How to Feel More Awake When Tired (13 Easy Tips)
Good morning (or afternoon… or evening), Sunshine! Are you feeling wide awake and bushy-tailed?
No? Not even close?
You’re definitely not alone. Many of us find our energy levels lag, even right after waking up. And some of us feel exhausted throughout the day. Nobody’s got time for that! If you’re looking for how to feel more awake in the morning and throughout your busy day, you don’t need to reach for another double espresso, chai tea, or energy drink. In fact, feeling more awake may be even easier than you think.
How to Feel More Awake When Tired
1. Start the Night Before
We all have nights when we toss and turn or get woken up unexpectedly and find it difficult to fall back asleep. It happens. But it shouldn’t happen every night or even often.
One of the most important things you can do to not only feel more awake during the day but to live a healthier, more vibrant life is to establish a healthy sleep routine. As obvious as it may seem, many of us neglect our sleep hygiene and still wonder why we don’t have enough energy the next day.
To ensure you get enough quality sleep each night:
- Avoid stimulants in the afternoon and evening—that includes caffeinated beverages as well as late-night workouts, large meals, or intense conversations, exciting books, or TV programs that get your mind racing.
- Create a sleep schedule, and stick to it.
- Turn down the lights—one hour before bedtime, turn off the screens and dim the lights, changing to more yellow and amber lights and getting rid of bright or blue lights.
- Adjust the temperature to around 67 degrees (if possible).
- Warm your body by taking a hot bath, shower, or sauna, or perhaps putting on some warm, cozy (but breathable) loungewear.
- Skip the booze—while it may help you relax and fall asleep, it disrupts sleep quality, especially if you have more than one with dinner. (Consider trying magnesium and/or melatonin instead.)
- Slow your thoughts—try meditation, gentle yoga, stretching, or deep breathing to calm the mind and body and better prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep. This can also help reduce stress levels during the day, which can leave you feeling drained.
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just lead to difficulty staying awake during the day, it has negative effects on performance, attention, memory, concentration, mood, sex drive, balance, and immunity. It can also increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease. 1, 2
2. Reassess Your Alarm
Why do so many alarm makers create such jarring contraptions? Who wants to wake up to a blaring, annoying sound? If you find that these types of alarms work for you, great, I guess. But if you don’t like being startled and annoyed first thing, then choose a more gradual wake-up.
For example, you can use your smartphone settings to wake you up slowly. You can use an app to start playing gentle sounds as you naturally wake based on your sleep state. You can also get an alarm clock that starts lighting up your room about an hour before it’s time to get up to mimic the natural sunrise. Many also gently add nature sounds to help peacefully ease you into the morning if you need a little more help to get you out of bed.
And what about the snooze button? Skip it. According to the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, if we wake up and then fall back asleep even for just a few minutes, we tend to be far groggier, which can snowball into feeling sluggish and just off the rest of the day.
If you tend to hit snooze regularly, set the alarm clock across the room from you rather than at your bedside, so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Once you’re up, you might as well…
3. Let the Sunshine In
You want to sleep in a dark, cool room, but once morning arrives, it’s time to fling open the curtains, shades, or blinds and let in the light. Even better, head outside into the bright morning as our bodies use sunlight to signal that it’s time to wake up.
If possible, go outside to take in the morning light for 10 minutes to an hour. If that isn’t possible, sit next to a window or use full-spectrum indoor lights. This is crucial for ensuring the circadian rhythm or the body’s master clock stays on time, so we’re tired at night and awake during the day.
4. Set Positive Intention for Your Day
Once you’re vertical, or at least sitting up in bed, one of the simplest ways to set your day up for success is to start by setting your intention. According to behavioral scientist BJ Fogg, beginning the day with this two-second habit can have astounding effects on not just your day but your entire life.
Even just saying (out loud), “Today is going to be a great day” as you step out of bed or open your curtains reminds you to look for what’s working and, therefore, what you have to be grateful for. Starting with positive expectations can immediately lift your energy levels and mood.
5. Make Your Bed
There are arguments both for and against making the bed in the morning. But one great reason to make the bed is because it can actually help you feel more awake. After opening up the blinds and setting your intention, doing a simple task that gets the body moving and requires just a touch of coordination can help the brain and body wake up. Plus, it’s one of the easiest ways to motivate you to do more, and it takes mere minutes.
It can also help prevent you from deciding to snooze for just a few more minutes, which may lead to greater stress and fatigue during the day due to the disruption in the natural sleep cycle. That’s according to researchers at the Cleveland Clinic.
6. Stay Hydrated
One often-forgotten reason we lose energy throughout the day is simply because we’re not drinking enough water. Start filling your cup and quenching your thirst first thing in the a.m. And then keep a water bottle with you to sip on throughout the day to top off your fluid levels.
7. Chill Out
Anytime during the day, cold water can help you come alive. Whether it’s by drinking some ice-cold water, rinsing off your face with a splash of cold water, or jumping into a cold shower, the cold can boost all of your senses. You can even just turn down the temperature in the room. A temperature of 68 degrees or slightly below can help you stay more alert, so you don’t start dozing off during the day.
Drinking cold water has been shown to not only help hydrate the body but alter the brain and stimulate the metabolism. 3 And even a 30-second blast of cold water before you leave the shower can boost overall alertness and increase breathing and heart rate. Especially if you struggle to wake up in the morning, this little tip may not be easy, but it can be well worth it.
If, however, that’s too big of a shock when you first wake up, others suggest showering in water that’s as cold as you can handle (lukewarm?) for as long as you can take it (5 seconds?). You can always progress to longer and colder showers if you find it helps you feel more energized.
8. Make a Move
Want to feel more energized fast? One of the best things you can do is exercise, especially in the a.m. Those who make the effort to exercise in the morning report feeling more awake and alive, having more concentration as well as improved mood and greater productivity. Even just a few minutes of light cardio—such as a short 15 to 20-minute walk—can wake up the brain within the first few minutes. It also releases endorphins to help enhance mood and decrease levels of stress and pain. 4
If you find yourself dragging later in the day, take another walk. Especially for desk workers who become fatigued by sitting and staring at a screen, it’s easy to start feeling sluggish. A quick walk can help you wake up, boost your mood, and return to full productivity any time. 5 For an even better boost, invite a coworker to walk with you to brainstorm an issue or just enjoy a few minutes of conversation.
If the weather or your location isn’t conducive to taking a walk, you still have plenty of other options. For example, you can do a little deskercise like jumping jacks, squats, desk pushups, or desk stretches. You can also walk the stairs or take the long way to a coworker’s location.
Or, if you have a gym nearby, get on the elliptical, bike, rowing machine, or treadmill for a few. Or, enjoy a full workout with weights to really get your blood flowing and your brain pumping.
The point is to just do something—even if it’s only for five minutes—to energize your brain and body.
9. Enjoy Some Chit-Chat
Even without the walk, taking a few minutes to socialize with a friendly coworker can restore productivity levels and help prevent brain fatigue. Take a few minutes to play a game, enjoy a shared lunchtime, or just chat in the breakroom to build a better bond and lift each other up. As a bonus, employees that enjoy a friendlier atmosphere are happier and more productive and have less workplace conflict. 6
Even if you’re working alone, it can help to take a break during the day. Stand up and stretch, call a friend, or just look out the window and enjoy the view for a few moments to allow your brain and eyeballs to relax.
10. Shift Your Focus
If you spend a lot of time focusing on one single project, your brain can get tired and distracted, so you lose attention. If you find you can no longer focus, shift your attention to something else. Even a short break to work on a different task can renew your energy level.
11. Lighten Up Your Lunch
On a hectic day, especially if you’re feeling depleted, it can be easy to grab the most convenient option available. But a heavy lunch (e.g., fast-food burger and fries, pizza, or pre-made sandwich) can weigh you down with excess carbs, sugars, and refined fats, so you’re sluggish and sleepy the rest of the afternoon.
Changing up your lunch routine to focus on quality proteins, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits can help you power through a busy day feeling lighter and more energetic. Pack your own homemade healthy lunch like a bento box, salad, or meal-prepped to-go option, or make a smarter choice at your local fast-food joint to keep you going strong throughout the day.
Replacing the refined ingredients with plenty of nutrients from real, whole foods is a great way to promote long-lasting energy.
12. Nap When Necessary
If you just can’t keep your eyes open, a quick power nap can do wonders. In just 10 to 20 minutes, you can fill up your body’s battery to stay charged for the rest of the day. You may even want to give a coffee nap a try. Just avoid napping for more than 30 minutes or after 3 p.m., so you don’t throw off your normal nighttime sleep schedule.
13. Practice Self-Care
If you’ve been pushing yourself, dealing with deadlines, or burning that candle, no wonder you feel tired and burned out. Self-care can help fill up your cup to help increase energy and vitality, so you’re better able to take on life’s challenges. So, take some time out for yourself! Self-care isn’t an unnecessary indulgence; it’s a necessity, especially if you want to live your best life.
How to Feel More Awake: A Wrap-Up
There’s nothing wrong with reaching for a cup of coffee (up to three) or tea to give your brain and body a boost. In fact, coffee and tea both offer big benefits, including a nice boost of energy. But if you’re relying on caffeine instead of addressing the underlying reasons you’re fatigued, you could be setting yourself up for a big crash. Worse, you could be covering underlying health issues like sleep apnea, anemia, thyroid issues, diabetes, or depression.
All of us struggle to stay awake after a rough night’s sleep. But if you’re chronically tired, burning the candle at both ends, or constantly reaching for a caffeine or sugar pick me up, only to feel tired yet wired, you’re bound to run yourself into the ground. Use the tips above to help you feel more awake. And if that doesn’t work, reach out to your preferred health practitioner to help you address any underlying health issues.