12 ways to help you stay awake at work

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
Ask Emma

11 June 2019

1. Start the day with a workout

Exercise is the perfect way to start the day as it can help boost energy levels and relieve feelings of fatigue. This is partly down to the fact that exercise releases feel good hormones known as endorphins which can help put the mind in a positive, energised state.

There is also evidence to suggest that doing just 10 minutes of exercise a day can improve concentration and alertness – just what you need before a long day at work!1

Although it can be hard to find the time to exercise in the morning, by sticking to simple activities such as our easy exercise videos, and by setting your alarm a little bit earlier than normal, you should be able to squeeze it in.

2. Keep your working environment bright

When we go to bed at night, we switch off all the lights to help us sleep, so it comes as no surprise that you will begin to feel sleepy if the lights in your working environment are dimmed. To avoid this, keep the area bright and ask your HR department for a lamp or two if necessary.

As well as this, it can help to circulate some fresh air in the area where you’re working. If there are no windows to open, try to get hold of either a portable fan or a desk fan.

3. Switch up your workload

According to research, if we are bored at work, we are more likely to feel sleepy. That’s because, in the absence of stimuli, part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens induces feelings of tiredness (this is also the part of the brain that releases dopamine and makes us feel pleasure).2

As well as this, research has found that even getting enough sleep each night does not necessarily prevent us from craving a nap when we are bored. In light of this, one of the best ways to tackle boredom and tiredness at work is to switch up your workload.

How this is done will depend on your individual role, though taking on more responsibilities and trying new tasks are all good steps forward.

If you’re feeling engaged at work, you’re more likely to feel energised, so I’d really recommend taking some time to think about how you can make some changes here.

4. Boost your magnesium intake

If you often feel fatigued during the day, a lack of magnesium may be yet another contributing factor.3 Magnesium is needed to help convert food into energy and so, without enough of it, this process doesn’t happen so efficiently.

Our Balance Mineral Drink can help in this instance as it contains a healthy dose of magnesium - 112.5mg per every 5.5g sachet. As well as magnesium, though, the drink also contains zinc, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. This means it doesn’t just help to reduce tiredness and fatigue, it could support other areas of our health such as bone maintenance and normal muscle function as well.

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You can drink it whenever you feel most tired, such as in the morning or when your energy slumps in the afternoon. It also makes a good post-workout drink.

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5. Keep moving

Lack of physical activity during working hours can further contribute to boredom and, therefore, sleepiness so it helps to keep moving throughout the day. This isn’t the only reason you should stay active, though, as exercise can actually lower stress levels and prevent any aches and pains that may arise as a result of long hours spent in the same position.

To get a little more active throughout the day, take a walk at lunch time and, if you work at a desk, try some of our easy stretches.

Don’t forget, it is important to keep moving when you get home, though, so try ditching an hour or so of television or computer time in favour of a walk or an exercise class.

6. Be sociable

Talking to colleagues about tasks, problems and plans is another way to keep work interesting and, ultimately, stay alert. Having a conversation with someone (as opposed to an email or phone call), also involves moving to another part of the workplace and this will get the body moving and the blood pumping. This, in turn, can help us to feel more energised.

7. Use a diffuser

Particular smells, such as lemon and eucalyptus, can be energising and so, if you need a helping hand to stay awake at work, it might be worth investing in a diffuser. I wouldn’t recommend using the diffuser for the duration of your working day, but instead turn it on for short bursts at a time.


8. Make a motivational playlist

Music can be incredibly helpful in boosting energy levels and motivation – that’s why many sports enthusiasts turn on their favourite artists to get them through a workout. You could make your own, personalised motivational playlist or, if you prefer, turn to a pre-made one on digital music platforms such as Spotify.

Remember, though, your tastes might be different to that of your colleagues so be sure to rotate control of the music on a weekly basis, or bring a pair of headphones with you!

9. Snack on

Sweet snacks like cakes or biscuits are often an office staple but, unfortunately, these can cause energy levels to spike and then drop, leading to feelings of tiredness. Also, big meals can make us feel sleepy so it’s actually better to eat small amounts regularly, rather than having something large for breakfast or lunch.

To get you through work, the best snacks are ones that release energy slowly as these will, therefore, help sustain you for longer. Fruits including bananas, apples and strawberries are excellent options here, as are seeds such as pumpkin and chia.

Pumpkin seeds also have the benefit that they are rich in iron. Iron deficiency can contribute to feelings of tiredness and fatigue so it’s important to keep this mineral topped up. Iron deficiency is particularly common amongst women as they lose this essential mineral during menstruation.

10. Say no to caffeine

Just like foods that are high in sugar, caffeine can cause a rapid surge and then drop in energy levels. Therefore, although coffee or tea might make you feel better initially, they aren’t likely to help tiredness in the long run. In fact, as the effects of caffeine wear off, you are likely to reach for another cuppa and so the cycle continues.

Nowadays there are so many caffeine-free options available that it shouldn’t really be too difficult to say no to caffeine. Herbal teas make a refreshing alternative or, if you are a coffee lover, our Bambu drink is a tasty substitute. Made with 100% natural ingredients and absolutely no caffeine, this can be taken at any time of the day.

In my article ‘6 healthy energy-boosting drinks’, I take a look at some other drinks which can help boost your energy.

11. Drink plenty of water

Don't forget how important plain old water is! Dehydration can contribute to feelings of tiredness and fatigue because it can cause blood pressure to drop. This means the blood itself becomes more concentrated and less oxygenated. As a result, oxygen isn’t so effectively transported to areas including the brain and muscles, which are important for maintaining steady energy levels.4

To stay hydrated at work I’d recommend keeping a bottle or glass of plain, still water within easy reach.

If you are unsure as to whether or not dehydration is causing your problems, take a look at my blog ‘How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?’, to discover some additional common symptoms of dehydration.

12. Get a good night’s sleep

Finally, if you are struggling to get through work without feeling tired, it might have something to do with the amount of sleep you are getting at night.

Ideally, adults should be getting around 8 hours a night but a whole list of things can prevent us from achieving this. Sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnoea can have a part to play, but we mustn’t forget the influence of stress, eating habits, diet and even technology.

To ensure you are getting enough sleep each night, I’d recommend making a routine. This could involve going to bed at the same time each night and doing activities like reading and bathing in the few hours before sleep.

For further information about getting a good night’s sleep, take a look at our Sleep Advisor Marianna’s page, ‘How do you create a good sleep routine?’.


1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18602754
2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-007814
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1672392
4. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/low-blood-pressure-when-blood-pressure-is-too-low 

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