Beyond the Coffee Cup: How to Stay Awake Without Caffeine
* Verified by a US-based board-certified doctor.
Wake up and stay awake. It’s a universal fact that we all want more energy for each day of our lives. There is so much to get done in our personal and professional lives that we crave more energy to complete our tasks. Coffee has become the national go-to for this energy, along with various other heavily caffeinated products. While a shocking 80% of the world consumes caffeine daily, that population rate jumps to a disturbing 90% of all Americans.
While we can’t deny that we feel less tired after a coffee, this isn’t the same as feeling more energy. Caffeine is a mild stimulant and blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. These receptors tell us when we’re fatigued. The effect of caffeine is to deny us that message, and instead, gives us a quick dose of mental alertness.
Related: Beyond Coffee: A Sustainable Guide to Nootropics, Adaptogens, and Mushrooms
Caffeine Side Effects
A little coffee can be beneficial, but it can have serious side effects when we exceed certain levels. Nervousness and anxiety are at the top of the list. Caffeine-induced Anxiety Disorder, listed in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is only one of four such caffeine-related disorders listed.
Insomnia is another result of too much caffeine. With adrenaline still present in the blood at bedtime, falling asleep may be hindered. A lack of sleep can only make the burdens of daily life harder to carry. Caffeine doesn’t just affect the quantity of sleep, but the quality as well.
We joke about our need for caffeine, but the fact is, caffeine dependency is of significant concern. Similar to the effects of cocaine and amphetamines, caffeine causes the release of brain chemicals. A lag in caffeine consumption can produce adverse effects on devotees.
As a natural diuretic, caffeine stimulates the bladder, causing it to feel full frequently. This leads to more frequent (and more urgent) urination.
High caffeine consumption also leads to high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and ironically, fatigue.
Natural Remedies to Stay Awake
We can achieve the productive flow and rhythm of life we desire without jeopardizing our health. The answer isn’t an artificial stimulus, but to give our bodies what they require to function efficiently.
One of our most critical physical requirements is sleep—adequate sleep links to better concentration, greater productivity, and higher performance. During sleep, cellular, muscular, and even organ repair takes place. Our blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels decrease during sleep, strengthening our immune system.
Research suggests that most of us require seven to eight hours per night, with a small minority who need only four to five hours of sleep. Consider establishing a sleep schedule, where you wake up at the same time every morning and developing a bedtime routine. These can assist in creating an optimal sleep environment.
We all know that a healthier, whole food diet has excellent benefits to our bodies, but it’s also imperative for our energy. Experts say we should eat smaller and more frequent meals instead of large, heavy ones. We should additionally drink plenty of water and limit our alcohol consumption.
Drinking alcohol, especially in the evening, can increase the heart rate, raise epinephrine (stress hormone), and cause insomnia.
Related: The World’s First Productivity Drink
Moving your body when you already feel low on energy can be challenging. But exercise produces endorphins (feel-good hormones) and gives us an overall sense of euphoria. With regular physical activity, we experience sharper focus and better cognitive performance. Daily endurance training is more remarkable because our heart health is improved, and we sleep better at night.
We’ve all experienced how stress can leave us drained, emotionally, and physically. Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable.
Take control of your situation, if only in your mind. Make to-do lists, create plans, or do whatever it takes to empower yourself in the situation.
Journaling, gratitude lists, meditation, or crafting can all provide an outlet for stress and re-energizing.
So here are some things to add to your daily routine for optimal energy:
When your energy begins to lag, instead of grabbing a cup of coffee, try going for a quick walk around the block. Merely sitting still or standing too long can make you feel tired. Taking a short break and moving around every few hours can help you think more clearly and feel more alert. If you’re stuck at a desk all day long, these simple stretches can help reinvigorate your body and help you feel more awake.
Eat a Healthy Snack
Keep yourself fueled with healthy power bars, energizing drinks, and fruit as on-the-go snacks. Eating small, healthy portions throughout the day helps you maintain a higher attention level. These also help keep your blood sugar at a steady level, keeping you awake, and allowing you to get a better night’s sleep. Remember to avoid foods and drinks that have a lot of added sugar.
Leave the Lights On
Light is a signal to our bodies that we need to stay awake. So step out into the sunlight. If you can’t escape to the sunny outdoors, keep your window blinds and curtains open so that you can soak up the rays. Not only does the sunlight help keep you awake throughout the day, but it can also improve your mood and act as a natural medium for stress relief. Even installing brighter light bulbs in your home or office can help keep your energy levels up!
If you forget to drink water, consider setting times throughout the day to drink. Proper hydration plays an essential role in how effectively your body functions. Dehydration can have many adverse effects, including making you feel tired when you should be full of energy. It is vital to drink even more water during hot days and before and after exercising. Stay hydrated throughout the day to be more energetic and keep your body healthy.
Take a Shower
A refreshing shower, even in the middle of the day, can be rejuvenating. But, make sure you are showering the right way to wake up. Hot showers increase your body temperature, which helps prepare your body for sleep. This “energy hack” claims that the best way to wake up in the shower is to spend 30 seconds under cold water, followed by 30 seconds in hot water, and finishing up with another 30 seconds of cold water. The idea behind this is that the extreme change of temperatures opens your capillaries to increase blood flow.
Take a Power Nap
Set the timer on your phone for 20 minutes of shut-eye. You’ll wake up refreshed. A short nap is more effective at waking you up than a cup of coffee. Caffeine may make you feel refreshed and alert, but it decreases memory performance and can hurt your productivity. 20 minutes is ideal, but even a quick ten-minute nap is enough to give your brain a boost. Early to mid-afternoon is generally the best time to try and take your catnap.
Listen to Music
Singing along with your favorite group can be exhilarating and mood-boosting. Turn up the music! Loud and energetic music may all that you need for an afternoon pick-me-up. If you work in an office setting, make sure to bring headphones so that you don’t annoy your co-workers! If you’re not sure what kind of music to listen to for an energy boost, here are some suggestions based on a study conducted by Spotify.
A splash of cold water is a tried and true method of jolting us awake. But you could also drink some cold water, or use a cool face cloth to rouse yourself from drowsiness. If you don’t have a chance to take advantage of the shower “hack” we mentioned, a handful of cold water splashed on your face may do the trick. While not as extreme of a sensation as immersing your entire body in ice-cold water, this is a great, quick way to feel more alert and awake almost immediately.
As it turns out, we have many healthier ways of getting through our days - without caffeine. Remember to get plenty of sleep, watch what you eat, move your body, and don’t let stress get the better of you. These won’t just lead to more abundant energy, but a better life.