Falling asleep at your desk? 7 tips for keeping up with work

Published: August 30, 2015
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Ever catch yourself yawning midday at work? Blame your body’s circadian rhythm, which controls when you sleep and wake up. There’s a natural calm in the rhythm that occurs around lunchtime and makes people prone to lethargy. What’s more, digesting that greasy biryani can in fact, add to the tiredness. As compiled from inc.com, Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest and Psychology Today, here’s how to minimise fatigue at work.

Start your day with a workout

Contrary to popular belief, a strenuous workout doesn’t leave you worn-out. In fact, getting that blood pumping first thing will keep you going all day at work. Don’t forget a power though to keep your metabolism running. Physical activity improves blood flow, providing oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue and naturally increasing energy. Carl Bazil, director of the Division of Epilepsy and Sleep at Columbia University, recommends exercising before work but if you’re too lazy for that, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk around your building at any chance you get. 

Read: 6 health tips for corporate employees

Time your chai breaks right

Chai and coffee are pure energy boosters, but don’t wait too long after lunch to drink it. Many people may think that caffeine intake is fine as long as you have it before dinnertime, but even mid-afternoon caffeine could linger in your body and affect your ability to function at work. That creates a vicious cycle that could leave you feeling tired at night and the next afternoon, says Dr Bazil. It takes most people three to seven hours to get rid of half the caffeine they consume — your ideal last cup should be around 2 pm, according to Pscyhology Today. 

Chew on gum

A study at St Lawrence University found that subjects who chewed gum right before, but not during work tasks performed better than those who did not chew gum, especially on the parts of the task that required memory and recall. Don’t overdo it, though. Researchers found that chewing for longer than 15 to 20 minutes can actually decrease mental stimulation. Try to chew on your favourite gum right before work to maintain energy and focus. 

Befriend the water cooler

A Journal of Nutrition study found that being dehydrated can cause fatigue, low mood, and difficulty concentrating. Start your day with a big glass of water (you’re already dehydrated after going through the night without drinking) and keep sipping liquids throughout the day. Aim for about eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, suggests the Mayo Clinic. If you’re not an H2O fan, try consuming water with lemon or fresh grapefruit juice — it detoxifies the system while rejuvenating you at the same time. 

Tune in to your favorite tunes

Listening to music while you work can actually increase productivity and vigilance. In a study conducted by Teresa Lesiuk, assistant professor at the University of Miami, study participants listened to music at work for three weeks. When they did not listen to music, their quality of work and project efficiency was lowest and they also took longer to complete tasks. Some supervisors may see headphones as a distraction, so double check your company’s music policy before hitting play, or maybe inform them of the findings of the study mentioned above. 

Cut down on fast food

The refined grains in processed foods, such as a white-pita shawarma sandwich or that luscious biryani get digested rather quickly, which accelerates the blood sugar spike and dip that contributes to an energy slump. “You may feel more alert initially, but a quick drop in blood sugar will leave you sluggish,” says Alissa Rumsey, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The most energising meals include both protein (lean meat, fish, and eggs) and complex carbohydrates (whole grains and legumes). Leafy greens like spinach provide iron, which may help decrease fatigue. So, maybe opt for daal and paalak ki sabzi over biryani. 

Remove all personal grudges

All that emotional baggage takes its toll day in and day out. Whether it’s anger you feel for a coworker or even someone who is distant from work, the emotions can be distracting and absorb energy, suggest researchers. We like to think we can ignore the feelings, but often we just mask them and that takes energy in and of itself. Concern over conflict can eat away at your attention and tire you quickly. Don’t hold back.  Make a list of your grudges and commit time to reconcile each of them until they are gone. If you are open and empathetic in your approach you may forge a closer bond that will make work easier to enjoy.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st,  2015.

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