Falling Asleep At Your Desk? Solutions Without Coffee

SUMMARY POINTS

> Drinking more coffee isn’t the best way to stay awake at work
> Invigorate yourself with physical activity or mental stimulation
> Cut out evening bullshit activities and get more sleep

Have you ever had one of these days?

You’ve had your morning starter cup of coffee and yet, you’re still dozing off at your desk.

Your fingers are on the keyboard and your hand is on the mouse, but there’s nothing happening. You can feel the onset of the head nods as you can barely make out the letters on the screen.

Your eyelids are starting to shut down.

You’re fighting it hard, but the drowsiness is overwhelming. You’re past the point of no return.

Your eyes are now fully shut, head is down and mouth is gaping open.

You, my friend, are officially sleeping on the job.

We all run ourselves ragged from morning until way past our bedtime - way too often. Then, we end up paying for it the next day at work - all sleepy, inattentive and unable to focus on anything.

After a few minutes, you shake it off and hope that none of your coworkers snuck a photo of you drooling at your desk - that would be absolutely devastating to your office rep.

It’s at this moment that you start contemplating another cup of coffee or three or maybe even one of those 5-Hour energy shots. Neither is really a good option here.

Why More Coffee Isn’t The Answer

There’s a misconception about coffee and caffeine that we’d like to explain. It’s something that we didn’t know until we did some research.

Caffeine doesn’t actually wake you up.

Yup, you read that right.

It seems incorrect, but here’s what caffeine actually does.

Caffeine blocks your normal “tired” signals from reaching your brain. And instead, the caffeine binds to your brain's receptors and prevents the feeling of tiredness from ever getting a foothold.

In other words, coffee doesn't wake you up. It just blocks your tiredness symptoms from ever taking effect.

The guys over at ASAP Science do a really great job at whiteboarding this out. Check out their short 3-minute video below.

VIDEO: Your Brain On Coffee
YOUTUBE: AsapSCIENCE
LENGTH: 3:14

Summary points:
> Caffeine mimics the adenosine hormone in your brain
> It prevents adenosine from telling your brain you’re tired
> Consistent high consumption creates dependency

While drinking more coffee is a short-term fix, it doesn’t do you any favors over the long run. Your brain and body become more and more dependent on it for functioning day-to-day.

If that’s you, we’ve written an article about reducing your caffeine intake, check it out sometime.

What we’re trying to accomplish here is to get the brain stimulated and revved up without the side effects and crash of coffee or those mini energy shots, which behave much in the same way as caffeine does.

Better Ways To Stay Awake At Work

So, since caffeine is ruled out as the fix, what options are available for you to jolt yourself back to attention?

We’ve asked folks around our office on what they do (other than drink more coffee) to keep themselves awake. Here are several of the more common tactics, plus a couple that you may not have heard about.

1) Go For A Walk Outside

As long as it’s not oppressively hot, raining or storming outside, get up from your chair and head out of the office. When you escape the stale recirculated office air and get some fresh air from Mother Nature and bright natural light, it’ll stimulate your senses.

Even better, when it’s cold outside, it’ll really wake you up. It’s like taking an invigorating cold shower without the water. Head outside without your jacket and get a blast of coolness all around you.

Take a 5-minute walk around the office building, around the parking lot to your car or down the street and back. Not only will it wake you up, but it’s also a perfect way to get some exercise at work without too much sweating.

On those really hot days or when it’s raining out, try one of the following ideas instead. They’re all indoors.

2) Do A Mini Stairclimbing Session

This is another physical solution and one that’s perfect for those shitty weather days.

Whenever you move your body, you’re getting your heart pumping and blood flowing all throughout your body. And when this happens, you’re getting the oxygenated blood flow to your muscles.

When the head nods are creeping in, step away from your desk and head for the stairs.

Go up and down a few flights of stairs. Climb the stairs at a pace where you’re breathing harder than normal. Stairstep like you’re really late to an urgent meeting.

This will get your heart pumping and shake off the drowsiness.

3) Splash Your Face With Cold Water

This is for the guys and maybe for the gals that don’t wear makeup. Any immediate cold sensation to your body will definitely stimulate your alertness.

Head to the bathroom and splash your face with some cold water several times. Then, as you dry your face with some paper towels, use those damp towels and dab all around your neck.

Your neck is a major heat release zone. So, by dampening it, you accelerate the heat loss for your body.

If you’ve got an uber-short haircut or a buzzcut hairstyle, you could even go as far as soaking your head too. The head is one of the biggest areas for your body to lose heat.

Either of these will trigger chilly sensations and will help keep your eyes open.

4) Hold Some Ice In Your Hands

This is another cold-temp solution that is based upon the same principle as getting a blast of cold air or splash of cold water.

Head to the break room kitchen and get two ice cubes and hold one in each hand for 15-30 seconds. Use your phone’s timer. See how long you can last before the cold numbness gets to be too painful.

The combination of cold and hand-numbing pain will also trigger your pain receptors in your brain and get it out of its slumbering state.

5) Take A Power Nap

If you’re gonna doze off at work, then just go all-in on it and not half-assed at your desk.

The best way to do this is in your car. It’s a perfect solution. Your car has got a reclining seat, climate-controlled environment and it’s quiet.

Be sure to bring your phone so that you can set a timer alarm. Set your power nap to 30-40 minutes max. If you can get away for that long.

The best time to sneak out for a nap is during your lunch hour. Just eat ahead of time while you’re working and then, use your normal lunch hour for a power nap.

For more info on napping strategies at work, check out this article for even more ideas, tips and places to nap at the office.

6) Watch Something Hilarious

When you’re laughing your ass off, you can’t be sleepy at the same time. It’s impossible. Laughter releases all sorts of feel-good hormones into our bodies.

In fact, in this study by the University of Maryland Medical Center, proves that laughing causes the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate, which in turn, increases blood flow.

And for the same benefits that exercise does to blood flow, laughter fundamentally does the same thing.

So, when your eyelids feel heavy, re-watch a funny video clip you’ve saved on your phone or jump onto YouTube and get your giggles on.

How about some giggles right now?!

Here’s the ultimate test. Try not to laugh while watching this. None of us made it through without laughing. It’s the hardest 3 minutes ever.

Good luck.

VIDEO: Can’t Stop Laughing
YOUTUBE: TripBloggers
LENGTH: 3:20

7) Crank Up Some Tunes

Forget about elevator or waiting room music - those genres will only make your drowsiness worse. It’s time to crank up some of your most fav upbeat tunes.

We all grew up in certain eras - maybe, it was the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. Our pre-teen and teen years are when we’re most influenced by music. It’s during those years that we connect more deeply with music than in any other time period in our lives.

So, play some Bee-Gees, Michael Jackson, Madonna, 50 Cent, whatever...just put on your headphones and crank it up!

8) Slap Yo’ Self Upside The Head

This is a strategy some of us have used on those long boring interstate roads that just seem to go straight for miles on end. Without much visual stimulation and the car set to cruise control, we easily drift off into la-la-land.

Extend your dominant hand out as far as it can go and then, give your face a high-five slap. Do it a couple of times and you’ll be awake for sure. 😉

9) Smell Yourself Awake With Essential Oil Aromatherapy

You know what can get nearly anyone out of bed early on the weekends?

The smell of bacon cooking in the frying pan.

It doesn’t matter how tired or hungover you are. Just a few wafts of bacon will trigger your brain to snap out of any slumber.

You can use this same principle at work with essential oils. It’s called aromatherapy and no, you don’t need to buy/use fancy diffusers or other accessories.

All you need is a small tiny bottle of an oil scent. You can pick these up at your local drug store pharmacy.

You’ll want to use scents that stimulate alertness. The best ones are citrusy scents like lemon, lime or orange. Peppermint also works pretty well too. They’re all invigorating.

Using your finger, just dab a small amount under your nose - that’s all you need. With each inhale, you’ll get a nice little scented boost. Reapply every hour or so as needed to keep the scent going.

10) Change Up Scenery & Work In Another Spot

For those of you that are issued laptops at work, this is an idea that you can try out. For those that have desktop PCs...sorry, this won’t work for you.

With a laptop, you’ve got portability on your side. Use this to your advantage during those sleepy moments.

When we’re in the same workspace area day-in and day-out, our minds don’t get the same level of stimulation anymore. It gets bored and opens us up to increased chances of falling asleep.

When this happens, grab your laptop and get up from your desk and go work in another spot for an hour or two. It’s gotta be a spot with a lot of activity to keep you stimulated. This could be the visitor lobby, break room or maybe even the rowdy section of the cubicle neighborhood. 

Fix The Root Cause By Getting More Sleep At Night

These are all great alternative ways to stay awake and alert at work. But, in the end, they’re all just temporary band-aid fixes to the real problem at hand.

The core root cause of your sleepiness at work is simply that you’re not getting enough good, solid, restful sleep at night.

Duh.

We all know that.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

The challenge is that there are so many other things that are vying for our attention after work that we end up staying awake way longer than we really should.

Some of these things are must-do tasks like prepping for tomorrow and eating dinner while others are simply decompressing time-wasters like binge-watching NetFlix or scrolling through social media.

The key action here is to make sleep a priority.

And in doing so, you eliminate or significantly reduce any and all bullshit activities that aren’t mandatory and just get to bed earlier.

Yeah, we know that it’s easier said than done. But, it can be done. 

Or End Up Like This Guy...

If you can’t find the discipline to get more sleep at night or take power naps at work during lunch, then you just might end up like the guy above and turn into a viral internet meme.

Here’s the quick backstory…

It’s only his second day on the job at a startup tech company. And, he passes out sitting upright at his desk. A few coworkers notice and then quickly gathered around him for a photo opportunity.

It was then shared with the internet and subsequently photoshopped into hilarious memes.

Here are our top fav photoshopped memes.

The first one below took us a few seconds to figure out, but once we did, we laughed our asses off.

So, the moral of the story here - don’t be that guy that falls asleep at his desk. You just may end up on the front page of the internet, aka Reddit.

Take a real serious look at how you’re spending your evenings at home after work. Can you cut out just one time-wasting thing and give yourself 30 more minutes of shuteye?

Get some extra sleep at night and if you can’t, use one of the wake-up tactics from above to stay alert.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]