How to stay awake at work

WHEN you’re working hard and juggling social engagements throughout the week, often it gets to the point when something has to give. All too often, that thing is sleep. When was the last time you got a solid eight and a half hours? When it comes to staying healthy and performing well, the importance of catching a decent amount of shut-eye cannot be overstated. If you’re not sleeping, chances are your work will suffer. Here we present our top tips for staying awake while working long hours (and guess what, it doesn’t include drinking coffee)...

Get a good night’s sleep
It may sound like stating the bleeding obvious but studies suggest a massive proportion of workers aren’t getting the recommended seven to nine hours. An American study by the Centre for Disease Control found more than 40m workers get under six hours’ sleep per night – that’s nearly a third of the country’s civilian workforce. Working longer hours makes it tempting to salvage extra “me time” by staying up later, but if you get to bed before twelve you’re more likely to be productive the following day. Then you can get out earlier and have more hours to yourself without eating away at the time you should be spending in bed.

Cut down on sugar
Many people testify to experiencing the “three o’clock slump”; the time near the middle of the afternoon when skipping across the road for triple espresso is the only thing that will stop your head thudding against the desk. This is the result of your blood sugar levels crashing back down to earth after the boost provided by lunch. You’ll be particularly susceptible if you eat chocolate or sweets but eating lots of bread has the same effect, as carbohydrates turn to sugar as you digest them. To stay alert throughout the day, have a soup or a salad instead of that baguette, and save dessert till after dinner.

Taking a stroll outside is a two pronged attack against drowsiness. First of all, exercise is invigorating – to stay mentally fresh you need to keep the blood circulating. Then there’s daylight. Your body’s circadian rhythm (its internal clock) is regulated through exposure to sunlight. Spending long stretches of time indoors tricks your body into thinking it is nighttime, making it difficult to resist nodding off, so a brisk walk outside is the perfect way to stay perky.

In 2005, researchers at the University of Michigan taught students how to self-administer acupressure treatment, finding that their alertness and energy levels increased significantly after employing the ancient technique. To self-administer, simply apply pressure for six minutes to the top of the head, the back of the neck, the back of the hands, below the knees or below the balls of the feet. There must be something to it if it’s been going for 5,000 years.

Take a power nap
Can it ever be a good thing to sleep on the job? Google and Procter & Gamble certainly think so. They’re just two of the companies who have turned to sleep pods to help keep employees awake and efficient during the day. As long as it’s no longer than half an hour – more than that and you’ll wake up more tired than when you went to sleep – studies have shown that a power nap is the best and healthiest way of promoting wakefulness during the day. Unlike drinking caffeine or snacking, the boost isn’t followed by an almighty crash.