How to Stay Awake When You're Sleepy: 12 Steps

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How to Stay Awake When You're Sleepy: 12 Steps
How to Stay Awake When You're Sleepy: 12 Steps

When you start to feel tired, it's time to go to bed and sleep. Sometimes, however, it's necessary to stay awake, whether it's to work the night shift, go to an early class, or stay up in the morning having fun with friends. The first instinct may be to take caffeine, but that doesn't always work for everyone. Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to stay awake when you feel fatigued, and this article will teach you how to use them!


Part 1 of 5: Stimulating the Senses

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Step 1. The simplest way to stay awake is to stimulate your senses, and there are several ways to make your ears, eyes and even your nose “alert”

The more parts of the body that are active, the less chance of falling asleep. Here are some techniques:

  • Turn on as many lights as you can. If you are away from the switch, position yourself as close to a light source as possible.
  • Chew some gum or suck on a candy to keep your taste buds active.
  • Smell peppermint oil to alert your sense of smell.
  • If you can listen to music, put on jazz, hip-hop, rock or anything else that makes you more awake.
  • Give your eyes a rest, if they are burning, by looking at the wall or through the window.
  • Pour hot or cold water on your face.
  • Meditate sitting for 15 minutes.

Part 2 of 5: Keeping Your Body Alert

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Step 1. In addition to stimulating the senses, it is possible to “trick” the body, so that it interprets that it is more alert than you currently feel

Move around a little, touch your earlobes, and rub your hands together to feel more awake and active. Here are some things you can do:

  • Pour cold water on your face; if possible, keep your eyes open when doing this, being careful not to hurt them.
  • Gently pull the earlobes.
  • Pinch your forearm or the back of your knees.
  • Clench your fists and open your hand, repeating ten times.
  • Keep your feet touching the floor lightly.
  • Stretch wrists, arms and legs.
  • Move your shoulders.
  • Go out of the place and take a deep breath, filling your lungs with fresh air.
  • Massage your hands.
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Step 2. Keep your body active

You don't have to run a marathon to be active; a little physical exercise can make the body more alert. There are many ways to do this, even at school or at work; a few minutes of exercise can have a big impact on the body. Physical activity is a way of informing the body that it's not time to go to sleep yet. See what can be done:

  • Whenever you can, take a walk. At work, take the long way to the breakfast room, or go out and cross the street for a snack. The same goes for those who study; walk as far as possible to class, or take a little walk further along the way to reach the cafeteria.
  • Go upstairs instead of taking the elevator when possible. Unless you're heading to the 15th floor, taking the stairs will give you more energy than standing in the elevator, speeding up your heart rate and making you much more awake.
  • When you have time, take a ten-minute walk.
  • You may not be able to exercise by the time sleep sets in, but try to get into the habit of doing some physical activity on a regular basis for at least 30 minutes a day. Exercising daily has been shown to help keep your energy levels higher, keeping you alert.

Part 3 of 5: Changing Your Diet to Stay More Awake

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Step 1. Start your day with a healthy breakfast

Eat eggs, turkey breast and a light toast; if you prefer, try oats and yogurt. It is also important to add vegetables such as spinach, parsley or kale; if eating early isn't your thing, make a smoothie or buy one on your way to school or work.

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Step 2. Eat well

Eating the right foods can be helpful in increasing the body's energy level, making it more alert and giving you more “fuel” to stay active for a few hours. Eating the wrong foods can make you even more sleepy, with a feeling of bloating and fatigue, as if you haven't eaten. Here are the tips below to eat well, increase energy and not feel so tired:

  • Avoid foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates.
  • Avoid very large meals. Choose several smaller meals throughout the day, making small snacks when you feel hungry, without anything too heavy, such as starchy foods, high fat foods or alcohol. All of this makes the body tired due to the much more intense work that the digestive system will be subjected to.
  • Don't skip meals. Even when you feel very tired and the thought of eating doesn't seem very attractive, not eating will only make you even more fatigued.
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Step 3. Bring small snacks or protein-rich foods such as almonds or cashews

Fruits are also good options, since in addition to being healthy, they prevent you from falling into the temptation of eating something with a lot of sugar.

When hunger strikes, eat celery with peanut butter or yogurt

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Step 4. Drink caffeine if you really need it

Caffeine will undoubtedly help keep you awake, but if you overdo it or drink it too quickly, you'll get a headache and may feel even worse. Have a cup of green tea or coffee when needed; drink slowly so you don't feel bad or get an upset stomach.

  • There is also caffeine in dark chocolate.
  • Avoid energy drinks. Although they give you immediate energy, waking you up, they make your body tired in the long run, in addition to interfering with your ability to fall asleep, leading to a feeling of more fatigue the following night.
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Step 5. Drink plenty of cold water

Staying hydrated will keep you wide awake.

Part 4 of 5: Keeping your mind awake

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Step 1. There is no point in keeping the body alert if the mind is “erasing”

In order for her to always be active, you need to be always paying attention and thinking about what she is doing, whether talking to friends or listening to the teacher speak in class. See what can be done:

  • In the classroom, do your best to pay attention. Write down everything the teacher is saying and reread to maintain concentration; raise your hand if you have any doubts and answer the questions. The chance of feeling sleepy and falling asleep is much smaller if you are in the middle of a conversation with the teacher.
  • At work, discuss with a coworker some job-related task, or even another topic (if you're at lunch), like sports, politics, or your families.
  • At home, try calling a friend, writing an email, or listening to an interesting radio show or podcast to lose sleep.
  • Do another task. In order for the mind to be active, try to change your doings whenever possible. At school, it can be a simple change of pen or using a highlighter, or asking to go to the bathroom or drink water. At work, take a break from typing on your computer and start filing unnecessary documents or making copies of important ones.
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Step 2. Take a "power nap".

At home or at work, this five- to 20-minute nap can help give your body an “energized” so that it keeps functioning. Sleeping longer than that will only make you more tired for the rest of the day and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. Follow the guidelines below:

  • Find a comfortable place. If you're at home, the sofa is ideal; at work, recline your chair.
  • Minimize distractions. Turn off your cell phone, close the door, and do whatever it takes to let everyone around you know you're going to rest.
  • Upon awakening, take a deep breath and drink a glass of water and caffeine to feel energized. Take a three-minute walk to wake up your body.
  • If you're having trouble taking a nap, try installing a nap app on your smartphone, helping you fall asleep.
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Step 3. Keep looking for vibrant colors

Download an app that displays strong, bright colors to activate receptors in the brain, alerting you and keeping you awake. It's exactly for this reason that using tablets and smartphones before bed, for example, can interfere with the ability to sleep well.

Part 5 of 5: Changing Lifestyle Habits

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Step 1. Avoid future problems

The above tricks can help in difficult situations, but the best attitude is to develop a lifestyle that leads you to avoid any effort to stay awake (due to excessive tiredness). Some of them are:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day so that your body gets used to a routine, which is healthy.
  • Start the day right, taking correct measures in the morning, which will leave you alert and ready for the journey.
  • Be responsible. Don't stay up until 3am if you have to get up to study or work at 6am.
  • If you're tired from having been studying for an exam all night, try to make a schedule that will avoid having to “turn up” the night next time. Most people cannot retain information when exhausted.
  • Go to the doctor to check for any sleep disorders when the difficulty in falling asleep at night and staying awake during the day is too great.


  • Don't tell yourself you're just "closing your eyes." You will definitely fall asleep.
  • A cold bath will help your body wake up, while a hot shower will make you more sleepy. Get into the ice water to be more alert!
  • Don't lie down on anything that's too comfortable, like your bed, that chair you like, or a couch. Sit on a metal chair or even on the floor.
  • Do something that pleases you a lot. The more entertained you are, the less chance of falling asleep.
  • Do not read; that will only make the mind rest.
  • Grab your smartphone or tablet and enjoy your favorite game.
  • Take a snack; food stimulates the mind.
  • Eat fruit and drink cold water to feel more revitalized and alert.
  • Always try to keep a part of your body moving. Your mind will be "tricked" into thinking it needs to keep you awake.
  • Don't keep doing the same things, or you'll get bored and fall asleep.
  • When you're about to fall asleep, open your eyes as wide as possible and move your facial muscles.
  • When you start to yawn, drink a glass of ice water to wake up.


  • Do not look for flashing lights if you are susceptible to seizures.
  • If you are sleepy while driving, stop. Driving vehicles when you're about to fall asleep is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, and the consequences can be fatal.
  • Going without sleep for several nights in a row is very bad for your health. Depriving yourself of sleep can lead to hallucinations, dizziness, slurred speech and moodiness.
  • If you're having trouble falling asleep at night and can't stay awake during the day, see your doctor.

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