I know what you’re thinking. “Why am I so tired? I’m sitting at a desk all day! There are plenty of jobs out there that require a lot more effort than mine, but I can’t seem to stay awake. Why am I falling asleep at my desk?”, you’re not alone. According to a National Safety Council report, 43% of Americans admit they might be too tired to function at work. Pair this with the comforts of working from home and it might just be a recipe for disaster.
The reasons people fall asleep at their desks typically include narcolepsy, sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, and poor health. Let’s take a look at some steps you can take to improve your wakefulness while working at your desk.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you find yourself falling asleep at your desk, the first thing you want to do is speak with your doctor. This is very important to do as excessive tiredness and falling asleep during the day can be the symptom of a potentially serious underlying condition. Always follow your doctor’s advice. None of the information in this article should replace the information you get from your medical doctor.
Your doctor might tell you that you have narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes overwhelming daytime tiredness. Although science doesn’t fully understand the cause of narcolepsy, it is believed to be genetic and caused by signals in your brain firing improperly. People with narcolepsy can experience “sleep attacks” in which the individual will suddenly fall asleep. This can be very dangerous as it can occur while you are driving or operating machinery.
You may also be experiencing sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where you start and stop breathing over and over again throughout the night while sleeping. This makes it incredibly hard for you to achieve any kind of restful sleep. If your doctor thinks you have this sleep disorder, they may advise you to have a sleep study done. A “sleep study” is an overnight study where you are hooked up to devices that monitor your brain and body activity while you are sleeping. This allows your doctor to see if your breathing stops throughout the night.
Your doctor might prescribe you medication to assist with either of these conditions depending on the severity.
Get Enough Sleep
If you fall asleep at your desk in the middle of the day, it might be a good idea to look at your sleeping habits to see if you are getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep at night is directly linked to feeling tired during the day.
Everyone is different, and everyone requires a different amount of sleep to feel rested. However, there are some general guidelines. According to the CDC, adults ages 18-60 should get 7 or more hours of sleep per night. This time is very important for your brain and body. Make sure you are scheduling your day in a way that allows you to fit in that 7 hours each night. Some of you may feel like you need more sleep each night. If you need 8 or 9 hours, make sure to schedule your day accordingly. Make sure you are not sleeping too much, though. It is also possible to oversleep. Oversleeping can potentially lead to fatigue the next day as well as a host of other health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and an increased risk of death.
If you have a difficult time getting to bed on time, you can try a couple of things. First, try avoiding screens (phones, TVs, tablets, and computers) an hour before your bedtime. The blue light that these devices emit can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Not to mention, the information you are consuming on these devices is most likely not relaxing. Unnecessary stimulation before bedtime is the enemy of a good night’s rest.
Next, try reading before bed. Have you ever read the same page in a book over and over again not having any clue what you just read? This is a good state to be in right before bed. It means your brain is primed for sleep. Reading at night (with dim lights) will naturally induce this state and can lead to some incredible sleep.
Doing these two things alone should drastically improve your ability to get to sleep on time.
We’ve all heard the phrase “You are what you eat”. This phrase exists because what we put into our body literally makes up our physical being. Therefore, if you’re having a hard time staying awake during the day, it might be good to look at what you’re consuming.
Eating foods that are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates can cause you to feel tired. This is because they spike your body’s blood sugar levels and then they crash later on just as fast as they went up. This is not the ideal situation if you’re trying to stay awake at your desk. Some examples of simple carbohydrates are soda, breakfast cereal, cookies, cake, candy, etc.
If you do need to eat carbohydrates you want to make sure that they are complex carbohydrates. Some examples of complex carbohydrates that you should be eating more of include brown rice, whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables.
Eating foods that are high in protein and fats will give you sustained energy throughout the day. They also allow you to avoid that crash that comes from eating a meal high in simple carbohydrates and sugars.
Drink More Water
Around 60% of the human body is made up of water. Since this is the case, it might be a good idea for you to consume more water. This will help ensure that your body is functioning properly. Your brain is also made up of about 73% water. If all you are drinking throughout the day is soda and energy drinks it is no wonder that you are falling asleep at your desk.
As we stated above, those are simple carbohydrates and they will spike your sugar levels and cause you to be less hydrated. Falling asleep at your desk could be a sign from your body that you are dehydrated and need more water.
This is a very easy thing to do yet most people neglect it. Many other benefits come along with drinking more water. Water is virtually free everywhere you go in the United States. If you prefer a particular bottled water brand, you might end up paying a premium for that preference. However, you can always purchase a water filter for your home and a travel bottle to bring your filtered water with you wherever you go.
Water also helps remove byproducts of fat, reduces hunger, and is calorie-free. This can potentially help with weight loss. Most importantly, however, since your brain is mostly made up of water as we stated above, drinking more water will help you focus, be more alert, and concentrate better.
What kind of list would this be without including an essential element for overall health without including exercise? Believe it or not, exercise will increase your energy levels if you partake in it regularly. This is because when you do exercise, your body produces more mitochondria and releases endorphins. When endorphins are released in the body they cause you to feel very good. Your energy levels are a result of the number of mitochondria your body is producing and the kind of foods you are eating.
Getting moving and doing some kind of exercise that you enjoy is a great way to naturally increase the production of mitochondria in your body. Performing some kind of exercise that you like can also affect your brain and its reward system. Completing an exercise as you set out to do it and then actually completing that exercise can cause you to feel very good. This will release dopamine in your brain and tell you that you are a winner. This will start a motivation cycle where you just seem to have more energy and get more done throughout the day.
Last but not least, my favorite step. Take naps. Who doesn’t love taking a nice quick nap in the middle of the day? If you’re not getting enough sleep at night the best way to make up for that is to take a nap during the day. You might think you don’t have enough time to take a nap during the day. Let me tell you what a nap looks like. A nap can be as short as 20 minutes long sitting upright in a chair. According to Dr. Oz, this method is one that the geniuses throughout history have used to improve their cognitive function and come up with some wonderful ideas.
This simple 20-minute trick can do wonders for your cognitive function, ability to stay awake throughout the day and complete the necessary tasks. What do you have to lose? Give it a shot!
Today we’ve answered the question “Why am I falling asleep at my desk?” Make sure to always consult with your doctor first. None of this should be taken as medical advice. We have looked at how getting enough sleep at night, eating healthily, drinking more water, exercising, and taking naps if necessary can make an incredible impact on your ability to stay awake at your desk. Try these methods out and see if they can assist you in staying awake during the day. There’s work to be done.