If you’re like many people, you probably spend much time battling work-station fatigue. You’re cruising right along getting work done and then, gradually at first, you feel your body beginning to slow down. Your eyes get heavy, your concentration begins to wander, and then you’re either running over for a cup of coffee or a power drink. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that you’ll start to nod off at your desk and have to hope that nobody notices.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a third of adults don’t get enough sleep. The CDC says most adults need at least 7 hours per night. Obviously, an under-rested body will seek to have its need met, even when it’s not the most convenient time for your work needs.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a couch nearby or a company R&R area, you can grab a quick power nap when tiredness begins to set in. And there’s nothing wrong with doing so. In fact, a number of companies have begun to recognize the benefits of letting (and even encouraging) their people to grab a few mid-day z’s.
Still, there remain many workplaces where mid-day sleep is viewed as a negative. Some bosses see it as laziness. Others view it as an inability to properly manage your time, both at the office and at home. A responsible worker would, after all, get enough sleep at night so as to be able to avoid tiring while on the job.
What can you do, other than to get more sleep, to avoid the unpleasantness of drowsiness in a workplace that frowns upon it?
- Put your phone away for the night – Phone usage be very addicting, causing to lose out on precious sleep time. Moreover, research has shown that it messes with our sleeping patterns, reducing the obvious benefits that sleep provides.
- Take breaks – Short, strategically placed breaks (especially ones that involve movement, see below) can do wonders to help you sustain your focus and energy levels. A study conducted at Louisiana State University compared work schedules for workers who used a computer. The ones who took brief, frequent breaks fought fatigue more effectively and were more productive than those who did not.
- Get moving – Movement makes you more alert. Get an under the desk elliptical or exercise bike to provide you with seamless movement that doesn’t pull you from your work. Alternatively, take short, brisk walks around the office or down the hall. Hey, you could even dart up a couple of flights of stairs for a quick charge.
- Change your workstation design – Stand where you can. Desks that can adjust to standing positions offer great options for folks who just need to work through a lull or want to get the benefits of added circulation.
- Eat smarter and better – Don’t skip out on meals, particularly breakfast. A good breakfast filled with fiber will hold you in good stead throughout the morning. Keep your lunch selections low on fat and non-fibrous foods. Resist the temptation to overeat; a full stomach draws blood to the stomach and away from the brain, leaving you feeling listless and flat. Avoid over-consuming on sugar; the burst that you get will be short-lived before the negative effects kick in. High energy snacks and fruit are far-wiser choices.
- Drink more water and less caffeine – Mild dehydration is a common and often unnoticed cause of fatigue. It can reduce blood flow to your organs, slowing down your brain. Keep lots of water at your desk and condition yourself to drink about eight glasses of water a day, which will include drinking when you’re not thirsty. Caffeinated drinks, including coffee and soda, can give you an alertness pick-me-up, but you want to be strategic about how much caffeine you intake. As with any external stimulant, too much can lead your body to adjust and no longer feel the same level of impact. Excessive quantities can also make you irritable and jittery, actually decreasing performance on some tasks. Caffeine late in the day can cause insomnia.
- Change your environment – Adjust lighting, temperature, and noise levels to improve alertness. You’d be surprised to see what added lighting, cooler temps, and increased noise levels can do to get you kick-started.
Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) became an executive coach and organizational consultant following a career as an educator and school administrator. Check out his new leadership book, "Becoming the New Boss." Read his blog.