We have all had those sleepless nights where there would be no opportunity for a lie in the next morning due to work schedules, school runs, or other prior engagements. How can we stay awake during the day in a healthy way?

The easy option would be to reach for copious amounts of caffeine. According to experts however, this would not be the most effective or beneficial way to stay awake. While one cup (or three) of black coffee a day can be good for brain and liver health, relying on caffeine all day, every day — especially carbonated beverages soft drinks — can actually be getting in the way of much healthier solutions.

After all, if people are reaching for caffeine as a pick-me-up to get through the day, there are definitely underlying causes of fatigue that need to be addressed.

  1. Hydration

According to osteopathic physician Sandra Darling, DO, the first thing we should be reaching for to combat fatigue is a big glass of water! Hydration is the best way to help you feel more awake!

Instead of consuming caffeine and refined sugar, which give you a brief moment of energy followed by a crash later, a healthier approach is to eat some natural sources of sugar like fresh fruit. When you have breakfast, include some protein and fibre-rich foods for an added boost of energy. 

2. Have a snack

Most people eat and drink fairly frequently throughout the day. Snacks eaten at the appropriate time may help you stay awake. It may be a good idea to choose light snacks and limit the portions.

3. Have a power nap

Dr. Darling recommends a power nap for 10 to 15 minutes at a time to jumpstart your body’s battery to get you through the rest of the day. Make sure you avoid naps that are longer than 30 minutes and avoid sleeping after 3 p.m., which will throw off that sleep-wake schedule later that evening.

4. Start a conversation

If you’re fading fast, engaging in conversation can get your mind moving again. Krakow, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M. suggests talking to a colleague about a business idea, politics, or religion – a topic that is stimulating!

5. Turn up the lights

Environments with dim lighting aggravate tiredness. Studies have shown that exposure to bright light can reduce sleepiness and increase alertness. Try increasing the intensity of your light source at work.

6. Breathwork

Deep breathing raises the blood oxygen levels in the body. This slows down your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and improves circulation, ultimately aiding mental performance and energy.

WebMD has the following tips on how to do such breathing exercises.

The idea of deep-breathing exercises is to inhale through the abdomen and not the chest. You can do this at your desk. Sitting up straight, try this exercise up to 10 times:

  • With one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other on your chest, inhale deeply through your nose and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  • Breathe out through lips pursed as if you were whistling. You can use the hand on your belly to help push air out.

Another technique, called stimulating breath, is used in yoga for a quick energy boost and increased alertness: Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Make your in-and-out breaths short — do about three of each cycle in a second. Then breathe normally. You can do this for up to 15 seconds the first time and then add on five seconds each time after until you reach a minute.

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