How to stay awake (does not contain caffeine)

There’s tired. There’s ‘just so tired’. And then there is limb-achingly, head-swimmingly, deliriously tired; the kind of tired you only experience after spending all night on homework/revision/text to a potential bae. It’s a tiredness that knows no end; that refuses to be beaten by tea or coffee even if they were being fed via IV into your bloodstream. 

So how do you cope when you feel this way? Here are a few theories, none of which involve caffeine. Obviously if you love your morning flat white, be our guest, but tread carefully with coffee, Coke or rocket fuel energy drinks like Red Bull – too much caffeine can have unpredictable effects on people, and too much caffeine is as likely to make you queasy as psyched.

Instead, look at your day. Break it down into the most bitesize of chunks, and consume accordingly, with scheduled breaks and something sweet to look forward to. Because tiredness is a state of body – but it’s also a state of mind.

1. Splash your face with cold water

And no, I don’t just mean in the morning. I mean whenever you feel the weight of sleep slowly, gently crushing your eyelids into submission. I mean every hour, if you have to – and if you want an extra boost, moisturise and mascara yourself too, or get a hydrating facial mist like this one from Superdrug. The cold will wake you; the stimulation of drying your face on a towel will get your blood going; and the mascara will both stop you from rubbing your eyes (the telltale sign of the sleep deprived) and make you feel more normal. Because whatever ‘normal’ is, it’s not face-planting your desk.

2. Eat a banana

I once met a women who ran marathons, two businesses and a family of four children. Her secret weapon? Bananas. “They are the ultimate energy boost,” she explained. They come ready packaged. They pack a punch full of sugar – fruit sugar, that is – and plenty of other nutritional good guys too, like potassium, riboflavin and vitamins B6 and C. We’re not entirely sure what they do exactly, but science tells us it’s beneficial, and my body agrees.

3. Go for a run

Failing that, go for a walk. Failing THAT, jump up and down outside for a few minutes. I know it’s cold, but that’s one incentive to move. The second incentive – if I may be so bold – is to increase your blood flow, which gets the blood into your brain and your thoughts into action. The third incentive is that it boosts your mood, your appetite, and gives you that gentle pull-yourself-together slap that only bitter, damp February air really can.

4. Get changed

Say what you like, there is something about a fresh pair of pants that makes even the weariest of days feel less weary. Even the starchy, white-whites smell of washing powder has an uplifting effect. Just as getting ready to go out can put you in the mood even when you least feel like leaving the house, so going through the motions of getting ready can perk you up. Even if it’s just changing your hoodie so you can sit back down at your desk and carry on revising.

5. Dress smart

The old saying ‘dress smart, think smart’ isn’t just a cunning ploy by adults to get you our of your trackies; it’s true, at least for many of us. Studies have suggested that for people who have to wear a uniform to work, putting it on has a positive effect on their concentration levels. You don’t have to wear your lab coat to write that biology essay (though it can’t hurt, if you feel like it) but a changing out of that jumper you spilled ketchup down yesterday might just help.

6. Let there be light

The brighter it is, the more alert you’ll feel too. Sure we might all look better in low lighting – that’s why candles are so popular – but if this essay/revision sheet/workbook is ever going to get finished, you’re going to need the lights a-blazing. And if it’s still daylight, work by an (open, preferably) window.

7. Sniff something

Not that we’re suggesting you become an amateur aromatherapist, but a quick whiff of citrus, vanilla or mint can be pretty effective at stimulating your senses – and your brain with them. No need to buy the oils (although they’re not too spendy in Holland and Barrett) – a nice fat grapefruit, vanilla stick or a handful of fresh mint leaves will suffice! Or failing that, body spray. But stop before you get a headache, you should know that by now.

8. Have a nap

Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just the only thing to be done. Sweet dreams.

@finney_clare 

Image: Getty / Katie Edmunds

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