How to Stay Awake at Work When You Are Really Tired

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We all know the feeling. Monday morning. Stayed up too late the night before. Can’t keep your eyes open at the desk. This post will look at some practical ways to stay awake and on task at work when you are really tired.

Tackling the Cause

First of all it is important to establish why we are tired. The reason for this is simple – if we know why we are tired at work we can change that one factor so that we aren’t ever in that situation again. For example, if you have a television show you like to watch that goes really late you can tape it instead of staying up.

Some common causes for tiredness in the workplace are:

– staying up too late
– bad diet
– too much or too little exercise
– caffeine addiction
– alcohol abuse
– poor sleeping patterns (bed/wake up time changes)
– disturbed sleep (noise, snoring partner, etc.)
– etc.

As you can see, altering these causes will change the result the next day. If you get a good sleep you might not be tired.

However, that doesn’t always work.

How to stay awake and on task at work when you’re already tired

stay awake at work

So now we are in the situation where it is too late to look at the cause – you are already at work and you are already tired. In this situaiton you should try one (or some!) of the following ideas:

1. Go buy some fruit

Fruit is an excellent food for giving you fast energy but without making you crash. Foods high in refined sugar like Coke, candy, etc. will perk you up for a few minutes but you will be right back down again before you know it. Try eating a few pieces of fruit every 30 minutes or snacking on grapes constantly.

Don’t worry, it won’t make you fat and it is very good for you.

2. Drink water

Dehydration is actually a big cause of tiredness. After a big run I often feel tired because I am low on fluids. Try filling up a big bottle and sipping on it until you feel refreshed again. There are also multiple office water cooler solutions to help you stay hydrated at work. Quite often this is all I need to wake up

3. Turn on the cooling

If you really need to stay awake to work on an important project you can always point the fan right in your face and set it on high! Cold air keeps your body’s heating system cranking and you will shiver yourself awake.

4. Drink your tea and coffee

Okay, like you hadn’t already thought of this. If you hadn’t thought to have a cup of coffee you are probably going to be out of the job soon anyway!

However, coffee is a bad solution because it is addictive. If you NEED a coffee to start your day, you are not creating a healthy system for yourself. If you have to have one or the other it is better to go for a nice Chinese Green Tea as this has many health benefits.

stay awake at work
Try and ditch the black coffee and grab an iced green tea instead

5. Walk or run up the stairs

Getting your heart rate up is a really good way to wake yourself up. It gets your blood pumping and your breath racing. Your mind tends to go into exercise mode everytime your heart rate elevates and this will wake you up significantly.

6. Breathe deeply

In traditional Buddhist practice, it is said that you need to breathe deep into your stomach instead of the top half of your lungs. Doing this has a calming effect but it can also serve to wake your mind up as it gets you focussed on something internal. Every time you feel yourself slipping away into the deep abyss of sleepiness try and bring your mind back to your deep breathing.

7. Listen to jazz

Jazz is disjointed. It moves all over the place. It doesn’t seem to have any common thread. It wakes you up. Of course, I am now going to get emails from jazz fans saying “You don’t know what you’re on about!” but that is beside the point. Jazz and anything boppy is a good way to wake up a sleepy mind.

8. Go outside into the fresh air

Sometimes sitting in a warm office with a comfortable chair, flickering computer screen and a gentle whisper of talking workmates is enough to send anyone to sleep. Go outside and breathe in some of the fresh air for a few minutes. If I am honest, this is probably the number one way I wake myself up.

stay awake at work
Fresh air is an excellent way to help you stay awake

9. Focus on helping others

If you can bring back some meaning by focussing on benefitting others in your 9 to 5 you will actually become a lot more focused. Instead of thinking about why your job sucks try to think of how you are making a difference.


As I mentioned, tackling the causes is much better than dealing with the result. If you can figure out why you are tired you might have a lot better results than if you just try to fight it when it happens.

Anyone got any other tips?

12 thoughts on “How to Stay Awake at Work When You Are Really Tired

  1. im so tired and unprepared for this presentation – all the pretty girls are going to hate me and think im stupid. my stupid father is the only one i can talk to and lately he is pissing me off, my heart yearns for someone who isnt even remotely interested in me, how did i allow this to happen. and all i want to do is sleep and watch chick flicks and rest and slouch around and enjoy peace and quiet in my own company and look now im exhausted.

  2. The only tip that you need is to learn how to budget your time. Without you being able to manage your working schedule properly, you’ll definitely experience a lot of mishaps, especially being tired and sleepy at work.

  3. I have tried several of these and they don’t work for me. Being cold only makes me want to be warmer and having had hypothermia, I can tell you being cold – you don’t stay awake.
    Had fruit, tried drinking water, sit in front of the main door – so i stay cold, had coffee, now tea and had two glasses of water – not working.

    I think sleepiness can be a direct result of medications a person is taking. So what do you do about that? I take an anxiety medication and it makes me tired and sleepy. I can’t always take 5-hour energy because it interferes with my inhaler. So although these tips may work for some – what can you offer the rest of us!

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