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I find myself drinking 2 cups of coffee a day during work, and feeling incredibly tired whenever I don't get at least one cup worth in my system during the day. This helps me stay awake well enough to get my tasks done.

The problem is, I feel like I'm drinking far too much coffee for my own good. The caffeine dehydrates my sinuses and leaves me with headaches, and I feel as though I'm becoming dependent on it to keep myself productive.

I want to reduce the amount of caffeine I take in, but I also want to keep myself useful and productive throughout the day. I do not believe sleep is a problem because I always get to bed at around 11:45 PM and wake up at around 7:00 AM.

How can I stay awake during the day in lieu of drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages?

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closed as off-topic by CMW, ReallyTiredOfThisGame, jmac, jmort253 Mar 6 at 5:46

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Sounds like you are not getting the amount of sleep you need during the night, is this the case? –  Laf Mar 4 at 19:28
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Buy one of these and fill it with water. –  enderland Mar 4 at 19:29
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Sleep cycle stuff is entirely genetic, regardless of the "life-changing" advice anyone will give you. I'm naturally a night-owl, 6 months into a 8:30-5 job I still find myself wanting to call in sick because of how tired I am nearly EVERY morning (I never have). The only thing that's helped me has been going gluten-free. I can't say it'll help you, but it has helped me and my sister in various ways IMMENSELY. Try to look for any diet-related links; maybe dairy wears your body out, maybe gluten does, maybe soy does, maybe MSG does, who knows. It's worth trying if you're honestly desperate, IMO. –  HC_ Mar 4 at 20:19
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Lots of answers here mention sleep, but none seem to mention getting quality sleep. There are a number of medical issues, such as sleep apnea, that can prevent you from getting a good night sleep. My boss just had his tonsils removed at age 45 because sleep apnea was waking him up 80 times every hour. An oximetry test can easily monitor this. Also, vitaminn D was suggested - try a couple of months on a multi-vitamin. And see a doctor... –  dave Mar 4 at 23:11
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about problems with caffeine and sleep deficiency, not the workplace. –  jmort253 Mar 6 at 5:46

11 Answers 11

up vote 11 down vote accepted

First - realize that caffeine has a detox period that is both psychological and physical. So being tired and even having headaches will come with the withdrawal. So - step #1 is tough it out.

Assuming that you are getting good solid sleep and getting up with (or ahead of) the alarm, about the only physical phenomena could be a sleep disorder - there's good vs. bad quality of nightly sleep.

Then there's a bunch of environmental factors:

  • too hot and humid, or too cold
  • you ate a big meal and your body would like to sleep it off
  • poor ventilation in your workspace
  • bad posture, or a poor setup at your desk
  • too much sitting

Some of these can be fixed with a timer and a change in environment - getting up and moving around every hour or so is highly adviseable for anyone and it'll help you avoid sleeping.

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@RaduMurzea caffeine is actually a remedy for certain types of headaches (some migraines, for instance). –  alroc Mar 5 at 17:09

I try to convince my coworkers to do this all the time! I never drink coffee, and aside from a few caffeinated sodas now and again, I don't drink/consume caffeine at all. Not only that, but I can get to work first thing in the morning. Now, to clarify, when I was growing up I was(still am, a bit), a gamer. I stayed up late, playing video games all night long, went to bed between 1 and 5 am, and never considered myself a 'morning person'. The reason I wasn't a morning person? I was sleeping in the morning!

There is certainly a lot you can do, but here's a few things that help me.

1. Reduce the caffeine intake

First and foremost, you should ween yourself off caffeine. You can try going cold turkey, but that might be difficult, and you might be more likely to regress to your old habits.

2. Normalize your sleep schedule

There are a lot of people who say they aren't morning people. When I ask them when they go to sleep, they respond with I don't know, like 1 AM or so. Well...yeah, if you go to bed at 1, wake up at 7, and try to be at work at 8, you're running on 6 hours of sleep and you need to be alert for the next 8+ hours.

I try my best to go to sleep by 10, I wake up at 5:30(7.5 hours seems to be a good place for me right now). Finding out how much sleep is right for you is tricky. The fact of the matter is: it varies from person to person, and from one year to the next.

If you go to bed every night at 10, and wake up every morning at 6, your body will get into the rhythm of it after a short while. It's all about being consistent.

3. Track your sleep cycle

I was able to zero in on 7.5 hours by using an app called "Sleep as Android", which is free(for a while, then you have to pay).

What does it do? You place it on your bed, and it records movement throughout the night(you must sleep alone). By doing so, it can record what stage of sleep you're in. When you're in deep sleep, you won't move much, but when you're not in deep sleep, you move quite a bit. Not only does it record your sleep cycle for you, but you can set it up as an alarm. I would tell it "Don't wake me up later than 5:30" for example, and it would wake me up at 5:12, or 5:21 - whenever I happened to be lightly sleeping. As it turned out, more often than not I was in a light stage of sleeping right around 7.5 hours every night.

4. Get up with your alarm!

On top of that, it's harder to wake up when you're in a deep sleep. This is when you feel groggy and overall pissed off at the world for waking you up at all.

Many times when people use 'snooze', they shoot themselves in the foot. They may have been lightly sleeping when the alarm went off, but by hitting snooze and going back to sleep, they drift deeper into sleep. The result is negative: they're not resting a significant amount, and they're making it harder to wake up.

This is arguably the hardest part to sleeping. Getting up when your alarm goes off. But, if you do it, your body gets into the habit of it. I have 3 alarms on my phone just in case I miss one, but I never hit snooze.

5. Move around

I assume that you're in an office or similar setting. Whenever I start to feel drowsy, I stand up and force myself to go do something somewhere else. Sometimes that means going to the water cooler and filling my bottle with water(even if it's not empty...there's still room for more water!).

Other times, that means walking to someone's office to talk to them in person rather than drafting another e-mail.

Of course, you're the expert on what is there at your workplace. Taking a small walk around the block may also be suitable. Hopefully your boss doesn't take offense to a 2-5 minute breather every once n a while.

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At my workplace, I go for a walk around the block once or twice a day. It's a great way to clear my mind and wake myself up if I'm feeling tired. –  Kevin Mar 4 at 22:05
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A trip up and down the stairs can be effective too, if you don't have the time or inclination to leave the building. –  Monica Cellio Mar 5 at 1:01

The best long term solution is to try getting enough sleep. It's the healthiest way to be productive and realize caffeine doesn't necessarily give you the productivity boost you'd get after a good night's sleep.

Is your schedule so full that you cannot get at least 6 to 8 (though this number can vary from person to person) hours of sleep? If so, is your work the culprit here, or are you doing something else that keeps you from getting your sleep?

Either way, you should deal with the root cause of the issue. If it's your job, talk to whoever manages your schedule and mention why it's affecting your health and why you're not reaching maximum productivity. If it's a personal project, I suggest dedicating less time to it.

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Agreed. I'm the guy that's drank so much coffee that I am highly tolerant to caffeine, where drinking doesn't make sense any more. Knowing that caffeine won't help me, I've made it a conscious effort to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep. The difference is staggering. Also, I want to remind you -- exercise and breakfast changed my life completely. The combination of sleep, exercise, and waking a bit earlier for a plate of bacon and eggs had turned me around as a person. –  theGreenCabbage Mar 4 at 20:20
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I have heard that drinking lots of water helps. You might also benefit from a source of good sugar like orange juice, or an orange or apple... If you can get away with it, try to catch a little nap during your lunch break, but not if it prevents you from eating. Avoid simple sugar in the morning. The sugar crash will cause you to crave sugar and/or caffine later in the day. –  TecBrat Mar 5 at 4:26

First, if you go cut down on coffee expect a slight dip in productivity while your body adjusts.

Otherwise, this comes down to either a matter of personal responsibility or a larger health issue. For the most part, eat healthy (WebMD, Yahoo), eat throughout the day, get proper sleep at night, and if you can improve the lighting in your workplace. Exercise will dramatically increase your day-to-day energy (Huffington Post, Wikipedia).

Overall, it just comes down to living a healthy lifestyle; most people mistake feeling unenergetic as entirely a sleep issue, but if you live poorly no amount of sleep will correct energy issues. As an example studies have shown that children in school do better in the class directly after gym, being more alert and less prone to distraction.

If for some reason healthy living doesn't fix your energy, then it's a sign of a larger heath issue, and you should consult a physician; but don't go straight to the doctor if you aren't already living a healthy lifestyle.

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You're right @Chad, I threw in a few links, and I'll add more later if I get some extra time. –  Kver Mar 5 at 18:51

I am always sleepy in default mode because I have a very low blood pressure. (It's not a bug, it's a feature, I will live longer!)

I deal with this by always getting my 8 hours sleep, and drinking tea every hour or so. You can drink green or black tea, or mix it with fruit tea or chai for fun. If I stay up late at weekends I try never to dislocate my sleep pattern by more than 2 hours, that makes Monday a bit easier. Oh, and no more tea after 4 pm, else i can't sleep.

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Three other recommendations:

  1. Get a physical with blood work. Perhaps you're vitamin-D deficient. Perhaps you have deeper issues.

  2. Check your eating habits and what you eat. Do you skip breakfast? Do you eat fatty foods at lunch? Do you eat lunch very early or late?

  3. Do you need more coffee at some times of year? Allergies, SADD, etc, can all be issues.

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Coffee is a diuretic. If that's all you're drinking at your desk, you're probably getting dehydrated.

Drink water. I don't mean six to eight glasses of water per day; even I think that's too much. But when I'm sitting in front of the computer 8 hours per day, it's not unusual for me to drink no water at all, if I don't make a deliberate effort to have a water bottle handy.

Force yourself to get up and move around for a few minutes every 45 minutes or so. Spend the five minutes focusing your eyes on faraway objects.

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I really do think sleep is the issue, either too little sleep or sleep at the wrong time for you. What happens on weekends? Do you sleep more? Also, do you wake up to an alarm rather than at your natural time? If you find yourself sleeping considerably more or later, or taking naps midday, that really points to sleep as the issue. FYI, the amount you're getting is too little for many people.

You might have more flexibility than you think—if your weekday and weekend sleep patterns are markedly different and you find yourself less productive during the week, one possibility is to bring up the issue with your group (if you think they are understanding). Or, you might be able to just go to bed earlier.

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In addition to the obvious answers about sleep, there's exercise and power naps.

If you feel sleepy after lunch, around 2pm say, then this is normal. I've been in meetings watching my boss slowly nod off.. as I was doing the same! The simple solution is to nip to the toilet for a 5 minute sit down in 'shutdown' mode - not asleep, but eyes closed, not thinking or worrying. 5 minutes of that will do you more good than you realise. Its temporary though, but should get you through the post-lunch snooziness.

The other thing to try is to get up regularly. Sitting down sedentary-style is a killer for making you feel sleepy. Do it for a couple of hours and you're fine, but try it for longer and it does you in. Get up once or twice and walk for as long as you can go - take the long way round to the coffee machine, or just walk round the building. Lunch time, go for a walk. Anything that basically gets you out of your chair.

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Doing this without talking to your boss could quite easily get you in some serious trouble. –  enderland Mar 6 at 15:52

You write:

Edit: I do not believe sleep is a problem. I always get to bed at around 11:45 PM and wake up at around 7:00 AM, with an approximate 15 minute leeway at each end.

But that is only 7 hours of sleep a night. I know it is common in this modern cooperate world to only sleep 7 or 6 hours a night, but most people need around 8. I myself am around 8.5.

And as others have stated, exercise, it really improves the quality of your sleep.

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I've had the same problem in the past. Getting up to refill my decaffeinated coffee (still caffeine, but about 3% of the usual) once every hour or so helps. More recently, I've started using binaural beats, not so much because I think that it "changes brain chemistry" or the like, but because constant changing sound helps keep me from drifting off and music/audiobooks can be too distracting while coding.

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