5 Ways To Stay Awake During The Day, Because Insomniacs Have To Get Things Done, Too
It happens to all of us — you stay up too late, or you wake up too early, or you spring awake in the middle of the night, can't stop thinking about the inevitable heat death of the universe, and eventually you go downstairs and eat some pizza rolls. No matter how you get there, the end result is that you are exhausted the next day. And if you have insomnia, every day might play out like this — a struggle between going out and achieving all the important, adult goals you need to do, and falling asleep in a supply closet because you swore you were just going to "rest your eyes" for thirty seconds.
In an ideal world, we'd all be able to get enough sleep. But in this world, which is filled with crying babies and loud neighbors and that thing where you jolt awake and try to figure out how you're ever going to pay off your student loans, we all need to figure out ways to get through the day when we're exhausted. Luckily, there are some ways around it (yes, ways besides coffee)(though obviously also coffee). Try the five tips below until you can make it back to your soft, comfortable, supportive yet decisive bed.
1. Drink (But Don't Chug) Coffee
I know, I know: you didn't come here for this n00b crap. "What's next?" you're screaming. "Are you going to tell me that the sky is blue, or water is wet, or that The X-Files was a mockery of a sham after they replaced David Duchovny with that guy from Terminator 2?" You know, we're not going to get very far here if you keep yelling at me like that. Maybe if you got more sleep, you'd be less irritable, huh?
Now that we've both emotionally wounded each other: the way you drink your coffee after an all-nighter may be all wrong. When you're using coffee to keep you awake after a sleepless night, it might seem like chugging it is the best option. After all, more coffee = more energy = that moment after an all-nighter, when you're super caffeinated and you're like "I'm feeling so good! I've evolved beyond sleep! Also, I think I just figured out how to design a car that runs on water, even though I have no scientific background and a B.A. in Modern Dance!"
But do you remember what comes after that caffeine high? The slump— a time when you may literally fall asleep, or just have your brain kind of turn off while your eyes stay open. It's why you fall asleep for a second on a toilet. It's why you try to open your front door with a tin of Altoids. It's why you never got around to building that water car.
But it doesn't have to be this way! When imbibing caffeine in order to keep your sad, exhausted shell propped up for a few more hours, the best technique is to keep a small but steady stream of coffee flowing into your body. One cup should be able to keep you stimulated for three to four hours, so try drinking half a cup every two hours — this way, the caffeine never overwhelms your system, or drops to such low levels that you fall asleep on a pile of t-shirts at Forever 21.
2. Push Your Nose
But let's say you're not into caffeine,. Maybe you're in a place where they don't have coffee. Maybe you're lost at sea but also really sleepy, who knows. The point is, like your pioneer forerunners, you're going to have to make due with what you have. Sure, the pioneers had the unspoiled American wildness as a resource, but you have something even better: your nose!
Fine, we can argue about whether your nose is better than the great American West some other day. But right now, while you're sleepy, press on your nose to stay awake. Place your index finger across the your nose from top to bottom, lining your finger up with the septum. Then, press upwards on the cartilage. Nothing too crazy — but some light pushing should help wake you up. It's the same principle as splashing freezing water on your face or snapping a rubber band on your wrist — the shock of the sensation may help you feel more awake. Tugging on your ears may also have the same impact (and has the added bonus of entertaining any infants who may have wandered into the immediate area).
3. Get Some Sun
Sun can make our bodies feel more awake. That's why it wakes you up when you forget to close the blinds, right? And according to The Telegraph (UK), "Light inhibits the pineal gland's production of melatonin, a hormone that appears to facilitate sleepiness." That's why your doctor always scolds you for your habit of falling asleep in front of your Netflix. Light has worked against you for so very, very long, but now, it's time to make the many glows that fill the world work for you, for once!
Try to get outside, where the sun can make you feel more awake. If it's late or you can't get outside, blast yourself with artificial light; light makes us feel more alert, so soak in it, even if staring at bright light in this state makes you feel like you just crawled out of your own grave. Trust me, you'll be better off in the end.
And if your sun happens to be near some nice outdoor stuff, even better: according to a 2010 study by the University of Rochester, spending time outdoors helps people feel energized, even if they were only able to get out for 20 minutes. It's about time nature started pulling its weight around here, right?
4. Keep Moving
Sharon Keenan, PhD, founder and director of the School of Sleep Medicine of the Stanford University Center for Excellence for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Sleep Disorders, told Web MD that “If you move your body, there’s automatic feedback from your muscles that goes to the central mechanism of the brain to improve alertness,” keeping you more awake and energized. So don't curl up into a little ball, like you so desperately want to. Stand up, jog in place, do the Elaine dance from Seinfeld . Anything that gets your blood moving!
5. Chew Gum
Your body wakes up at the prospect of food (don't we all?). It reacts by releasing insulin to help you process and digest the anticipated nacho bonanza — which, as a fringe benefit, will usually wake you up. But while sticking to a normal eating schedule when you're tired is vitally important, snacking to wake yourself up will often lead to a brief spike in energy, followed by the food coma to end food comas — especially since in your tired state, you're very likely to pick carb-heavy foods that will knock you right out. So chewing on some gum might get you that insulin boost, without the whole "oh no, do you think I can nap inside this filing cabinet without anyone noticing?" comedown.