What should I do when I am tired, but have to be in work, and the work is sending me to sleep?

What is a good practice to deal with such situations. How can I communicate the situation to my manager(s), when I feel that way more often?

  • @JoeStrazzere For me it's the combination of the two, normally i would be able to cope with a bad nights sleep because i enjoy programming so much and can bring myself to power through it. but when it comes to something i feel is a menial and unwarranted in the first place i don't feel that extra motivation.
    – Jharwood
    Jul 10, 2013 at 12:20
  • @JoeStrazzere - No, this question is on the opposite - i.e. how not to sleep... but yes, still off topic. :-p
    – Anonymous
    Jul 10, 2013 at 14:58
  • 1
    I don't think this question should be treated as off-topic, as this kind of problem appears very often. Surely, this is not just about a "good night's sleep". There can be a lot of reasons why you may feel sleepy while working hours. I can't remember a single day, not seeing a few of my colleagues drinking Energetic Drinks, coz they really feel sleepy/tired. Even if workplace problem is caused by external factors, it still remains a workplace problem.
    – loler
    Jul 15, 2013 at 10:42
  • @F0G i would like to point out i have modified the question since most people commented to bring the question up to standards
    – Jharwood
    Jul 15, 2013 at 10:50
  • 1
    This question appears to be off-topic because it doesn't exclusively pertain to the workplace. A variant of this question could easy be written as 'How should I deal with the urge to sleep at 'X'?' where 'X' could be school, church, the movie theater, or the baseball field.
    – Jim G.
    Jul 17, 2013 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


Physical Movement. When people are sleep deprived, exercise can increase alertness. Instead of giving into the head nodding and eyelid drooping, get up and get out for 10 minutes. Do some type of brisk physical movement like walking, jogging, jumping jacks, push ups, etc. If there is a stairwell, jog up and down the stairs 5 or 6 times.

Get Help from Colleagues. If you have some buddies at work, confide in them that you need their help with staying awake. See if there are any things you can work on together. Talking with co-workers will help keep your mind engaged and alert.

Pace Yourself. If you are just mildly tired, a good strategy is to simply take it real slow. Don't be too ambitious. Just take one thing at a time. And conserve your energy by avoiding conflict. Then at 5pm, zip on out to get home.

Take Multiple Breaks. If your work doesn't give you unlimited breaks, take a bathroom break once an hour to get up and walk. And when you take your breaks, close your eyes for 5 minutes. Try splashing some cold water on your face before heading back to your work.

Stimulate the Mind. Find something to laugh about periodically during the day even if it is as simple as your ridiculous predicament. Find something that is interesting, fun, stimulating, or otherwise pleasurable to think about. Focus your mind on these thoughts as much as you can during the day to keep your mind awake.

Eat Frequent Snacks. Healthy is best. Protein is good for energy that won't make you sleepy. Avoid sugar because it will give you a little boost, but then when the sugar crash comes it will be harder to take given your sleepiness. Try not to eat too much or too little.

Caffeine. The key here is not to take in too much too quickly. You'll have best results if you spread it out slowly over the day. This will keep your mind alert enough to stay awake, but it won't jolt you too much which could end up making you more tired later.

If you need to get serious about staying awake, combine several of these tactics. Start with some fuel. Get some healthy food to eat during the day. Line up some caffeinated drinks that you can sip throughout the day. Each hour or half hour do 5 minutes of moving, stretching and deep breathing. Stay around people to keep your mind alert. If you have a buddy who can help keep you awake seek them out.

  • Excellent points. I have tried most of these. But there is not much one can do when one often gets insufficient sleep due to several reasons such as being a new parent, long commutes, sleep problems etc. If you need your 7 or 8, you need it, period. Otherwise, you will be like a zombie on caffeine. Jul 6, 2014 at 20:31
  • As an aside, caffeine works fine for some and does not for for others. If you consume "too much" for your body, then you might suffer from sleep disturbance, anxiety, excessive urination and caffeine crash. So, use this "drug" with great care. Try to take it only once much before night time (7-8 hours). Some links to read - sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/caffeine-and-sleep/page/0%2C1 cen.acs.org/articles/91/i5/Caffeine-Jitters.html Jul 6, 2014 at 20:40
  • @BoratSagdiyev To expand on your aside, caffeine keeps you from physically relaxing more than you already are. So, it doesn't work very well for those who are already tired. The key is to drink caffeine and then take a moderately paced walk (don't pump yourself up too much, because you won't be able to calm down properly for a while). People who think caffeine doesn't work on them mostly don't know how to use it. They'll drink something, and then go back to their chair where they don't move, which is a mistake.
    – Edwin Buck
    May 21, 2016 at 23:20
  • To expand on food advice. For some people eating food with high glycemic index (such as sweet yoghurt) causes a quick burst of energy and then drowsiness. This is especially evident when combined with coffee. In this case, it is better to eat food with a low glycemic index, which causes the energy from the food to be released slowly. It might help to check your glucose and insulin curves and consult it with a dietician.
    – dzieciou
    Oct 24, 2020 at 20:00

To answer your question directly:

  • Coffee, energy drinks - caffeine-laden food and drink.
  • Cold air blowing in your face.
  • Music on.
  • Anything else you can think of to stimulate your senses.

My actual advice:

  • Try and take power-naps throughout the day (of 10-20 minutes), that should help significantly.
  • Consider asking your manager/boss to let you take the day off sick for you to catch up on your sleep - whilst you're in this state your productivity will be shot, you'll probably make mistakes you'll have to correct tomorrow and you don't want to be travelling home this evening when you've done a full day of work on top of your already fatigued state - especially if you're driving, that's dangerous.
  • 1
    i've always wanted to try having a nap during the day, so i might give that a go during lunch.
    – Jharwood
    Jul 10, 2013 at 9:20
  • @Jharwood - Good idea.
    – Anonymous
    Jul 10, 2013 at 9:26
  • 1
    @Jharwood Problem is if you're to tired then what if you oversleep? Jul 10, 2013 at 9:29
  • 1
    @MichaelGrubey - He should probably set several alarms in his phone to make sure he doesn't.
    – Anonymous
    Jul 10, 2013 at 9:45
  • @Anonymous If my manager were to walk past me in the kitchen or at my desk on a break or not with alarms set to wake me up, I'm sure that would not be looked on favourably. Jul 10, 2013 at 9:59

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .