How to Stay Awake Naturally (cont.)
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.
8. If You're Driving, Pull Over When Sleepy
"Driving while sleepy is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol," says Siebern. Common tricks such as opening the windows and turning on loud music won't keep you awake for very long behind the wheel. "Have someone else drive or pull off the road and take a nap until you're no longer sleepy," Siebern says.
If you're on an extended trip, change drivers often. Stop at least every two hours to take a walk and get some fresh air.
9. Switch Tasks to Stimulate Your Mind
In 2004 Finnish researchers who studied people working 12-hour night shifts found that monotonous work is as harmful as sleep loss for alertness. At work or home, try to reserve more stimulating tasks for your sleepy times. Or switch to more engaging work responsibilities when you feel yourself nodding off.
10. Drink Water to Prevent Tiredness
Dehydration can cause fatigue. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables.
11. Get Some Daylight to Regulate Your Sleep Cycles
Our circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep-wake cycle, are influenced by daylight. Try to spend at least 30 minutes a day outside in natural sunlight. (Sleep experts recommend an hour of morning sunlight a day if you have insomnia.) Even a step outside for a breath of fresh air will revive your senses.
12. Exercise to Increase Energy and Reduce Fatigue
In a 2006 analysis of 70 studies involving more than 6,800 people, University of Georgia researchers found that exercise was more effective in increasing energy and reducing daytime fatigue than some medications used to treat sleep problems. Regular exercise also improves quality of sleep.
Try to exercise 30 minutes a day. If you decide to exercise hard some days, your energy level may drop for a bit and then surge for a few hours. Eating a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours after a heavy workout will lessen the initial energy loss. Be sure to finish your workout a few hours before bedtime so you are not energized when you try to sleep.
When to See a Doctor About Your Sleepiness
If you find that you can't stop nodding off when you need to be alert, consult a doctor or sleep specialist. You may have an underlying sleep disorder such as excessive sleepiness or narcolepsy, which can be treated. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help you with a sleep disorder. If you have trouble falling asleep because of stress or other reasons, cognitive behavioral therapy can help you develop good sleep habits and relieve sleep anxieties.
Last Editorial Review: 4/28/2011