Everyone needs plenty of sleep to feel great. But sometimes, work or school calls for you to burn the midnight oil and keep chugging along even though you’d rather get some shut-eye.
It’s helpful to know how to stay awake when tired so you can cram for a test at the last minute or wrap up a work assignment for your job. Alternatively, you might need to know how to stay energized during the day if your regular sleep cycles aren’t giving you the rest you need.
Today, let’s discuss how you can stay awake and energized when needed.
What Is the Science of Sleep?
Simply put, we get sleepy about every 10 to 16 hours. As humans, we have circadian rhythms that broadly follow this pattern:
- We wake with the sun, and the blue wavelength light emitted by the sun actually helps us become alert more quickly.
- We are alert for the morning hours, but our circadian rhythms gradually dip around midday (that’s why many of us feel sleepy around 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.).
- We return to a higher state of alertness for the evening until the sun goes down.
- When night falls, our brains naturally want to sleep as they start producing melatonin, the well-known sleep hormone that helps shut the mind down.
There are a few exceptions. For example, some people identify as “night owls,” so they follow alternative circadian rhythms where they get energy when the sun goes down and become sleepy in the morning. Individuals with sleep disorders might also have trouble staying awake or falling asleep, regardless of their tiredness. But for most of us, the pattern is clear. You get tired at night! Sleep is important for mental and physical wellness. While the exact physiological functions of sleep aren’t fully understood, there’s lots of evidence to suggest that sleep:
- It helps the brain categorize memories and information absorbed during the day and facilitates long-term memory formation
- Causes spinal fluid to wash over the brain, clearing away degraded proteins or other waste products
- It gives the body time to synthesize protein tissue and perform bodily repairs from daily wear and tear or exercise
It’s never a good idea to skip out on sleep for too long. But from time to time, you might need to stay awake even if you’re tired.
How Can I Stay Awake When Tired?
You might be fatigued once night falls, but you may have to get work done or finish studying for a test in the morning. Luckily, there are more ways to stay awake even if you’re tired now than ever in history. Let’s look at some of the best tips and tricks you can leverage to stave off the z’s.
Try Energy Drinks in Moderation
For starters, you can try an energy drink to keep yourself awake. Energy drinks almost always include caffeine: an important stimulant most of us know from coffee. Caffeine helps you stay awake even if you’re tired by negating the sleepy nervous system signals produced by your brain.
That’s why drinking coffee in the morning helps you wake up more quickly; it skips ahead to where your brain would naturally be a few minutes or hours in the future.
However, you should not drink energy drinks too often. Doing so could offset your circadian rhythm or make it difficult for you to go to sleep after you finish your work. Remember, you’ll be able to feel any ingested caffeine between 6 to 12 hours after drinking it.
Take an Outdoor Walk
Alternatively, you can keep yourself awake even if you’re tired without taking a stimulant by taking a refreshing outdoor walk. Take deep breaths of the fresh air, and you might find yourself invigorated and reenergized, especially if you have the fortune to walk on a cool, crisp night.
Taking an outdoor walk is a light exercise, as it gently keeps your heart moving and your blood pumping. A walk can help trick your body into a state of alertness.
Work in Well-Lit Areas
Working in low-light or super comfortable places is never a good idea. Instead, you should find well-illuminated areas, like the kitchen, study hall, or library. Remember, your body receives its signals for producing melatonin based on ambient light levels. If you surround yourself with bright lights, it’ll be much harder for your brain to feel sleepy.
Have a Healthy Snack
Our food provides us with energy. If your proverbial gas tank is running dry, have a healthy snack like a piece of fruit. Fruit is a great choice because it gives you a quick burst of energy from sugar, but that energy should burn away fairly quickly (hopefully shortly after you finish your late-night work).
Fruit and other snacks boost your blood sugar but shouldn’t lead to daytime sleepiness like a caffeinated drink sometimes can. Pair it with a glass of cold water to stay hydrated and enjoy extra alertness! A healthy snack also settles your stomach. You might need this if you’re working several hours after dinner and have become a bit hungry in the meantime.
Do Some Light Exercise
Lastly, you can do other light exercises besides outdoor walking. The movement increases cardiovascular activity, which activates other bodily functions and brings your brain to a more alert state. Some examples include:
- Going for a light jog
- Doing some jumping jacks
- Doing yoga (but only if it’s not too relaxing!)
If you exercise, drink water to get a good night’s sleep and avoid waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle due to thirst.
How Can I Stay Energized Throughout the Day?
What if you need to keep yourself energized and alert throughout the day? Try these three ways to restore your energy during the day.
Get Enough Sleep the Night Before
Naturally, the best way to maintain adequate energy levels throughout the day is to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Almost everyone needs this amount of sleep for proper physical and mental health. To make sure you maintain this habit, try to go to bed at a set time each night. You’ll train your body and mind to accept sleep at a certain time, making it easier to fall asleep even if you struggle with insomnia or related symptoms.
Take a Power Nap
But if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before for one reason or another, try to carve out 30 to 45 minutes for a power nap. A power nap allows your brain to fall into a light, restful state without fully descending into a deep sleep.
This is still restorative to some extent and can give you some extra energy to push through to the end of the day. Just be sure to set a timer! If you accidentally sleep for longer than 45 minutes, you could fall into a deeper sleep and wake up groggy and cranky. The best time to take a power nap is when your circadian rhythm naturally dips, usually between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Consult a Physician for Further Help
If you are still having trouble remaining energized throughout the day, or if you experience chronic fatigue, it might be a good idea to talk to a physician. Sleep experts or even general practitioners can provide you with more detailed advice or prescribe medications to help you sleep each night. More importantly, healthcare providers may be able to diagnose long-term or chronic issues that could be causing your sleep problems. You should heed their medical advice, especially if you’re experiencing sleep deprivation.
Now You Can Stay Awake and Energized
At the end of the day, the best cure for fatigue is a good night’s rest. But if you need to stay awake for one reason or another, the energizing tips above should help you get the job done — provided you book some shut-eye time later!
After all, sleep is vital for holistic wellness. That’s why 1AND1 Life offers a variety of sleep wellness guides, sleep aids, and other tips. See how we can help you become 1% better (and 1% more rested) each day!