Getting up when you’re still feeling tired can be difficult — especially when you realize you have to be at work ASAP. And with long hours of grogginess stretching out before you, the fatigue can feel even more overwhelming. Luckily, there’s a hack for that: These tips and tricks for how to wake yourself up can give you that jolt of energy you need, no caffeine necessary.
Of course, the best way to avoid feeling tired is to prevent it in the first place by getting a good night’s rest, says Kate Skurat, a licensed counselor and medical operations manager at Calmerry online therapy platform. Aside from getting the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night, Skurat says it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene. She says to sleep in a dark room at a cool temperature on a comfy bed, avoid too much screen time, and stop eating at least two hours before bed to give yourself the best shot at a restful snooze.
But if you’re clocking in enough hours in dreamland and still feeling sleepy come sunrise, there are strategies to help. Whether you're trying to get going in the morning or prevent yourself from snoozing at your desk, these 14 expert-approved tips for how to wake up when tired can come in handy.
1. Put Your Alarm Across The Room
There’s a reason you may have heard about this trick for how to wake up before: It works. Placing your alarm clock or phone out of arm’s reach forces you to get out of bed right away before you’re tempted to hit snooze, says licensed counselor Nawal Alomari, LCPC. Science shows the fragmented shut-eye you get in between tapping the snooze button isn’t quality sleep and can make you more stressed than if you were to rise with your original alarm, anyways. So even though it might not feel ideal at the moment, your energy levels for the rest of the day will be better off.
2. Make Your Bed
Once you’ve stumbled out of bed to turn off your alarm, turn right around and make it, says Sarrah Hallock, holistic nutritionist and health coach from GoodLooks. “While making your bed just might be the chore you’ve hated since you were a kid, for a lot of people this simple act can feel like your first accomplishment of the morning and leave you feeling energized and ready to conquer the rest of your day,” she tells Bustle.
3. Sit Up In Bed
If getting up and making your bed first thing in the morning is too much, try just sitting up in bed when your alarm goes off instead so that you can stay cozy without rolling over and falling back to sleep, says Alomari. Take a few minutes to wake up or give yourself time to read, watch TV, or do whatever it is that helps you ease into your day.
4. Get Some Sun
Even if you have to rush to work, take a moment to soak in some sun, says Debra Swan, a certified health coach and personal trainer. “Open your curtains and get a face full of sunlight if possible, because this will synchronize your circadian rhythm and tell your brain that it's time to be awake,” she told Bustle in a previous interview. Whether you just open your curtains and look out the window or take a walk in the fresh air, catching some rays will help you feel more alert for whatever comes next.
5. Tug On Your Hair
When it comes to knowing how to wake yourself up, there’s nothing like a light jolt to your system to get you going. One easy way to do it? Gently tug on your hair. It may sound bizarre, but the sensation can help you feel more awake and alert so that it’s easier to get on with your day.
6. Pop A Super Minty Mint
If you’re nodding off, one quick way to wake yourself up is with a hit of minty freshness from gum, breath mints, or a cup of tea. For one, the smell of peppermint can help you feel more alert and less tired, according to 2009 research in the North American Journal of Psychology. And if gum is your minty snack of choice, science also shows that the act of chewing alone can make you feel more alert, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. And it doesn’t hurt that your breath will smell great, either.
7. Read Some Fiction
Too sleepy to concentrate at work? Registered dietitian nutritionist Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN recommends stepping away and doing something else for a while. If you’re not sure what to do on your break, she suggests picking something creative to help wake up your brain and body. Delve into a good book or journal: Whatever you pick, a creative brain break might be just what you need to perk back up.
8. Splash Your Face With Water
Turns out there’s some truth to the old prank of waking someone up with a bucket of ice water. Alomari says splashing your face with some cold water can help signal your body to wake up when you need to shake yourself out of a funk. If getting your face wet doesn’t sound appealing, though, you can also drink a glass of ice-cold water for a similar effect.
9. Smell A Zesty Essential Oil
Ever notice how bright, happy scents can perk you up? Use this to your advantage by keeping a few essential oils stashed in your desk for moments when you’re extra tired. Research shows that peppermint, rosemary, and lemon oils can all have energizing effects. So get thy sleepy self to a health food store and stock up.
10. Treat Yourself
Looking forward to something the next day can do wonders to boost your energy levels, says Alomari. Plan to get a nice cup of coffee in the morning or schedule a walk with a friend during lunchtime. Whatever your treat, having something to get excited about can motivate you to get out of bed and enjoy your day.
11. Pre-Set Your Breaks
There’s nothing like a marathon work session to burn you out. One way to prevent that exhaustion is by pre-planning regular breaks, says Skurat. She suggests setting a timer to go off every two hours. When the alarm sounds, take some time off from your screen to meditate, move, or do another favorite pick-me-up activity.
12. Prep The Night Before
Sometimes the surest way to avoid dreaded fatigue is by setting yourself up for success the night before, says Alomari. Beyond practicing good sleep hygiene, you can also set an earlier bedtime if you notice you’ve been tired lately, she says. And if you know you’re not a morning person, take some pressure off your future self by setting out your clothes, preparing tomorrow’s breakfast, or pre-program your coffee maker so that you don’t have as much to worry about in the a.m.
13. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Staring down a long day of work, socializing, and other tasks can make you tired before you even get started checking off that to-do list. Alomari recommends giving yourself permission to feel tired and take it easy. Removing some of that pressure can help you tackle your day more confidently without getting weighed down by the responsibilities that lie ahead.
Blume, C. (2019). Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood. Somnologie, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6751071/
Johnson, A. (2011). The effect of chewing gum on physiological and self-rated measures of alertness and daytime sleepiness. Physiology & Behavior, https://europepmc.org/article/med/22061430
Kiecolt-Glaser, J. (2008). Olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine, and immune function. Psychoneuroendocrinology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18178322/
Meamarbashi, A. (2014). Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103722/
Raudenbush, B. (2009). Effects of peppermint and cinnamon odor administration on simulated driving alertness, mood and workload. North American Journal of Psychology, https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2009-08708-004
Sayorwan, W. (2013). Effects of inhaled rosemary oil on subjective feelings and activities of the nervous system. Scientia Pharmaceutica, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23833718/
Nawal Alomari, LCPC, a licensed clinical professional counselor and life coach based in Chicago
Sarrah Hallock, holistic nutritionist and health coach from GoodLooks
Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist
Kate Skurat, a licensed counselor and medical operations manager at Calmerry online therapy platform
Debra Swan, a certified health coach and personal trainer based in Chicago
This article was originally published on Aug. 26, 2016
This article was originally published on