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Sleep Science

8 Ways To Feel Awake Fast

In this article

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...

Top view of a tired man struggling to stay awake at his desk, with laptop and keyboard, coffee cups and notepad scattered on desk.

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.

Rather than coffee, drink a cold glass of water. The colder the better, as this will also help to stimulate your senses and get your body working, helping you feel more awake.
Woman sat at desk on laptop, drinking a glass of water.

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.

Being exposed to bright natural light signals your brain to stop producing the sleep hormone, melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy – so you should ensure you're exposed to sunlight as much as possible throughout the day.

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.

Back view of a girl with a backpack walking through a town street.

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.

To beat the infamous post-lunch slump, you should definitely take a quick walk on your lunch break - this will get your body moving and blood pumping, ready for an afternoon of alertness.

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.

Woman layed stretching out on a sofa with pillows under her.

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.

So, as hard as it might feel, try to get out of bed as soon as you hear your alarm go off. A good tip is to leave your alarm away from your bed, so that you have to physically get up to turn it off!

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.

Two female coworkers chatting to each other in an office environment.

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.

Once you’ve followed our tips to increase your alertness and get through the day, we’d recommend amending your sleep schedule to ensure you get enough deep sleep at night, so you feel less tired during the day.

For more information on how you can improve your sleep schedule, read our blog posts on The Ultimate Bedtime Routine or learn How Magnesium Can Improve Your Sleep.

An image of the author, Jamie Latham, Sleep and Technology Expert Jamie Latham, Sleep and Technology Expert Bio & articles

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