This is a guest post by Sarah Cummings from The Sleep Advisor.
The mid-week slump. We’ve all been there. Some of us even experience the midday slump, every single day. Really, it’s exhausting. And when we find ourselves drained of energy, sugar is often the first thing we turn to for a boost. That, or caffeine. And caffeine, while it may appear to be your secret weapon sometimes, is not your friend.
So here are a few ways to stay awake during the day…without the caffeine buzz.
Stay awake tip #1: Breathe deeply
It sounds simple because it is. How many times have you felt stressed out and found that simply taking a deep breath calmed you right down? Well, breath control has been used for centuries as a form of meditation, called pranayama, or ‘yogic breathing’. But its benefits in relation to our energy levels are now widely known. Simply put, pranayama increases the amount of oxygen in our blood – which gives us energy – while getting rid of carbon dioxide and other toxins more effectively.
The result? An instantaneous boost of vitality that’s far better than coffee!
There are several different exercises you can try but if you want a super-quick energy boost, the ‘bellow breath’ is your best bet.
Simply sit in a comfortable position and place your hand on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in; as you do so, feel your abdomen press out against your hand. (This means you’re breathing deeply from the diaphragm.) Now exhale in a short, sharp burst so that your stomach contracts. The following inhale should be without effort and silent. Every exhale thereafter should be forced and audible – so it’s as if your stomach is working as a bellow. Repeat this combination 30 times and then breathe normally.
Try this cycle 3 times when you first wake up to get that oxygen pumping, or at any time during the day when weariness kicks in. Note: If you feel light-headed at all during this practice, simply return to your normal breath. It can be pretty powerful the first few times!
And really, even taking a few deep, oxygen-filled breaths into those lungs can work wonders. Your mind will feel more focused, without the need for caffeine. Yay!
Stay awake tip #2: Get outside
So you’ve worked on your breathing. Great. But sometimes what you really need when you’re in that slump is a good ol’ dose of clean, fresh air. Obviously, this can be hard if you’re living in the city. But a little outside air is never that far away.
More and more people eat lunch at their desk. Which makes me sad. It really does. Because not only are you missing out on the great world out there, you’re seriously doing your health a disservice. Maybe you’re so busy that you can’t afford to take a break. Bummer. But trust me, even popping out of the office for a trip to the cash machine, or grocery store, or around the block can make a huge difference. The combination of fresh air and exercise could very well turn you into a new, more alert person in minutes! Just be careful that the purposeful stride you’re making isn’t towards the nearest Starbucks.
Stay awake tip #3: Eat right
There’s a reason why breakfast is called the most important meal of the day. It sets you up for whatever’s in store. And if you skip it, you’re already on the back foot. Fact.
On the other hand, having a sensible breakfast – especially a slow burning one like oatmeal – is guaranteed to keep you going for longer. Not just in terms of hunger levels, but in energy levels, too!
Then during the day, choose energy-producing snacks like chia seeds and almonds to fight off those caffeine cravings. Drinking plenty of water will keep your mind fresh, too – without being doomed to crash.
Kick the caffeine for good…and stay awake longer!
It might sound counter-intuitive but saying goodbye to caffeine really can improve your wakefulness over time. Because caffeine’s a bit of a frenemy, to be perfectly honest. It brings you up, it makes you feel great…and then BAM! Instant crash, moodiness and tiredness ensue. But once the physical cravings are gone and you’re not dependant on caffeine, well, you’ll be full of beans in a whole new way!
What’s more, you’ll probably find yourself getting to sleep much easier without 3 lattes after 3 o’clock. You’ll actually be rested come morning, with tonnes more energy to face the day ahead.
In fact, getting a good night’s sleep is really the secret to having more energy during the day. The above tips can give you a little boost when you haven’t slept properly, but they’re not a long-term solution. Of course, breathing deeply, eating right and exercising are all important steps but getting enough, good-quality sleep should be your number one priority. If you need advice on how to do so, check out what the sleep experts have to say.
Once you get into a healthy sleep pattern, you’ll notice that the midday slump becomes a thing of the past. Who knows, you might even have your most energy on a Wednesday afternoon…imagine!
So take a deep breath, get some air, eat right…and remember to get a good night’s sleep afterwards.
Hi, I’m Sarah – writer for The Sleep Advisor and all-round sleep nerd. I’m from sunny California, a land filled with far too many great coffee options for my liking. But since I kicked caffeine a year ago I haven’t looked back. Yoga and meditation are my new ‘caffeine buzzes’ as they set me up for the day in a much more positive, healthy way.