We've learned what caffeine really does to our brains, but for many it's become a staple of everyday life. With a reasonable amount of sleep, however, it's not that hard to get up without the help of stimulants. Here's how.
Photo by Bart Everson
Although I can't say it's necessarily on-purpose, I very rarely ever consume caffeine or other stimulants yet I'm generally as awake and alert as anybody else during the day. While I'd like to say this is because I actually force myself to sleep at least eight hours a day, that's more of an exception than a rule. As a result I've employed a few tricks here and there to keep myself going without resorting to caffeine or other stimulants. If you're thinking of ditching your morning cup of coffee and afternoon soda, here are some tips to keep you from feeling sluggish.
Turn Down the Temperature Before You Go to Sleep
First of all, you're naturally going to be a bit warmer in your bed than you will be sitting at a desk or on the couch when the temperature in the room is the same, so it makes sense to dial the temperature down before you go to bed. Instead of adjusting it just a few degrees, make it a bit colder than you might normally tolerate. Your bed will keep you warm and the cold air will help you feel more awake. If you've ever been in a sauna or a hot tub you know how hard it is to move. Colder air won't be uncomfortable, but it won't turn relaxation into total sloth. Also, walking around in the cool air in the morning will definitely keep you moving a lot faster than a perfect, warmer temperature.
Keep Your Alarm Out Of Reach
If your alarm is by your side when you wake up, you can easily hit the snooze button and avoid actually getting out of bed. Snooze is your worst enemy. If you can't get up that early, set your alarm for later and shorten your morning routine. Either way, the important thing is that you get out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. Or, better yet, don't use an alarm at all. That's not always possible, but it's a good way to force yourself to go to bed early enough. If you do, you can trust yourself to wake up in time to get ready and get to work.
Only Sleep In Your Bed
I am currently writing this in bed, so I am somewhat of a hypocrite. That said, I'm recovering from an illness so I get a pass. You don't. Keep your work, television and anything that requires you to be conscious out of your bedroom. Well, as much as possible anyway. If the bedroom is where you sleep and only where you sleep, your body will not associate them with sleep and will tire less during those activities.
Wash Your Face With A Rough Wet Cloth
In the morning, as soon as you get up, go to your bathroom and grab a rough (as in not soft or comfortable) and get it wet with some cold water. Rub it on your face with a reasonable amount of pressure. This is not always comfortable while you're doing it, but you end up with a reasonably clean face (which will hopefully only get cleaner after you shower) and, moments after you're finished, you'll feel refreshed. While this isn't something that will last you all-day, it'll wake you up with minimal discomfort first thing in the morning.
Eat A Healthy Breakfast
Or just eat any breakfast. I'm always tempted to skip it because there's never enough time, but it's by far the most important thing you can do to stay awake during the day. Your body has been fasting all night. Give it food as soon as you wake up. Because you're getting ready to go, you're going to require energy in the morning. If you work in a cube farm and are seated all day, it might be the most active part of your day. You need to eat. Stop making excuses and figure out a way to make sure you always have something to eat every morning — even if it's a doughnut.
Those are my tips for staying alert during the day without stimulants. Got any of your own? Let's hear 'em in the comments!