Safety Blog Post

Lack of Sleep? 10 Tips To Keep You Awake

Our increasingly busy lives are full of last minute to-dos and pit-stops at the local coffee shop. By the time you get home from work, pick the kids up, eat dinner, help with their homework and catch up on the news of the day, the hours of the day have slipped away before your weary eyes. We may feel accomplished at the end of our busy day, but the result of this hustle and bustle for most of us is a lack (or serious in some cases) of sleep.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, recognizes insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic. Sleep insufficiency has been connected to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, medical and many other occupational errors.

Getting through your day on a good night’s sleep may seem hard enough as it is, but when you don’t get a good night’s rest, your ability to perform your daily tasks can contribute to extremely hazardous outcomes.

Train derails in New York after the engineer under the controls nods off. Four people killed and 67 injured.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

tired businessman is sleeping at his table with laptop. sleep at work This can vary by the individual, but the National Sleep Foundation suggests that school-age children (5-10 years) need 10-11 hours daily, teens (11-17 years) need 8.5-9.5 hours, and adults need 7-9. However this is not always the case. According to information from the National Health Interview Survey, 30% of adults get less than six hours of sleep, while 31% of high school students reported getting at least eight hours on sleep on a school night.

Nothing To Sleep On

According to the results from a National Safety Foundation poll in 2008:

  • 36 percent of Americans drive drowsy or fall asleep while driving
  • 29 percent of Americans fall asleep or become very sleepy at work
  • 20 percent have lost interest in sex because they are too sleepy
  • 14 percent report having to miss family events, work functions, and leisure activities due to lack of sleep

These numbers are alarming and can raise a lot of questions when it comes to our overall safety at home and work. Which is why I have composed ten solid tips for keeping you awake and safe throughout your day.

Ten Tips To Keep You Awake At Work

1. Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Yes it is a bit cliché, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A doughnut and energy drink on your way out the door is a sure way to schedule yourself a serious crash in a matter of hours.

Balance your breakfast with fruit, carbohydrates and protein to not only build up energy, but store it away for an added boost later in the day. A healthy breakfast is the first step in keeping you alert and productive throughout your day.

2. Easy on the Caffeine

If you must keep caffeine in your regiment, do it in moderation. To avoid dependencies and/or hyperactivity, spread out your trips to the coffee pot and establish a cut-off time for caffeine intake. For some, it may take up to eight hours for the caffeine to wear off. This could lead to a bad night of sleep and another day of struggling to stay awake.

3. Take a Nap

For those whose favorite time in school was nap time, this should be no problem. If you can, sleeping for just 15-20 minutes can increase your alertness and productivity tremendously. According to a study by Georgetown University, a twenty minute power nap will help activate the right side of the brain, which is responsible for processing and storing acquired information.

The brain could be doing some helpful housecleaning, classifying data, consolidating memories. That could explain the power of napping.

-Andrei Medvedev Ph.D assistant professor in the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown

4. Exercise to Increase Energy and Reduce Fatigue

Simple exercises like jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups are a quick and easy way to get your heart rate up and keep you awake. You can do these in just about any area of the workplace and while some may give you a funny look, others will start to follow. A University of Georgia studied found that exercise was more effective in increasing energy and reducing daytime fatigue than some medications used to treat sleep issues.

If your position requires you to sit for most of your shift, standing up and moving around every 30 minutes is very helpful in keeping your energy levels up.

5. Get Outside

A quick walk around the block can be just what you need to get you back on track. When you start to feel sleepy, take a stroll around the parking lot and clear your mind of anything that might be slowing you down.

A study in the journal Cognition states that a brief diversion from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.

Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness…it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself, brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task.

-Alejandro Lleras, University of Illinois psychology professor

6. Listen to Music

Music is a great mental stimulate in humans and helps engage many parts of the brain. For some, music may be a distraction than a helpful tool. In that case, try listening in short spurts for a quick pick me up and a mental break from your work.

Also, try listening to your tunes quietly instead of loudly. Turning the music down is more effective because it requires you to pay attention and focus, which keeps the mind working strong.

7. Use Acupressure 

It may sound silly, but massaging yourself in the following places will improve circulation, perk you up and reduce fatigue:

  • The top of your head. 
  • The back of your neck.
  • Back of your hands, between the thumb and index fingers.
  • Right below your knees.
  • Earlobes.

8. Drink Water

Dehydration is a major source of fatigue. Avoid the sodas and head for the water jug to keep you hydrated and awake throughout your day. You can also try eating foods high in water like fruits and vegetables.

9. Start up a Conversation with a Co-Worker

Engaging in a conversation is a great way to get the wheel turning again. Talk to your co-workers about business, family, politics, or anything that comes to mind. Conversations that require you to think critically are a great mental stimulator and will keep you alert during the times you need it most.

10. Avoid a Big Lunch 

Big meals on the lunch hour when you are already feeling fatigued are a sure way to keep you feeling drowsy throughout your afternoon. Instead, eat healthy snacks throughout your day. Eating something light every couple hours will keep you fit, alert and open up your lunchtime for other activities like the ones mentioned earlier.

Additional Resources