How to Stay Awake Naturally (cont.)

There are two things to remember about naps: Don't take more than one and don't take it too close to your bedtime. "Nap between five and 25 minutes," says Barry Krakow, MD, author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: Seven Keys to Sleeping Through the Night. It's best to nap about six or seven hours before you would normally go to bed. If you must take a late nap close to bedtime, make it a short one.

Napping on the job can be touchy. If you need to nap at work, do it during your break and use a vibrating alarm clock, if necessary, to make sure it doesn't spill over into your work time. Sleeping at your desk is usually not a good idea, but many companies now provide nap rooms for employees.

"If you can't nap, even resting quietly with your eyes closed for 10 minutes or so will help," says Allison T. Siebern, PhD, a fellow at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center in Redwood City, Calif.

3. Give Your Eyes a Break to Avoid Fatigue

Continuous fixation on a computer screen can cause eyestrain and worsen sleepiness and fatigue. Look away from the screen for a few minutes periodically to relax your eyes.

4. Eat a Healthy Snack to Boost Energy

Sugary snacks give you a quick energy boost followed by the sugar "lows," when low blood sugar produces mental fogginess and lethargy. Snacks such as these will provide better overall energy in the long run:

  • Peanut butter on a whole wheat cracker or celery sticks
  • Yogurt and a handful or nuts or fresh fruit
  • Baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip

5. Start a Conversation to Wake Up Your Mind

If you're fading fast, engaging in conversation can get your mind moving again. "Talk to a colleague about a business idea, politics, or religion," says Krakow, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M. "It's a very strong behavioral stimulator -- especially when it's a conversation about politics."

6. Turn Up the Lights to Ease Fatigue

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

7. Take a Breather to Feel Alert

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

The idea of deep-breathing exercises is to inhale to the abdomen, not the chest. You can do them 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.