Can’t Stay Awake? Here’s How Not to Fall Asleep

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Many people struggle to stay awake through the entire day. Sometimes environmental factors may be impacting their energy levels. Other times, poor sleep quality during the night can cause someone to drift off in the middle of the day as their bodies try to catch up on some missed zzz’s. While it would be nice to simply go back to bed, sometimes our busy schedules simply won’t allow it.

Read on for some of the most frequent causes for mid-day zonking out and some of the top tips and tricks to learn how to stop falling asleep. You can employ these tips to combat daytime sleepiness and make it through your work or school day, or anywhere else you need to be wide-eyed and alert.

Reasons Why People Fall Asleep Easily

Warmth

Warmth can make us sleepy for many reasons. A decrease in blood pressure could have a calming effect, as can psychological comfort. Watch for health issues, as dehydration associated with sweating could lead to tiredness, too.

Full Stomach

Many foods produce or aid chemicals, like orexin, serotonin, and melatonin, that elicit a tired response from the body. Tryptophan may also cause people to be tired after eating. Tryptophan can be found in not just turkey, but many foods such as dairy, eggs, spinach, avocados, and more.

Overloaded

We lead busy, fast-paced lives and that often means sacrificing sleep in order to get everything done. Of course, that can often lead to people feeling exhausted and passing out at random hours.

Traveling

Travel can put people to sleep for multiple reasons. High levels of stress, jet lag, and the soothing rocking of a vehicle could all promote sleepiness.

two man are sitting on the airport while waiting for the airplane

How To Stay Awake Naturally

Brisk Walking

Walking can get oxygen moving through your veins, which can naturally energize the body. A study conducted by California State University professor Robert Thayer, Ph.D. indicates that walking could provide more sustainable energy over quick pick-me-ups like sugar. Just 10 minutes of brisk walking could provide a 2-hour energy boost.

Quick Nap

Why fight it? If your body is tired, it’s for a reason, and sometimes just catching up 5 to 25 minutes of shut-eye is exactly what you need to keep going. Make sure not to nap too close to your actual bedtime or you may be unable to go back to bed when the time comes.

Rest Your Eyes

Eye strain can make it difficult to for some people to keep their eyes open, which in turn could cause you to feel exceptionally tired. Take a break from staring at computer screens, cell phones, or spreadsheets and just close your eyes for a few minutes to recharge and regain a little energy.

Eat A Healthy Snack

Low blood sugar could cause some people to feel exhausted at random times. A healthy snack could help regulate blood sugar levels, which should aid in increasing energy and eliminating sugar crashes. Try a handful of nuts or, low-fat dairy products like cheese or yogurt, or healthy fruits and vegetables to keep you going strong.

white cup with almonds inside

Start A Conversation With Someone

Find ways to energize the mind, which may also increase physical energy and alertness. Start a conversation about an engaging topic such as your favorite shows or something mentally stimulating like politics or career projects. Having another person to turn your attention to could help keep the sleepiness at bay.

Keep The Lights On

Many people sleep better in dark or dim lighting as it is soothing and light can interfere with our circadian rhythms. Try adding a brighter light source to perk you up and increase your level of alertness. Bright light can signal to the body that it is not quite time to turn in.

Practice Deep Breathing

Similar to the effects of a brisk walk, deep breathing can also increase the levels of oxygen found in the blood. In turn, this should help to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress, and improve circulation. These benefits could be handy in maintaining focus and energy.

Do Not Drive If You're Sleepy

While there are lots of tricks available to help sleepy people try to stave off random naps, it is never a good idea to try to drive when you are feeling tired. Pull over or switch drivers so you can be sure to avoid any dangerous accidents while on the road.

Switch Tasks

Monotony can be one of the biggest reasons a person might struggle to look alive during the day. Try switching things up to keep your mind sharp and focused. Reserve tasks that require more attention and stimulation for the times of day when you need an energy boost the most.

Hydrate Yourself

Dehydration can sap energy as the body slows down it’s functions, causing the heart to pump harder in order to properly circulate blood. Headaches and an increase in blood pressure may also make it more difficult to rest. Be sure to drink water often to prevent the effects of dehydration on your sleep cycle.

a glass of water and piece of lemon

Get Sun Exposure

Dehydration can sap energy as the body slows down it’s functions, causing the heart to pump harder in order to properly circulate blood. Headaches and an increase in blood pressure may also make it more difficult to rest. Be sure to drink water often to prevent the effects of dehydration on your sleep cycle.

Exercise

Exercise can help wake the body and mind by releasing endorphins and getting the heart rate up. In fact, some studies have shown exercise may outperform medications in treating sleep issues. Go for a quick jog, do some light cardio like jumping jacks, or keep an pedal bike under your desk.

Go To Bed Early

Some experts believe the hormones that regulate sleep are more abundant between midnight and 7 AM. For this reason, it is recommended to turn in a little earlier than to try to sleep in on the weekends. Aim for an earlier bedtime of about 15 minutes to help get you through the day.

Drink Coffee

Many coffee drinkers rely on a good cup of Joe to get them going in the morning. Sipping on a caffeinated beverage could give you the energy boost you need to make it through your sleepiest times. Be aware of side effects like an elevated heart rate, anxiety, or sleeplessness and adjust accordingly.

close up photo of the man with business outfit holding a cup of coffee

Give Yourself A Massage

A quick massage can boost circulation, promoting energy and alertness. Experts recommend rubbing between the thumb and forefinger or massaging up the back of the neck to the scalp. Gently massaging the earlobes may also help stave off that sleepy feeling.

Avoid Falling Asleep At Work or In A Meeting

Keep Eye-to-eye Contact

Being around other people should provide stimulation which can aid in increasing energy. Find someone to talk to, preferably in person so that you can look them directly in the eye. This should bring the focus to them and away from your tired state, allowing you to avoid falling asleep.

Use Natural Stimulants

Scents can be a great, and natural, way to provide a much-needed energy boost. Keep a small bottle of peppermint oil or a favorite citrus scent in your desk or bag and inhale deeply for a quick pick-me-up. Rosemary, eucalyptus, and lemongrass scents have also been known to increase energy.

three green plants in the three pots

Mind Posture While Seated

A study from the Health Psychology journal points to posture as a surprising factor in energy levels. Those who sat up straight at their desks reported an increase in energy and interest. If you find yourself slumping over in your exhaustion, try sitting up straight as an arrow and see how it feels!

Splash Your Face With Water

Throwing a little bit of cold water on your face should elicit a physical reaction from the body that should bring you out of your dazed state, helping you to stay awake. This may also be a good way to cool off and prevent a warm atmosphere from encouraging sleep as previously stated.

Chew Gum

A study by the British Journal Of Psychology concluded chewing gum for 15 minutes increased participants’ energy levels. This may be due to the chewing stimulating the facial muscles, which could increase blood flow in the face and head.

blonde woman is blowing a bubble with a gum

Find Something That Interests You

When we are participating in something that we are passionate about, our brains often perk up, allowing us to focus and feel alert. If you find yourself losing energy, try indulging in one of your favorite hobbies or work on a project that you are particularly interested in and stimulated by.

Avoid Sleeping At The Movies

Many people struggle to stay awake during a film, even if it is one that they particularly enjoy. If you’re tired of missing the ending, check out some of these helpful hints that may help you get through your next viewing party.

Try some of the previous tips to prevent falling asleep during your favorite films. Sit up straight, keep an energizing snack close at hand, or go for a job before beginning your movie night.

If you’re still struggling to get through an entire film, rearrange your viewing habits to avoid the times when you know you will feel most tired. Watch movies earlier in the day and avoid watching from the bed so your body won’t pick up any sleepytime signals.

When To Seek Doctor's Advice For A Sleep Disorder

Any time you feel that your exhaustion or sleep deprivation is interfering with your health, safety, or daily activities, it’s time to consult a medical professional. If any home remedies cause negative side effects, stop using them immediately and ask your doctor for advice on how to care for your sleep cycle. You may just have a sleep disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I stop falling asleep while in class?

Many of the top tips for staying awake in class are the same for staying awake in general. Healthy food and exercise could do the trick, as could studying with friends or sitting up straight at your desk. Try rotating study subjects to break up the monotony and prevent boredom.

What's the most effective way to stay awake when tired?

You will know best which methods are likely to help you the most. Pay attention to your body, adapt your habits, and speak with a doctor if you have any pressing concerns. Try more natural, healthy methods when you first get started like eating healthy foods, exercising, or smelling energizing essential oils.

Can you stay awake after no sleep the night before?

Technically, yes. It is possible to stay awake after pulling an all-nighter.

Your brain should increase activity in certain areas to help make up for your lack of sleep. Though you should avoid multitasking as you may still suffer from a lack of focus.

Exercise, energy-boosting foods, caffeine, or a quick nap could help keep you going. Your body may also naturally adjust your level of sleepiness to keep your circadian rhythm on track. You may feel most tired in the early morning before this adjustment period takes place.

Be aware of a decrease in memory capacity and never drive a vehicle or operate dangerous machinery while sleep-deprived.

Conclusion


Nodding off at odd hours can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons. Likewise, there can be many different ways to address this issue and you should strive the find the healthiest options that work best for you.

Try healthy activities like energy-boosting snacks, exercise, or a quick nap to get you through your most sluggish times. Remember to speak to a doctor if any significant concerns arrise.

For tips on how to wake up refreshed and energized after not getting enough rest, check out our convenient guide. Check out this article to further learn about your natural body clock and how it pertains to circadian rhythms and sleep health.

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Author: Sarah Cummings

I think we’re all nerds, but I’m probably the biggest nerd in the group. Put me nose deep in a spreadsheet and I'll start smiling.

I love to travel, hang out with positive people, and love cycling when I find the time!

My hope is that everyone who visits our site will walk away with a fresh perspective. I think too many people in society downplay the importance of sleep. In my opinion, it’s the difference between an average life and an amazing one.

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