If you’re able to stay home and relax for the day, being a little sleepy isn’t a big deal. But being tired at work can have significant consequences. You might miss deadlines or get behind on your workload. If this becomes a pattern, your job could be in jeopardy.
Treating the underlying cause of daytime sleepiness — such as sleep apnea — can help improve your energy level and boost cognitive function. But even if you take steps to feel better, daytime sleepiness might not improve overnight.
Here’s how to manage daytime sleepiness at work.
1. A shot of caffeine
If you’re feeling sluggish at work, a shot of caffeine might be the energy boost you need to get your job done.
Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning it increases activity in the brain and nervous system. It can improve your thinking ability and mental performance, and help you fight off sleepiness. Head over to the break room for a coffee, or take a short walk to a local cafe.
Be careful not to go overboard. Drinking too much caffeine can overstimulate you and make you jittery, which might affect your productivity level.
2. Take a power nap
Sometimes, getting a little bit of shut-eye is the only way to get over daytime sleepiness. If you have to close your eyes, squeeze in a quick power nap on your lunch break.
If you have your own office, shut the door and lay your head on the desk. Or sit in your car and recline the seat. A 15 or 30-minute nap might give you enough energy to power through the day. Don’t forget to set your alarm clock or you may oversleep!
3. Get up from your desk
Sitting in one spot for too long can worsen daytime sleepiness. Periodically rising from your workstation and walking around gets your blood flowing. It can also help you stay to awake and concentrate on your work.
Granted, you probably can’t be away from your desk for too long. You may have to get creative and move at your desk. Maybe fidget or shake your leg while sitting in your chair. If you have your own office, pace the room while talking on the phone.
4. Listen to upbeat music
If you’re sleepy at work, having to do your job in silence can be a drag. You may feel as though you’ll fall asleep at any moment. To wake up your brain, listen to upbeat music.
Check with your employer first for permission. Your boss might be OK with listening to music as long as it doesn’t affect your productivity. If you can’t turn on a radio, get permission to listen to music through earbuds — the more upbeat the music, the better.
5. Eat a light lunch
If you deal with frequent daytime sleepiness, eating a heavy lunch could make it worse. Do your best to stay away from sugary snacks, sodas, or carbohydrates like white bread and white pasta.
Eat a light lunch to keep your energy up. You want to feel satisfied but not stuffed. As you pack your lunch, choose healthier sources of energy. This includes boiled eggs, chicken, berries, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains.
6. Keep your workspace bright
If you’re fortunate to work in a space with windows, open the shades and let in some natural light. Sunlight in your office can increase alertness and energy.
If you don’t have a window near your workspace, get permission to bring in a lightbox and position it near your desk. This emits a low level of UV light and helps regulate your wake cycle so you feel less sleepy.
7. Splash cold water on your face
If you’re struggling to stay awake at work, go to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face. This quick and simple hack can reenergize you and provide a much-needed pick-me-up.
Step outside after you splash your face if it’s a breezy day. The cool air against your face can increase your alertness.
8. Turn on a fan
You might want to invest in a fan for your office space or desktop if you deal with daytime sleepiness.
When you’re feeling sleepy, point the fan in your direction and turn it on full blast. Just like the natural breeze outside, the cool air of the fan can increase your alertness.
9. Stay busy
Daytime sleepiness can be intensified by too much downtime. Depending on the nature of your job, you may have periods when you have fewer responsibilities.
Without much to do, you may start to feel even more tired. Ask your boss for some light responsibilities, if possible. You might be able to assist with overflow work.
Learning how to manage daytime sleepiness can keep you on your employer’s good side. When drowsiness hits, try a few of these hacks to get through the day. Rule out an underlying problem by visiting your doctor if your tiredness continues for longer than a few weeks.
- Bright light therapy. (n.d.).
- Four afternoon snacks to keep you awake. (n.d.).
- How to stay awake at work: Staying productive when you didn’t get enough sleep. (2018).
- Tips for staying awake on the job. (n.d.).
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