30 Ways To Fight Afternoon Sleepiness- And Win Every Time
All the sleep health advice you’ve ever read and learned is wrong.
Doesn’t matter from where- doctors, books, class, websites, brochures- all wrong.
Not just wrong either, dead wrong.
So wrong it makes you want to go back to your 4-hour sleep schedule and toss everything you’ve ever learned about sleep hygiene out the window.
So wrong, anything you’ve ever learned to stay energized and awake throughout the day was nothing but a huge waste of time.
If this is how you feel when struggling to stay awake for the 4th afternoon in a row, you’re not alone.
It happens often- you sleep the recommended 7.5 hours, avoid TV and food before bed, and even sleep in the recommended 67F temperature range.
Yet, when you go to work the next day you still end up dozing off after lunch time. You might think to yourself “Maybe I’m still tired from the weekend, I’ll just get some more sleep tonight”.
However, when you try it all over again the next day, you find that nothing has changed.
Can the afternoon slump really be stopped?
Afternoon sleepiness is a huge problem that affects your ability to be productive and carry out tasks.
There are few things more annoying than the feeling of being about to fall asleep and not being able to do so for fear of getting fired or other consequences.
The problem becomes even more frustrating when you have tried your best to get good sleep, but somehow the afternoon slump always comes back to get you.
If these scenarios describe you, worry no more.
In this article, I’ll be presenting you with 30 actionable ways to fight afternoon sleepiness and come out as the victor.
These are 30 different actions you can use to stay awake and energized through the afternoon slump despite how much sleep you may have gotten the night before.
That way, rather than deciding to accept the risk of falling asleep for 5 minutes on your desk hoping that your co-workers or boss don’t walk by your office, you can use that time to do other things.
But before we get started with our 30 anti-sleepiness tactics…
If you’ve ever wondered why it is that we can get great sleep and still feel extremely sleepy after lunch, let’s look at why we tend to get tired in the afternoon.
I promise you won’t fall asleep reading it 😉
The grind don’t stop
The majority of people work in places with strict no-nap policies.
Catch you with your eyes closed for any reason other than blinking and you get the boot.
The expectation in most jobs is that the hours between 7:30 am and 4:30 pm are used strictly for work- resting is viewed as an unnecessary commodity.
Seeing as how this is the case for almost all companies, are we really built to not need a nap throughout the course of the day? Or are we just not being diligent enough with our sleep habits?
The world would be a better place with mandatory naps
Yes, the human body is built to need a nap during the early afternoon hours of the day.
The human circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep-wake cycle, tells us when it’s time to go to bed. For adults, there is a spike in sleepiness between the hours of 2:00 am to 4:00 am and 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.
This spike in sleepiness occurs through a drop in your body temperature and a release of melatonin.
You might be thinking the 2:00 am to 4:00 am sleepiness spike makes sense as it wouldn’t be a good idea to make it through the nighttime hours without sleeping at all. But why a sleep spike between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm?
The reason for this is still not completely understood, but most scientists believe that it’s due to the fact that the early afternoon falls around the middle of our waking day and taking a quick nap at that time gives us the energy we need to keep going.
The start time of afternoon sleepiness can vary depending on whether you’re more of a morning person or night person, but the fact that your body works best with a nap around that time remains constant.
However, it’s not all our employees’ fault; certain conditions and poor sleep habits can make the afternoon slump feel more like an afternoon collapse. The following is a list of some common causes of afternoon sleepiness:
Common causes of afternoon sleepiness
1. Sleep disorders
Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia are almost synonymous with sleep deprivation and can worsen your afternoon slump.
2. Poor sleeping habits
Watching TV, drinking alcohol excessively, or eating before bedtime can all affect your REM sleep and prevent you from getting the restful sleep you need.
3. Consuming too many high glycemic carbs for lunch
High glycemic carbs are simple sugars that are metabolized quickly by the body and produce a spike in insulin levels. This gives you a burst of quick energy but leaves you tired and sleepy once the initial high subsides.
4. Skipping breakfast
People who skip breakfast tend to be hungrier throughout the day. This means that come lunchtime, they also tend to eat more than they should be eating because they’re hungrier. Overeating then leads to a general feeling of sleepiness after lunch.
5. Medical conditions such as diabetes or hypoglycemia
Diabetes and hypoglycemia can both cause fatigue and afternoon sleepiness as insulin levels go haywire. Good news is that these conditions can be treated to where they no longer lead to excessive daytime fatigue.
Out of all of these causes for afternoon sleepiness, the most common contributing factor is the lack of proper sleeping habits. Also known as sleep hygiene, these describe all the different actions that affect your sleep at night and tell you what you should be doing to get the highest quality sleep you can at night.
Alert: Most people miss at least 5 of these! -> Check out our sleep hygiene fact sheet and see if you have better sleep habits than most people.
30 Ways To Fight Afternoon Sleepiness
1. Have some small talk with a co-worker
Unless you’re talking to that co-worker that loves to hear themselves talk, falling asleep while talking to someone is pretty darn hard.
In addition, talking to someone involves a certain exchange of energy through body language, tone, emotion, and humor. Talking to easily excitable or interesting co-workers will lead you to feel even more energized at the end of the convo.
If you don’t have much time to spend socializing, plan your day so that you talk to the people you would have to talk to anyways after lunch. That way you kill two birds with one stone.
2. Enjoy some nutritious fruit
Snacking on fruit while sleepy turns the afternoon slump over its head. Americans don’t consume nearly enough fruit on a daily basis. This leads to a lack of many necessary nutrients which are related to health issues later in life.
If falling asleep while eating is extremely difficult, why not transform afternoon sleepiness into a blessing by taking that time to have some light nutritious fruit? Eating the fruit keeps you awake and makes you healthier. This is about as close to turning lemons into lemonade as you can get.
3. Stand up for your right – to stay awake
My high school chemistry teacher used to make students who fell asleep while taking notes stand up in the back of the class.
Guess who got really good at taking notes while standing up?
Though he intended it as a punishment, I would honestly look forward to it because it was way easier to stay awake and pay attention while standing up.
Nowadays, quite a few companies offer stand-up desks that allow you to work while standing up and help you stay awake. Sounds like a win-win situation. Needless to say, stand-up desks also provide you with all the benefits that come with standing up vs sitting down.
4. Take a stroll for some fresh air
Walking out of the cubicle farms and into the outside world for some meditative time helps you feel revitalized and refreshed.
Try the following exercise: go outside for a 5-minute stroll. Take some time to look at the environment around you, paying attention to
the details and colors of where you are. Take 5 deep breaths and focus on the moment. Once you feel ready, you may return to what you were doing.
Many people find this exercise empowering and energizing. I like to do it whenever I’m feeling both stressed and fatigue.
Additionally, most people don’t spend enough time enjoying the outdoors nowadays. You’ll notice that just being outside and soaking in some sunlight is a strong stimulus for the body since helps regulate circadian rhythms and melatonin production.
5. Stretch it out
Getting up from your chair and stretching your body helps add some often needed physical activity to your workday and stimulates blood flow. As you get your blood flowing, you’ll feel less fatigues and more energized. Try out some of the following stretches to get you going
- Stand up, get on your tip toes and extend your arms as high up as you possibly can. This one is great because it allows you to stretch some of the longest muscles in your body at the same time.
- Stay seated, reach for your toes by bending over. You should feel this one around your hamstrings and calves.
- Stand and grab one of your legs and try to touch your backside with your heel. Then do the same thing with the other leg.
- Do 10 squats. Take your time and pay attention to the sensations as you go up and down.
6. Help yourself to a nice cup of coffee (or tea)
Though with it I’m still not by any means a morning person, without my coffee I struggle to even think about work. I’m sure a lot of you would agree with me when I say that coffee is almost as essential as breakfast in the morning.
A good cup of coffee can help you wake up after lunch time as well. However, I understand many people will want to avoid another dose of caffeine, especially after feeling full from lunch.
If this describes your situation, I suggest going for some kind of caffeinated tea. It’s lighter, healthier, and oftentimes quite nutritious.
If you’re looking for a tea with higher than moderate caffeine content, I suggest trying out green tea or black tea. For even better taste, try sweetening with a few drops of honey.
7. Give yourself permission to nibble on some caffeinated chocolate
Caffeinated chocolate was one of the best things I discovered while in college.
Now, before you start wondering how awful my college experience must’ve been for the best thing to come out of it to be candy, bear with me for a second.
My choice of caffeinated chocolate was Awake Chocolate, the milk chocolate type. I would by a bar for about $1.49. Each bar had the same amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee.
However, each full bar felt like it had at least about three cups of coffee in them. I think this was partly due to the sugar, but also because the caffeine content in coffee actually varies from cup to cup, whereas caffeine in a solid such as chocolate is always the same.
The fact that these chocolate bars taste great was lovely too. This would usually provide enough motivation and energy to finish up my midnight assignments.
For those starting out with Awake Caffeinated chocolate, I recommend nibbling on a third of the bar at a time and saving the rest. In dealing with my daytime sleepiness, I’ve found that 1 bar is good enough for about 3-afternoon slumps.
Click here to try out Awake Chocolate bars!
8. Have some sunflower seeds
Eating sunflower seeds is one of those tried and tested techniques for staying awake. They’re very inexpensive, liked by many, and requires so many different movements that it’s pretty tricky to fall asleep while eating them.
Additionally, an entire bag usually has only about 400 calories and will last you over the course of multiple days. Not to mention, they come in a variety of flavors, such as ranch, jalapeno cheddar, nacho cheese, and salt and pepper.
Granted, it may be a bit tricky to open and eat them correctly for those that haven’t had any in the past. But the learning curve is not too steep, and soon you’ll be eating sunflower seeds like a pro.
9. Switch over to another task
Sometimes, afternoon sleepiness is caused by boredom more than anything else. In such cases, switching to a different task when you get bored of what you’re doing helps re-engage your mind and reduce afternoon tiredness.
Another nice trick is to save the more engaging tasks for the afternoon when you know you’ll feel more sleepy. Doing more fun and engaging work post-lunch can help offset the sleepiness that is normally present around this time of the day.
10. Sneak in a 15-20 minute nap
A quick nap is the most common ways of fighting afternoon sleepiness- and with great reason.
There’s some good scientific evidence out there supporting its effectiveness, one of these studies demonstrated that afternoon naps improved alertness while decreasing fatigue and sleepiness in night shift workers. Another study showed the same results for people with normal sleep-wake cycles.
If your job doesn’t allow you to sneak in a nap at your desk, you can try going to your car for a quick 15 to 20-minute nap. It’s important to keep the nap under 20 minutes, otherwise, you might wake up feeling groggy and even less motivated to do work.
11. Chew some caffeine gum
This tactic is one that I use rather frequently, and with good reason.
Whereas caffeine gum hasn’t been around for too, it has been gaining widespread popularity due to some of the major gum companies deciding to join the market.
I first got introduced to caffeine gum when I tried Alert Energy Gum during a long trip across the state of South Carolina where I kept falling asleep.
After chewing just one piece of gum, the results were quickly noticeable.
The mint flavor helped give me an initial rush of wakefulness. After about 15 minutes, I started feeling some of the caffeine kick in. As I kept driving, I noticed I was no longer sleepy.
Looks like the gum did its trick!
From then on, I always made sure to keep two packs of Alert Gum with me: one in the car’s glove box and the other in my office drawer.
I suggest chewing on a piece after lunch. This will help keep you awake while freshening your breath and allowing the caffeine to do its work. The fact that each piece has about half a cup of coffee means that one or two pieces should be more than enough to keep afternoon sleepiness at bay.
However, before you even think about trying out this gum, there are a few things you should know which might make it or break it for you. Check out my full review of Alert Caffeine Gum before trying it out.
12. Turn up the volume
Staying awake may be as simple as plugging in some headphones and playing some tunes. Try making a playlist on Spotify or YouTube of some of your favorite energizing tunes.
I do suggest picking a music genre that is upbeat and energizing. For example, as much as I enjoy the sophistication and refinement of classical music, to me, it’s a better sleep aid than any prescription drug in the market. I personally prefer listening to some fast-paced rap, hip hop, pop, or rock.
13. Avoid high glycemic carbs during lunch
Ever notice how afternoon sleepiness seems to reach new heights on days when you have white rice for lunch?
The reason is that white rice is a high glycemic carb. As previously mentioned, this means your body breaks it down quickly and gets a nice boost of energy from it. Unfortunately, this nice boost of energy quickly dissipates before your sugar levels crash and leave you more tired than ever.
Consuming fats like avocados or proteins with carbs will lower their glycemic index value because proteins and fats take longer to digest. This allows for the carb to be converted to energy more slowly and the crash to decrease.
For your reference, here are some common low glycemic carbs you can go for which will help you avoid crashing after lunch:
- Corn tortilla
- Brown pasta
14. Listen and laugh with a podcast
Laughing makes everything better, and that includes afternoon tiredness. It also has the nice added benefit of making the day go by faster.
Schedule low intensity, mindless tasks for the early afternoon. Then put on your headphones or speakers and check out some funny podcasts, radio shows, or stand up shows to get the fun going. Here is a list of funny podcasts to get you going:
- Anna Faris Is Unqualified
- My Dad Wrote A Porno
- Adam Carolla Show
- WTF With Marc Maron
PS- Just try to avoid laughing frantically in the office or your co-workers might think you’ve lost it…
15. Drink more water
Water is the most essential part of the bodies energy producing activities. So to speak, it is the canvas where all metabolic activities occur. That being said, it’s a good idea to keep a bottle of water handy at all times and drink throughout the course of the day.
If you’re wondering how much water you need to be drinking on a daily basis, check out Healthline’s post for a nice guide. For a rule of thumb, adult males should be drinking about 13 cups of water a day, while adult females should be drinking around 9 cups.
16. Take a whiff of cinnamon or eucalyptus
Both cinnamon and eucalyptus are known for their energizing and invigorating scent. Place a few drops of cinnamon or eucalyptus essential oil in a small tissue and take a sniff as you’re doing your work. This will help you feel more awake and can even help with sinuses if you’re ever feeling under the weather.
Another effective approach is getting a diffuser for your office and putting a few drops of cinnamon or eucalyptus essential oil inside. As the aroma diffuses, you’ll find the room to feel a bit more uplifting and motivating.
17. Add some plant life to your desk
Having plants in the office is a great way to add life to the room. Plus they’ve also been shown to correlate with an increase in work satisfaction and productivity.
For those out there that don’t have any windows in their office, first of all, my sincerest condolences. I didn’t have any windows in my second job and it definitely felt like a cage of boring doom. Second, having plants in the office can help you feel better as it subconsciously reminds you that there is a life outside of work as well.
Just make sure to get a plant that can survive in low lighting, as I imagine a room full of dead plants will only make things worse.
18. Make your desk less boring
It’s an inevitable thing to get less inspired and motivated the more tired we are.
To prevent the sleepiness from getting the best of your work, it can help to create an engaging workspace. Add photos, posters, desk games, decorations and other things to keep your workspace stimulating. For a few genius ideas, check out this list of 20 mesmerizing desk toys that are sure to keep you entertained at work.
19. Clean your workspace
If you’re looking for a way to stay productive while being sleepy, cleaning up your desk might be the way to go.
Most people have unnecessary documents and things on their desk that should’ve been tossed or put away a long time ago. If you fall into this group, the best times to do some housekeeping are when you don’t feel like doing anything else i.e. in the early post-lunch afternoon.
The great thing about cleaning up your desk is that you can always do it no matter how sleepy you may feel. It generally requires you to stand up, which helps you stay awake as well.
Once you’re finished cleaning, you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of peace at knowing that everything is in its right place.
20. Plan out your week
Planning is one of the first steps to accomplishing your goals over time. It requires thinking about what your priorities are and where you’ll be at in the future. It’s a rather engaging task and so it can help you stay awake while you’re hammering it out.
Spending a few minutes planning out your week will keep you accountable to completing your tasks and make you a better worker overall. You can use a phone application or go old school with a pen and paper to make a to-do list of all the things that need to get done by the end of the week.
21. Try an energy drink
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m personally not a fan of energy drinks as they’re not exactly the healthiest drink options out there, plus caffeinated drinks tend to work well enough for me.
However, if you don’t have anything against energy drinks or desperately need a boost of energy to make the deadline for a project then an energy drink might be the best option for you.
They have the benefit of providing a great boost of energy that arrives pretty quickly after you’ve begun taking the drink. This makes them especially alluring for people feeling sleepy while driving long distances.
22. Splash some cold water on your face
Take a trip to the restroom and leave the faucet running in cold water for a while. Cup your hands and pour some water there. Then proceed to splash some on your face.
Feeling awake yet?
Cold water helps you feel awake and refreshed. By the time you’re done with your rejuvenating session and sit back in your desk, you’ll be feeling a lot less tired and more prepared to keep working.
23. Slap yourself, but not in public, please
This one is more of an emergency tactic. I’ve personally had to use it a few times and it’s not very fun…
When falling asleep, try slapping your self relatively hard but not so hard that it leaves a mark. The pain is sure to wake you up and have you stay alert and focused.
You might be asking how it’s possible to carry on with slapping yourself when you know that it’ll hurt. The answer is that it’s easier than it might seem at first. You’ll find that the frustration and anger at not being able to stay awake can be channeled into a nice slap in the face.
Just make sure not to slap yourself in public, or your co-workers might think you’ve finally lost it.
24. Suck on ice
The cold temperature of the ice is stimulating and helps stop sleepiness.
When the slump starts kicking in, try having a cup of ice with some water and sucking on the ice. You’ll find it much more difficult to fall into afternoon sleepiness while doing this.
Additionally, ice has zero calories and so you don’t have to worry about gaining weight from consuming it. Feel free to have as much as you want!
25. Open your mouth
As weird and arbitrary as this tactic might sound, it actually works for lots of people out there.
Next time you’re feeling sleepy, try opening your mouth as if you were going to take a bite of food. Now, leave it open in that position.
If you’re like many people out there, you might notice that it’s actually pretty difficult to fall asleep with your mouth open. This is pretty convenient to know, as you can much more easily keep your mouth open than your eyelids when you’re sleepy.
26. Eye drops
Hand down, the most annoying aspect of afternoon sleepiness is not being able to keep your eyelids from closing. Eye drops can help with this.
Try using over the counter eye drops. Add one or two drops to each eye; you’ll quickly feel more refreshed and awake.
That being said, I suggest using this method sparingly because using eye drops too frequently can mess with your body’s ability to produce its own lubrication and can lead to dry eyes.
27. Tabasco eyes
Warning: be very careful with this one.
This technique has been used by service members in the military as one of the last resort options when struggling to stay awake in the earliest moments of the morning.
Take a small amount of Tabasco sauce and place it on your fingertips. Proceed to rub the area under your eyes with some of the sauce. You’ll feel a slight burning sensation from the hot sauce vapors that’ll be sure to help you beat afternoon sleepiness.
This might go without saying, but please, don’t even think about putting this stuff in your eyes. No matter how sleepy you might be, there are better options out there.
28. Pinch yourself
Few things are as effective at keeping people awake as pain.
Pinching yourself, though painful, is another last resort way of beating the afternoon slump and staying awake. The rush from the pain will jolt your body into staying awake.
Try pinching yourself around your knees closer to the anterior hamstring area. You can also try the forearms. Basically anywhere where you’d get a lot of sensation from pinching would work.
29. Turn those lights up
I’ll be the first one to admit how much I love the nice and calm ambiance that dim lights create in a room. However, when you’re trying to do work during those post-lunch hours, it can do more harm than good.
Turning the lights up might feel a bit annoying when you’ve gotten used to dimmer lights, but I can guarantee that it’ll make a difference in your level of fatigue and tiredness.
30. Follow proper sleep hygiene practices
Sun Tzu, writer of the classic book “The Art of War” wrote: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”
Not a more applicable quote to afternoon sleepiness has ever been written…
Think about it. If you can win the war before it even starts, you’ve just saved yourself a whole lot of energy and ruin. You don’t have to worry about the battlefield because there is no need for a battle anymore!
In our battle against afternoon sleepiness, our enemy is a powerful one. Once the battle starts and you begin feeling sleepy, the enemy already has the upper hand. As a result, it’s best to fight the enemy by preventing yourself from feeling sleepy in the first place.
This is where following proper sleep hygiene practices come into play.
When I say sleep hygiene, I’m talking about doing the things that are necessary for you to get good sleep while avoiding detrimental sleep habits. Things like avoiding heavy meals at night, following a proper sleep schedule, etc.
We’ve prepared a list of all the different sleep hygiene practices you should follow to avoid feeling sleepy in the first place. You’ll notice that once you start following these tips, you will feel more rested and less prone to afternoon sleepiness.
Battling afternoon sleepiness is a common but difficult endeavor. However, rejoice in knowing that being armed with these new tools against post-lunch sleepiness, you’re now a force to be reckoned with.
That being said, note that it’s possible that daytime sleepiness may be a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder. Treating the sleep disorder itself will often stop you from feeling sleepy at all during the day and add benefits to your overall health.
Related: Millions and millions of people in the U.S. have at least one of these 5 extremely common sleep disorders.
Please leave a comment below with your own tips and tricks for staying awake. Also, remember to share this post with other friends on social media if it has been helpful for you.