Stay Energized All Day Long

Remaining awake and alert all day shouldn't be all that hard, but it takes a rare individual not to succumb to that mid-afternoon slump. But for some, it's much more severe than simply feeling drowsy.

"It's certainly normal to have a little dip of energy during the day," says Shelby Harris, Psy D, CBSM, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program in the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. "Everyone gets sleepy at some point in their day."

For most people, that sleepy period is typically in the afternoon. Your body follows a 24-hour sleep and wake cycle, explains Carl Bazil, MD, attending neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

"Most people become sleepy in the late evening, go to sleep, and wake up in the morning, but there is a smaller dip that happens to everyone in the afternoon," he says.

This afternoon sleepiness is no doubt the reason that the siesta was invented. These days, sadly, taking a siesta is practically unheard of. But you've got a better chance at staying awake and alert from morning to night if you practice a few simple techniques:

Go outside for at least 15 minutes during the day, Harris suggests. "Bright sunlight can be very effective at keeping you alert," she says. "Go have lunch outside, take a walk, or read a book outside. Not only does the bright light help you to be alert, but going for a walk perks you up, too."

When you have to attend a meeting and you are worried about dozing off, sit up in front, Harris says. "This way, the focus is on you a little more and it is not so easy to fall asleep," she says.

At meetings, sit in a straight chair, Harris recommends. You don't want to sit in a position that will relax you too much. Sitting near a window can be very helpful, too, she says.

If you are feeling really sleepy, try taking a catnap at around 10:00 or 11:00 a.m., Harris says. "But be careful not to take a nap too late in the day, or it will impact your sleep at night," she warns.

Limit your caffeine intake. Your cut-off point should be no later than 2:00 p.m., Harris says. After that, switch to decaffeinated drinks.

Watch your carbs, Bazil says. Carbs generally tend to make you sleepy, which is obviously a good thing at night when you want to sleep. But an overload of carbs can sabotage your afternoon alertness. "If you have pasta at lunch, you will be a lot sleepier than if you had chicken," Bazil says.

Carl Bazil, MD, reviewed this article.