How to Fight Sleepiness

Being sleepy is fine last thing at night but it’s not what you want when you’re in a boring meeting or when you’re on a date and trying to impress. It’s certainly not what you want when you’re driving and nor is it what you want when you’re supposed to be waking up first thing in the morning…

In any of these cases then it is important to be able to wake yourself back up and to put a spring in your step and fortunately there are several ways that you can do just that. At the same time it’s also important to try and avoid getting that way in the first place – and to live life in such a way that you don’t find yourself nodding off at every opportunity or struggling to keep your eyes open. Here we will look at how to do both.

How to Wake Yourself Up


The most obvious way to get yourself to liven up is with a good old cup o’ Jo. Caffeine helps to trigger the fight or flight response and this wakes you up while at the same time it also increases your metabolism so that your heart is pumping faster and you are generally more switched on. It’s been shown to help improve concentration, attention span, reflexes and recall and is the way most of us like to wake up in the morning. It’s also addictive however, and can cause headaches, jitters and difficulty sleeping – so it’s not necessarily the best way to wake yourself up and it’s best not to rely on it.


Guarana provides you with an alternative to caffeine which is longer lasting and won’t cause jitters or sleeping problems. It is often found in energy bars and drinks, however it can also be taken separately as a tablet supplement.


Splashing some cool water on your face can be a great way to wake yourself up and to spark yourself out of a dozy mood. It will make you feel fresher and cool your face down encouraging blood flow. Head to the sink in the public toilets and splash some on your face – great for sobering up too and not bad for your complexion either.

Of course if you want to really wake yourself up then you should take an entirely cold shower. Many people swear by this first thing in the morning and use it as a way to get themselves ready for the day. It’s a bit unpleasant though so not for everyone!


One of the very best and underrated ways to wake yourself up is to do some exercise. This gets the right hormones and chemicals pumping and at the same time it encourages blood flow and again increases your metabolism. You’d think exercise would make you tireder due to the exertion, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth.


Upbeat music also helps to wake you up and you will find that it increases your heart rate and your energy levels. Most effective is music actually that starts with a slow tempo and then gradually increases to wake you up.

Cool Air

In the car one of the best ways to wake yourself up is with a blast of fresh air – so open the window wide and let it hit your face and it will work the same way as that splash of cold water.

Power Nap

A power nap is something that divides opinion and it certainly won’t work for everyone – for some of us it actually makes us feel tireder. If you’re the sort who benefits from a power nap then this is a great way to wake yourself up – but make sure you keep it to under ten minutes if you don’t want to feel groggy.


Ever notice how in a crisis you never worry about feeling tired or needing the toilet? Ever notice how something shocking happening can cause you to immediately sober up? This is of course a survival trait and is again a result of the fight or flight response and adrenaline. At the same time though it also helps you to gear your brain up and if you’re interested in something then it causes you to ‘forget’ things like pain and tiredness. If you’ve been writing essays or doing data entry for the last two hours then you might be falling asleep as it can be brain numbing. Force yourself to wake up then by taking ten minutes out to do something that feels more exciting and interesting. That could be five minutes playing a game, or a quick episode of an action series. One of the very best ways to stimulate yourself though is with social interaction – so chatting by the water cooler isn’t really all bad.


The refreshing taste of mint can be enough to wake your brain up and get you feeling active and alert once again, so if you’re feeling lethargic just try chewing some minty gum and you will likely snap out of it.

Cognitive Restructuring

Sometimes you can feel tired for more psychosomatic reasons – and focusing on your tired state will only make you feel more tired. You need to make sure then that you put the tiredness to the back of your mind if you want to feel awake and alert. Cognitive restructuring is a method taught in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and involves changing your thoughts for more positive ones that in this case will make you feel more awake – for instance try repeating ‘I can sleep tonight’ or ‘I’ve had more than enough sleep’ as a mantra to keep yourself energetic rather than worrying about how little sleep you got the night before.

Get Sunlight

Sunlight is highly rejuvenating and if you’re feeling tired or rough then just getting your face in the sun and breathing some fresh air can help to invigorate many of us.

Preventing Tiredness

If your sleepiness is chronic then something isn’t going quite right and it’s important to make sure that you make some changes to try and wake yourself up. Here we will look at some further suggestions…

Get Yourself Checked Out

If your tiredness is serious and you’re not sure what’s causing it then there’s a good chance it’s a result of a health condition and it’s important to get this checked out. For instance anemia might make you tireder which is a condition where a lack of iron causes you to have fewer red blood cells in your blood and so less oxygen. Likewise if you have diabetes then your body won’t have the insulin it needs to be able to make the most of sugar in your blood, while hypothyroidism will cause your metabolism to slow down also causing tiredness. Get a blood test and your doctor might be able to identify just such a condition and can then treat this with medication or supplementation.

Depression can also cause tiredness and is one of the things your doctor is likely to bring up first. There are various treatments for depression but one of the most useful is the aforementioned cognitive restructuring – replacing your negative thoughts with upbeat ones and choosing to dwell only on the positive. When you feel happy, you’ll feel energetic.

Change Your Diet

What you eat greatly affects your energy levels and you need to think about fueling yourself with clean energy. That means complex carbs and fruit to give you energy, while avoiding simple carbs (sugar and cake) which cause energy spikes followed by intense lows. Meanwhile you should also aim to avoid fats which ‘clog up’ your system and leave deposits in your veins and arteries making it harder for blood to get around your system. Eat lots of fiber to keep cleaning yourself out and drink plenty of water and you will feel light and energetic at all times. Fruit is also great because it contains vitamins and minerals, many of which are important for our energy levels.


If your diet isn’t enough to help boost your energy then you might want to supplement with some energy supplements. Vitamin and mineral supplements can help to give you more energy, as can things like creatine which works to allow your body to recycle used ATP (AMP and ADP).

Sleep Better

How you sleep is very important for your general wakefulness for obvious reasons but it’s more complicated than just getting lots of sleep. Too much sleep for instance can make you feel groggy and be just as bad for you as not enough sleep. Try to make sure that you always get approximately eight hours and be motivated to get yourself up out of bed when you need to. Furthermore make sure that you stick to a good routine with sleep and your body will thank you for going to sleep at a set time each night and getting up at the right time too. Make sure that the environment you sleep in is dark and quiet and that you reserve it mostly for sleep – quality of sleep is as important as quality. Finally try to sync your natural body clock with the cycles of day and night so that your ‘internal pacemaker’ is synchronized with the ‘external zeitgebers’ – this avoids dissonance and helps your body to be awake when it needs to be. Using something like a daylight lamp, which wakes you with natural light, or just waking up with the curtains open are good ways to help achieve this.

Have a Good Morning Routine

Your morning will set the tone for the rest of the day. To make sure it is optimally productive, make sure that you wake early, eat a complex carb breakfast (such as Wheatabix), do some exercises or stretches to get the blood flowing then have a cool shower.

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