Turn that Drowse Upside Down: Wakefulness Tips for the Jet-Lagged and Fatigued

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Maybe you can’t sleep on flights, maybe the hotel room was too hot, maybe that happy hour escalated quickly, but here you are. You stare at your screen and realize you’ve been reading the same paragraph for the past several minutes. You blink, and when you open your eyes your desk mate is looking at you in a way that makes you think that blink may have actually been a 5 minute nap. Your eyelids droop, your head nods, and it’s not even lunch yet. How are you going to make it through this day?!

Whether you’re dealing with chronic sleep deprivation, jet lag, or just the aftermath of a long night, the best answer is always to get some sleep. But, for all the very many times we can’t, here’s some tips on fighting the drowse.

Make Your Water Bottle Your New Best Friend

There are so many wakefulness benefits to keeping a water bottle at your desk!

  • You’ll drink more water! Water boosts your metabolism and keeps you hydrated throughout the day. This is key as one of the symptoms of dehydration is… drumroll… fatigue. Dehydration can hit anybody, but air travelers run an increased risk due to the dry air (only 10% humidity!) circulated in plane cabins. Furthermore, studies by the National Sleep Foundation show that even mild dehydration can negatively impact nighttime sleep quality. So if you’re skipping the water, you’re not only losing the benefits of hydration during the day, but also setting yourself up for poorer sleep quality at night! Drinking more water is an easy and refreshing solution.
  • You’ll get to stretch your legs walking to and from the water dispenser. Shaking off drowsiness while sitting at a desk can be a real challenge- adding physical activity to your day activates your metabolism and gets your blood pumping!
  • You’ll have to pee. Full bladder trumps drowsiness- just ask the overnight flight-goers and roadtrippers of the world! What’s more, adding a couple walks to the bathroom gives you more chances to stretch your legs and wake yourself up.

Reach for the Sky

This one is more useful if you have a bit of privacy or don’t mind executing a big stretch in front of your coworkers. Give yourself a big stretch with your arms above your head. This will do a couple of things for you:

  • When you start to fall asleep, your heart rate slows. Raising your arms above your head forces your heart to work a little harder to pump blood upward into your arms, helping to counteract the slowdown.
  • Putting your arms above your head gets you moving and involves more muscle groups than a little shoulder stretch or just shifting positions.

Crank the Tunes

If your workplace is earphone friendly, plug them in and turn on some energizing music. Just make sure to follow office earphone etiquette- make sure your music cannot be heard and is not distracting to neighbors, and keep the volume low enough that you can hear any questions or comments directed at by coworkers.

Choose Your Caffeine Wisely

If you get your caffeine from coffee, soda, or that one amazing fruity specialty drink, you may be getting a big order of sugar with it. Sugar typically gives you that quick rush of energy, but you may regret it when you hit the sugar crash a few hours later. To avoid the crash, you can stick with unsweetened coffee, caffeinated teas, or sugar-free caffeine powders. If, like me, you just can’t quit those Starbucks Pink Drinks, try to plan for low-energy periods by scheduling your most mindless work during those times. Also, don’t forget to keep drinking water along with your caffeinated beverage of choice- caffeine is actually another cause dehydration!

Set a Nap Trap

You’re hydrated, caffeinated, and you’ve stretched a dozen times but you’re still dozing off. For desperate times, use your phone to fight the drowse. Set your phone alarm on vibrate only, then set a timer for 1-10 minutes and put it in your pocket, your lap, or just keep it in one hand. Then, just go back to work.

If you accidentally fall asleep, the vibration of the phone will wake you up. It may also physically startle you, which is actually really helpful when you’re fighting sleepiness! Little startles like this cause your body to produce adrenaline, which in turn makes you more alert. If you don’t fall asleep, the alarm will go off harmlessly and you can reset the timer as needed. If you try this tip, make sure to check the volume of your phone’s “Vibrate” setting first to make sure it’s not overly noticeable or disruptive to coworkers.

Take a Game Break with the Team

This last tip certainly won’t fly in every workplace, but if your coworkers are game this is a great way to wake up your brain and add some fun to the day. Those who spend their workdays on computers can use Sporcle.com or Geoguessr.com for a quick team break.

Sporcle offers timed quizzes and challenges in just about every category imaginable, while Geoguesser is an addictive location guessing game using Google Maps “Street View”. Taking a quick game break is a great way to switch up your focus and increase your alertness- especially if you’re competitive!

Workplace drowsiness can be a real nightmare, but with these tips you can wake up and power through your workday.

Guest Writer

Kat Huston

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