Falling Asleep at Work: 18 Tips to Stay Awake

Falling Asleep at Work: 18 Tips to Stay Awake

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Last Updated on Mar 16, 2023

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    Work-life conflict and health outcomes, including mental and physical health, are closely related to time pressure, fatigue, and a lack of sleep. However, sleepless nights are never fun because you know this can lead to falling asleep at work. 

    Research shows that sleep loss and disruptions of circadian rhythms— an internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle results in impaired performance and increases incident and accident risk at workplaces and on roads. So how to stop such disasters from happening? Simple, by not falling asleep at work.

    And if you're struggling to stay awake at work, we have curated some practical tips. Keep reading to know how to keep yourself from falling asleep at work.

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    Reasons for Falling Asleep at Work

    The neighbors being loud, after-work drinks that escalated quickly, or wanting to catch up to the new episodes of the hot series on Netflix. There could be several reasons that can lead you to fall asleep at work. Following are reasons for falling asleep at work; read along to know what's yours.

    Lunch Was Too Big

    Ever heard of a food coma? It's when you feel tired after having a big meal, which answers why you have been dozing off at work. Food coma is also known as the "post-lunch dip," and many people notice the effects of this in the early afternoon following lunch. 

    Not Getting Enough Sleep at Night

    Late-night binging, going out with friends, loud neighbors, too many drinks after work, can be the reasons for your sleep loss at night, leading to falling asleep at work.

    You Are Overstressed

    With a heavy workload, it is easy to be so stressed, interrupting your rest time. Various studies report the effects of stressful life events on sleep. It is found that increased stressful life events are correlated with sleep loss or sleep latency. 

    Could Be a Sleep Disorder

    If the inability to sleep throughout the night and excessive daytime sleepiness are recurring, then it can result from an underlying sleep disorder. For example, there have been many studies on sleep in PTSD patients. And the fact that disrupted sleep is commonly reported in PTSD, which can cause you to fall asleep at work.

    Work Environment Is Optimal for Sleep

    Sometimes, your working space with a cool and comfortable environment could be why you've been nodding off at work. A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology reports that a cool and dark room is the setup for a great sleeping environment.

    18 Tips to Stop Falling Asleep at Work

    As mentioned before, if you are constantly falling asleep at work, that can be cause for concern. However, if you have got it checked and still find yourself nodding off at work, try these 18 tips to stop falling asleep at work.

    Stay Hydrated

    Hydration plays a key role in the human body. So if you reach for tea or coffee when you're tired, be aware that they may not help if you're dehydrated. 

    The significant effects of dehydration on mood include decreased alertness and increased sleepiness, fatigue, and confusion. Moreover, water comprises 75% of body weight in infants to 55% in the elderly. And drinking sufficient water and staying hydrated helps regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. 

    Therefore, if you want to stop yourself from falling asleep at work, it is important to recognize signs of dehydration. 

    Turn Down the Temperature

    Warmer rooms can make you feel drowsy. According to ScienceDaily, researchers found that brain neurons receiving information about heat are part of the broader system that regulates sleep. 

    So when the hot circuit is active in the brain, the target cells encourage an afternoon nap to stay on longer. This increases midday sleep, preventing the body from enduring the hottest part of the day. Therefore, to avoid dozing off at work, consider using an AC fan or opening a window to let in a cool breeze to wake you up.

    Splash Cold Water on Your Face

    Splashing cold water on your face is one of the best things to do to not fall asleep at work. This can instantly make you feel more alert, as they trigger electrical impulses in the brain that help boost your energy levels, making you feel more alert. 

    Furthermore, in a meta-analysis of cold water immersion research issued in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, cold showers have many physiological effects on the body. The physiological effects include increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and elevated respiratory rate. 

    Minimize Your Sugar Intake

    Sugar is more of a sedative because its after-effects are much stronger than the little "sugar rush" you initially feel. A study, Sugar Intake, and Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, showed that sugar intake is associated with short sleep duration, the influential factor of excessive daytime sleepiness. And among adults, sugar intake significantly impaired sleep with more waking episodes and less restorative sleep, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness.

    So, if you are looking for snacks during your working hours, try eating healthy snacks that can help keep your blood sugar and attention steady all day long. You can try these healthy snacks:

    • Baby carrots and cheese
    • Yogurt and granola
    • Nuts and fruit
    • Peanut butter and whole wheat crackers

    Give Yourself a Break

    Taking a break is one of the best tips for staying awake at work and not losing focus. You can incorporate the time-management method invented by an Italian, Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique

    The goal is to list tasks that need to be done and then set a timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break, then set the timer again. When you've done four rounds of this, you can take a longer break. 

    This method is helpful while working on a project or wanting to understand how long a task takes. The Pomodoro Technique can help if you feel distracted or overwhelmed to focus on what matters.

    Start With the Easiest Tasks First

    This might sound contradictory, but don't start with the easiest task; try to create a balance. It is critical to build momentum on anything you are working on, so select the first 2-3 easy tasks to start with and quickly complete them. Finishing some tasks would have got your dopamine rush. Dopamine provides an intense feeling of reward.

    Now that you are high on energy and motivation, pick your most challenging task. This will make it easier to complete it because now you have momentum and have already crossed the barrier of getting started for the day. Once the difficult task is complete, reward yourself by picking up a few easier tasks again.

    Eat Healthy Snacks

    Eating healthy is how to stop yourself from falling asleep at work. Evidence shows the influence of dietary factors on specific molecular systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function. For example, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids supports human cognitive processes, and diets high in saturated fat might risk neurological dysfunction. 

    In simple terms, eating healthy snacks helps give you good energy to stay stimulated. Furthermore, experts advise focusing on the energy and nutrient composition of snacks. The most commonly repeated snacks promoted by the experts were fruits— raw, fresh, or dried, unsalted nuts and seeds, yogurt, low/no fat milk, and starchy foods like crackers, oatcakes, rice, and yams.

    Eat an Energizing Lunch

    Here's another way to keep yourself from falling asleep at work, have a qualitative lunch rather than a quantitative one. Studies have indicated that diets high in simple carbohydrates may be associated with feelings of fatigue and low energy, which could negatively influence levels of physical activity and promote sleep.

    Therefore, opt for the healthier option to increase your energy levels, such as black bean and rice salad, baked salmon on Swiss chard, perfect spinach salad, and fresh and fruity red quinoa salad. However, these aren't the only meals that boost your energy levels; the internet can provide many other recipes, so search for your favorite ones.

    Get Social

    Some people, such as extroverts, usually get energy by being around other people, and when they feel low on energy, they may choose to spend time with others. So, if you are an extrovert, try meeting up with your colleagues or fellow remote workers to engage in casual conversation while you work.

    However, if you are an introvert, look into local co-working spaces that allow you to be around other professionals. Or go to a library or even work from a coffee shop. 

    Play Some Lively Music

    If you want to avoid falling asleep at work, listen to music. There are several studies regarding the effectiveness of music for relaxation, stress management, and sleep aid. However, it can also help you boost some energy.

    Music can impact our physical, psychological, and emotional states. According to research, music triggers a dopamine release. A happy chemical that provides an intense feeling of reward. Another study found that people who intentionally listened to upbeat music improved their moods and happiness in just two weeks.

    Go for a Walk

    Walking is a beneficial physical activity prescription for inactive individuals such as office workers. According to an article in Current Opinion in Cardiology, walking has the potential to play a key role in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Several studies have evaluated changes in walking behavior due to health promotion interventions in various settings. It improves workers' health and reduces absenteeism and sick leave, generating a positive financial return for employers.

    Walking increases your heart rate, improves blood flow, and lowers blood pressure. Walking also helps boost energy levels by releasing hormones like endorphins and delivering oxygen throughout the body.

    Massage Pressure Points

    Did you know? Massaging pressure points can give you a boost of energy. Experts believe applying the appropriate pressure and massage to specific spots on the feet and hands, all other body parts could be energized and rejuvenated.

    Each point of the pressure acts as the sensors on the feet and hands, which are specifically linked with different parts of the body. For example, massaging the area above the wrist in a circular motion boosts energy.

    Take a Power Nap

    Taking a break is one of the best ways to avoid falling asleep at work and losing your focus. However, though napping in the workplace is under debate, the systematic review and meta-analysis report the benefits of a short daytime nap on cognitive performance.

    Daytime napping in the afternoon improved cognitive performance with the beneficial effects of the early nap. Napping is particularly beneficial to performance on tasks such as addition, logical reasoning, reaction time, and symbol recognition. However, the meta-analysis shows that napping significantly improves alertness.

    Brighten Up Your Workspace

    Circadian rhythm is an internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. The availability of artificial light has substantially changed the light environment, especially during the evening and night hours. The light from LED screens has repeatedly been suggested to interfere with sleep. Therefore, to avoid falling asleep at work, brighten your workspace by adding bright and colorful items, like a sun lamp or blue light.


    Cortisol is a hormone that can enhance alertness; it also regulates your metabolism, immune system response, and blood pressure. Drinking coffee is the best armor against sleep. However, drinking it too soon after rising decreases its energizing effects since the cortisol is at its peak level at this time.

    The best time to drink coffee is mid-to-late morning when your cortisol level is lower. Conversely, drinking coffee when your cortisol level is at its peak may further increase this hormone's levels, and elevated cortisol levels can impair your immune system, causing health problems. 

    Wake Yourself Up With Lively Scents

    The sense of smell plays an important role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, and working capacity, and another way to wake yourself up is with lively scents. The influence of fragrances such as perfumes and room fresheners on psychophysiological activities has been known for a long time. 

    Aromatherapy, herbal medicine, essential oils, and fragrance compounds have been used to treat various psychological and physical disorders such as headaches, pain, insomnia, eczema, and stress-induced anxiety. According to research, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, and peppermint scents promote alertness.

    Consider a Standing Desk

    Standing desks allow you to work at your "desk job" while standing rather than sitting. Although it is unlikely to help with weight loss or avoiding weight gain, there may be other reasons to stand while you work. 

    Studies show that after a meal, blood sugar levels return to normal faster when a person spends more time standing. Moreover, standing, rather than sitting, may improve your mood and reduce the risk of shoulder and back pain. However, if you suddenly go from sitting to standing all day, you risk developing back, leg, or foot pain. So, it's better to ease into it by starting with 30 to 60 minutes daily. 

    Use a Body Doubling Tool

    Body doubling is a good tactic for remote workers. It is a productivity strategy in which another person works alongside you as you complete a task you might otherwise find challenging. A body doubling tool is used for procrastination and may help you stay focused, engaged, or motivated to finish the job.

    Final Words

    Feeling tired at work can make your workday less productive. Fortunately, you can do things to keep yourself from falling asleep at work, like being hydrated, cutting back on unhealthy snacks, or any other way to be more alert. 

    You might also need to make specific lifestyle changes to ensure you feel well-rested so you can be more energized at work. But if you're not getting enough sleep, this can be the culprit of your daytime sleepiness, so try incorporating our tips to stop falling asleep at work.

    This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.
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