5 Ways to Stay Alert and Focused

How to Avoid the Afternoon Loss of Energy

If you’re like me, you get tired in the afternoon just after lunch and just want to lay down.  Most employers discourage this (although some encourage it) and for those who want to fight off this feeling and get more done, here are five things I have found to help me keep going longer.

Change what you eat.

Drink more water, which fights fatigue and helps keep you fuller, longer.  When you do eat, choose foods high in protein, which slows the absorption of carbohydrates which can cause fatigue when they wear off, but in all things moderation.  Foods high in protein are usually also high in tryptophan which can cause sleepiness.  One way to combat this seeming contradiction is to eat a high protein breakfast when you are most rested, then eat less protein at each meal throughout the day, eating the least amount at supper.

Learn your circadian rhythm.

Every living creature has its own circadian rhythm, but each person also has their own intricacies which can be learned and used to your advantage.  Start by going to bed at the same time each day and waking up at the same time each day for a week.  If you’re not getting enough rest, move one of the times so that you get more sleep.  If you’re waking up too early, move the going-to-sleep time back until you find your optimal sleep time.  But here’s the key – when you find your optimal sleep time, its only effective if you stick to it.  Your body will know that it can run full steam all day long if it “knows” its going to bed at a certain time no matter what.  Otherwise, its just protecting itself from your erratic behavior.

Cut back on caffeine.

This sounds counter intuitive, I know, but caffeine only speeds up your heart temporarily, leaving you more tired afterward.  I sometimes even drink coffee at night timing the crash for when I want to fall asleep.  If you use a lot of sugar in your coffee or drink sugared colas, the crash is double as your heart slows down and your body crashes from the sugar drop.  If you can’t give up caffeine completely, try switching to a green tea, which has less caffeine or saving your caffeinated drink as a “secret weapon” for when you need it the most.  It takes about a half hour to kick in so if you have to, drink it at your desk a half hour after lunch to propel you through the afternoon.

Change up your environment.

Sometimes its nothing to do with the chemicals inside your body, sometimes its your surroundings that are lulling you to sleep.  Take a break to get some perspective on life.  Step outside and take a deep breath.  If you can’t get outside, find a window.  If you don’t have a window, close your eyes, lean your head back and take a deep breath.  Force yourself to smile.  The muscle movement will elect a feeling on your body forcefully.  If you’re a scrooge, you might not like this feeling so use with caution.  Also, if music is allowed where you work, it can both pump you up and take you to another place, giving you perspective on your current activities.

Rest when you can.

On the seventh day, God rested.  This was a good example for us humans, but we seldom do it.  If you can find the time during a weekend to rest, take a nap.  Yes, you are allowed.  If you work seven days a week, a power nap can work wonders, just don’t fall into too deep of a sleep or you will feel worse after waking up.  Limit yourself to less than twenty minutes.  This ensures you won’t fall into REM sleep, but your body will still feel rested.  If you can get out to your car, go and set an alarm or find a coworker you trust to wake you up.  I have found that I can put a “request ticket” out to my subconscious that asks to be woken up when slipping between stage 1 and 2 of sleep.  Not everyone can do this though.

Give yourself something to look forward to.

In life and everything else, we all need incentives.  Its how the world works.  You’re probably not working for someone else for free and you shouldn’t have to.  We just need to harness that same mentality to help us get through the day.  Create mini-goals and rewards throughout the day.  Everyone is working for the weekend, but that happens once a week and starts on Friday.  What do we do on Monday to stay motivated?  This might be the hardest task of all, but if you can master it, you’re well on your way to being more productive and alert during the afternoon – and time may just fly by a little faster.


Above all, use common sense.  If you’re too tired to stay awake during the day, you probably need more sleep at night.  Before taking any advice you read here or anywhere else, see your doctor to make sure these things are right for you.  I’d love to hear how you stay alert during the day in the comments below. Need more advice? Here is a complete website on how to stay alert.