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How To Stay Awake When You’re Feeling Sleepy

How To Stay Awake When You’re Feeling Sleepy

We all know it’s important to try and achieve seven to eight hours of sleep every night, but for most of us, this isn’t always possible. Whether you’re getting used to a new shift at work, or you’ve been dealing with a stressful week that’s been keeping you up, learning how to manage the fatigue and exhaustion that comes naturally with poor sleep is important. So how to stay awake when everything around you begins to resemble your bed?

Here are a few top tips for learning how to wake yourself up on days when that can feel extra difficult. From nailing the art of a midday nap, to being strategic about when you time your coffee, here’s everything you need to know about how to stay awake and alert when you’re feeling sleepy:

Tip #1 - Choose coffee over energy drinks to keep going

If you’re struggling to stay awake at work or throughout the day when you need to be alert, it’s tempting to reach for an energy drink to perk up. Though they might have a short-term impact, energy drinks are actually full of sugars, and have unnaturally high doses of caffeine, which can cause side effects such as anxiety, shakiness, and energy crashes that will exacerbate your condition.

When you’re trying to work out how to stay awake, remember you’re also going to want to focus on building healthy sleep habits that will prevent you from being sleep-deprived in the future. Instead of trying to get all your energy from one large dose of caffeine, sipping on smaller amounts of coffee throughout your morning or ingesting milder forms of caffeine in the form of caffeinated gum or pills can be a much more effective way of staying awake.

Tip #2 - Try to squeeze in a midday power nap

Try to squeeze in a midday power nap | Puffy

The most important thing to remember about naps is that you should never take more than one, and you should try to avoid taking one too close to your bedtime. Anywhere between five to twenty-five minutes is said to be an optimal time for a power nap.

Napping when you’re trying to figure out how to stay awake might seem counterintuitive, but it’s easier than you might imagine.

That little extra boost of sleep can make it easier to stay focused and keeps you energized. In one 2019 study published by the Frontiers in Physiology journal, researchers found that people who nap as little as 25 minutes perform better on five-mile runs than those who stay awake through the day.

Tip #3 - Stay exposed to light and take walks

Learning about the circadian rhythm is an essential part of figuring out how to stay awake when you’re tired. Your circadian rhythm, also known as your internal body clock, is particularly sensitive to light. This is how our body knows to wind down in the nighttime, and why you might find yourself waking up without an alarm clock when the sun is out.

If you work in a naturally dim corner of the office, try and get up and take a walk around every once in a while, exposing yourself to some natural light when possible.

In one study, researchers instructed volunteers to either eat a candy bar or walk briskly for 10 minutes, asking them to rate their levels of energy afterward. Though the candy bar had a positive impact in the short term, the ten-minute walk led to sustained and more long-term spikes in energy.

Tip #4 - Switch activities often

Switch activities often | Puffy

One of the natural side effects of sleep deprivation is an inability to focus on a single task for extended periods of time. Breaking larger projects into smaller tasks, and working on them one at a time can help you use your limited attention span as effectively as possible.

What’s more, when you shift between tasks that require different parts of your brain to be activated, then you’ll find it’s a lot easier to work in shifts rather than try and do something more complex that requires more prolonged attention. Try to use days where you’re experiencing lower energy to clear tasks from your list that won’t take up a whole lot of time.

Still trying to figure out how to stay awake in between your tasks? Try going for a little walk in between your tasks, or drinking a glass of water to keep your energy levels consistent.

Tip #5 - Have a healthy snack

Having a strategically timed snack can prolong how long you’re awake and keep you feeling alert well into the day, and is a core strategy for anyone who’s figuring out how to stay awake. Instead of choosing high-sugar, high-calorie snacks, opt for something healthy that’s going to release energy in slow bursts.

Some examples of healthy snacks include nuts, fruits such as bananas or apples, baby carrots with cheese, or peanut butter on a slice of toast. Stay away from chocolate bars, soda, and other types of candy.

Tip #6 - Build a sleep hygiene routine that works for you

Build a sleep hygiene routine that works for you | Puffy

The most obvious way you can ensure you’re able to learn how to stay awake and alert throughout the day is simply by prioritizing a good night’s sleep. Here are a few ways you can almost instantly improve your sense of sleep hygiene:

  • Find the most comfortable mattress for a good night’s sleep. So many people sleep on old mattresses or beds that just aren’t a right fit for their comfort. The best mattresses offer a good balance of support and coziness for a truly restful night’s sleep.
  • Set a bedtime and stick to it. To keep your sleep schedule in check, it’s important to try and stay consistent with your bedtime. Going to sleep at the same time every night allows your body to naturally prepare itself for a good night’s sleep.
  • Stay away from your phone and other devices when you’re winding down. The blue light present in your phones, laptop, and other devices can actually deeply disrupt your circadian rhythm, making it harder to wind down when it’s time to go to bed.

Learning how to sleep in a way that leaves you feeling well-rested and energized for the day saves you the trouble of working out how to stay awake through tired slumps.


When you’re able to work out how to sleep properly, it can go a long way in preventing you from having to figure out how to stay awake through exhaustion. That being said, we all find ourselves in the position of having to stay awake through a tiring day.

When that’s the case, these tips can help. With proper attention to your sleep hygiene habits, the most comfortable bed for your sleep position, and the occasional espresso, you’ll find tired days will soon be a thing of the past.

Your Turn...

Do you find the tips very helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.

Certified Sleep Science Coach

Written by Teresa Francis, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Teresa Francis is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and full-time writer focused on well-being and sleep health. She’s written on a variety of topics, from what’s trending in bedroom decor to the way lifestyle influences sleep. Some of the subject areas she covers for Puffy include the best foods for better sleep, how new parents can catch up on rest, and the best way to become a morning person. Teresa has a Master’s Degree in Literature, and has always believed in the power of a good bedtime story.

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