You had a rough night, didn’t get much sleep and you have a long day ahead of you. Maybe, you want to limit the afternoon crush. Or simply, you want to feel more energised and instantly awake. However, you don’t like coffee, or you don’t want to rely on it. How to feel more awake without caffeine?
Although caffeine is a really good energiser, there are multiple reasons why some people don’t drink any caffeinated drinks. Fortunately, there are tools you can use to feel more awake and energised during the day that don’t involve caffeine. Here is how you can do it:
1. Get a cold shower
The most instant way to activate your body and mind is by taking a cold shower. According to this meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, cold exposure increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, and elevates your respiratory rate. The result is a sense of heightened alertness in only 1-3 minutes of cold showers. In this article, we talk more about the health benefits of cold exposure.
2. Get sunlight first thing in the morning
One of the first things to do in the morning to wake up after a night’s sleep is to go out outside to get exposure to sunlight, as sunlight helps restart the circadian clock, the body’s mechanism for anticipating when to wake up and when to go to sleep.
Light, especially if it comes from the sun, is an important cue that signals the body it is time to wake up. In contrast, it is as important to decrease the exposure to light in the evening, as this lack of light signals that is time to sleep.
Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist and professor at Stanford School of Medicine, recommends exposure to sunlight within the first hours of waking since this raises early-day cortisol release, which positively impacts your capacity to focus during the day.
The scientist suggests sunlight exposure for at least 5-10 minutes on a sunny day and 15-20 minutes on a cloudy morning. He informs us that this needs to be done outside, as windows can filter out many of the relevant wavelengths.
3. Use bright overhead lights during the day
To add to the sunlight exposure in the morning, Huberman recommends using bright overhead lights to enable the release of molecules associated with attention, motivation, and drive, (dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine) and other particles able to improve alertness and focus (cortisol).
Ideally, you could sit down next to a window during the day, as Huberman insists natural sunlight is the best light to signal alertness to the body. If not possible, make sure that at least your workspace has enough ambient light.
4. Increase breathe rate
In the same way that certain types of breathing can help you relax, others can wake you up. Slow and extended inhales and exhales calm down your parasympathetic nervous system. The opposite happens when you take short, powerful, and quick inhales and exhales. This type of breathing activates your sympathetic nervous system and increases your activation (Hanrahan & Andersen, 2013). If you think about it, this is what happens when we are stressed, our breathing becomes naturally shallow and quick. Power breathing exercises like this replicate the state of high arousal you get during moments of stress. Here you have an example of power breathing.
A word of caution. It is highly important to be careful and not do this exercise if you struggle with panic attacks, anxiety, or cardiovascular problems. In certain individuals, power breathing could trigger a panic attack or increase anxiety and is also not recommendable if you have heart issues. Always consult with your GP before making big changes in your breathing.
When you work out, the body releases epinephrine and norepinephrine, stress hormones that, in small doses, energise your body. You don’t need intense exercise to get the benefits, even a low-intensity workout can raise your energy levels.
6. Take a nap
Naps can be very restorative in some cases. Short naps of 30-45 minutes can increase alertness and help you through the rest of the day. However, longer naps can have the opposite effect, since the longer you sleep the deeper sleep becomes, and if you sleep for one hour or more, sleep inertia can make you feel sleepier.
In addition, naps are not recommendable for people with insomnia, as sleeping in the afternoon can reduce sleepiness at night.
7. Play upbeat music
Research has shown that listening to music can enhance mental alertness by activating the autonomic nervous system (Yokoyama, et al., 2008; Liu, et al., 2013). Furthermore, listening to fast, upbeat music can improve your mood, making you more enthusiastic and ready for the day’s tasks (Hanrahan & Andersen, 2013).
8. Act energised
Body and mind are connected, and by changing one, you can impact the other. If you are tired and lack energy, but you use your physiology and body posture to act as if you were energised, you send signals to your brain that your body is energised, which can have an impact on your mind (Amy et al., 2012). As a result, head up, shoulders back and walking fast can boost activation (Hanrahan & Andersen, 2013).
9. Positive statements
In the same way that physiology can impact the mind, thinking can also impact physiology. Hanrahan and Andersen (2013) explain that using positive self-statements, like “I can do this”, and “get going”, can raise activation levels.
10. Energizing visualisation
Imagery is largely used by athletes, and it can be used to increase activation levels (Hanrahan & Andersen, 2013). Choose an image that is exciting and motivating for you, close your eyes, and immerse yourself in that image for a few minutes. Feel how it affects your body.
Amy, Wilmuth, C. A., & Carney, D. R. (2012). The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation.
Hanrahan, S., & Andersen, M. (2013). Routledge handbook of applied sport psychology : a comprehensive guide for students and practitioners. Routledge.
Liu, N.-H., Chiang, C.-Y., & Hsu, H.-M. (2013). Improving Driver Alertness through Music Selection Using a Mobile EEG to Detect Brainwaves. Sensors, 13(7), 8199–8221. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s130708199
Yokoyama, M., Oguri, K., & Miyaji, M. (2008). Effect of Sound Pressure Levels of Music on Driver’s Drowsiness.
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