to do it RIGHT
When done right, napping can offer great benefits – which is why so many cultures around the world are known for it, such as the Spanish with their Siestas. A simple nap has many benefits, from reducing fatigue to increasing alertness and, of course, improving your mood.
However, for a nap to be beneficial, there’s good science to it. Firstly, you must only sleep for between 10-20 minutes, as anything longer than 30 minutes can risk you waking up groggy as your body will have entered a deep sleep cycle, and been interrupted.
You also need to time your nap right. As your alertness naturally dips in the afternoon, you should pay attention to when you start to feel drowsy and nap straight away (if possible). However, this should be at least 8 hours before your bedtime, as if not, it can impact your sleep that night.
We’ve created a guide to how to take the perfect nap, so take a look at that for more tips and information.
7. Never press snooze on your alarm
Unfortunately, many studies show that pressing ‘snooze’ can have more of a negative impact on your day than a positive one. This is because a five-to-ten-minute snooze time only gives your body enough time to go into ‘light sleep’ as it waits to enter the deep sleep state, otherwise known as REM. Your body is, therefore, put into a fight or flight mode, which triggers a response that increases your blood pressure and heartbeat as you wake up, leaving you on high alert. This makes you feel stressed despite it being the start of your day, and causes you to feel sleepy throughout the day.
8. Chat to your colleagues
Chatting to your colleagues about something that interests you will stimulate your mind and help wake you up. If you’re finding your work boring, maybe chat to them briefly about after work plans, or tell them about your weekend.
Focusing your attention on something interesting and forcing yourself to engage in conversation will help get your brain working, increasing your alertness. Taking a break from your work and mixing up your routine will help to stimulate your brain, too, so try to move away from your desk.
What is the ‘afternoon slump’?
Want to know why you always feel so tired after lunchtime? Our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) tells our body that it doesn’t need as high levels of alertness after midday.
At around 3pm in the afternoon, it’s roughly 12 hours since most people were in the deepest stages of their sleep cycle (around 2 or 3am). This is when our circadian rhythm tells us it’s time to start thinking of getting some sleep, as we’ve been alert for too long.
This afternoon slump can feel even worse if you didn’t get enough REM sleep at the appropriate times the night before - your body will be pining for some deep sleep.