Whether you toss and turn all night or are a victim of the afternoon slump, you will do almost anything to wake yourself up when you are feeling tired. Turning to energy drinks and caffeine is a common method but one that can backfire. Too much coffee can leave you feeling jittery or -- if you drink it late in the day -- ruin your sleep. Downing a sugary treat is another common way to wake up, but that quick hit of sugar will lead to a subsequent sudden drop in your blood sugar -- leaving you groggier and more sluggish than before. Opt for healthier ways to wake up your tired body and mind so that you can make it until bedtime.
If you wake up feeling less than refreshed, a cool glass of water may help. Dehydration can increase feelings of fatigue, so drink at least 8 ounces of water upon waking. Ice water is best, as it refreshes you, Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., and specialist in sleep disorders, told CNN. Splash your face with water to help increase alertness.
Expose yourself to sunlight as soon as you can in the morning to shift your circadian rhythms -- telling your body it is time to be awake. Open your shades or have your breakfast on the back porch. Exposure to bright daylight midday can also help wake you up, suggests a study published in a January 1997 issue of “Neuroscience Letters.” If you work in an artificially-lit building, go outside at lunch or during a break for at least a few minutes to help wake yourself up.
A walk may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are tired, but a short stroll, especially outdoors, improves blood circulation and increases levels of alertness. Exercise boosts the level of the energizing brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin -- so hit the streets first thing in the morning. The period between 1 and 3 p.m. is another time when sleep deprivation might affect you, says Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan.” Taking a 10-minute walk at this time can boost your core temperature and stimulate your brain and heart. Even if you can’t get outside, pace a few times up and down the halls of your office.
Skip the doughnuts or pastries at breakfast and reach for a balanced meal that includes protein and whole-grain carbohydrates. A slice of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, scrambled egg whites and a whole-grain English muffin or oatmeal with soy milk and walnuts provide healthy, lasting energy that your body digests more slowly -- keeping you fueled all morning. If your fatigue lingers at lunchtime, resist the urge to self-medicate with comforting foods such as burgers and mac and cheese. These high-fat options can make you groggier as your body shifts its energy to digestion. Afternoon meals and snacks should mimic the components of your breakfast -- consisting of lean proteins and whole grains. Try a veggie stir-fry with brown rice and tofu, a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread or beef and barley soup with a side salad. Keep your portions reasonably sized -- too much food slows you down.
You may think you do not have enough time for a nap, but a quick bit of shut-eye can improve wakefulness and mental performance. A study in the March 2008 issue of the “Journal of Sleep Research” found that a nap as short as six minutes helped improve memory performance as well as naps of longer duration. If you simply cannot be caught closing your eyes, Dr. Matthew Edlund, author of “The Power of Rest,” suggests performing paradoxical relaxation. Similar to a brief meditation, this method allows you to focus on the feelings of one muscle group in your body for 15 seconds at a time -- scanning the entire body up and down. A short session can leave you feeling recharged.
- CNN: How to Fake a Good Night's Sleep
- Forbes.com: Avoiding the Afternoon Slump
- Neuroscience Letters: Midday Exposure to Bright Light Changes the Circadian Organization of Plasma Melatonin Rhythm in Humans
- Journal of Sleep Research: An Ultra Short Episode of Sleep Is Sufficient to Promote Declarative Memory Performance
- Good Housekeeping: Solved -- Your Personal Energy Crisis
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.