Fatigue-busting: How to stay awake at work

Feeling your eyelids flutter when you should be concentrating at work? Liz Connor looks into why you might be feeling fatigued.

Fatigued employee sleeping at office
Liz Connor

THE car alarm that was blaring outside your window at 2am, the after-work drinks that quickly escalated, that sixth episode of Orange is The New Black: there are plenty of reasons – self-inflicted and otherwise – why you might arrive at work feeling slightly worse for wear and find yourself stifling yawns well beyond your third Americano.

Sleepless nights are never fun, but all of us will experience tiredness at some point throughout our lives, and the odd disrupted night of sleep isn't usually a cause for concern.

If you find yourself frequently nodding off and fighting sleep at work though, it could be a sign that something else is up.

What could be the reasons for your persistent sleepiness? Here, Matthew Reed, founder of health insurance company explains just a few.

:: Stress

"It's a sad but true reality that stress has become part of our everyday lives, and unfortunately work is usually one of the main contributors," says Reed.

Stress can be physically and emotionally exhausting; it's how our bodies react to situations that our mind deems threatening, uncomfortable or perilous.

"Usually, your heart rate will increase, breathing quickens and blood pressure rises, so dealing with stress is key to prevent feeling the need to have a nap during work hours," he explains.

"If your work has a stress support programme in place, then make sure to utilise it. If not, then encourage management to look into adopting one, as it could help to support you and your colleagues if you're feeling fatigued.

"If this isn't an option, try deep breathing, taking a break from your screen or confiding in someone close to you, to relieve some of the burden. "

:: Overworking

"Overworking goes hand-in-hand with stress and often produces the same results. It can seriously impair your sleep, leaving you feeling groggy and exhausted," says Reed.

"Not only does overworking increase your chances of dropping off at your desk, along with a myriad of other issues, but it's actually bad for your employer in the long run. Productivity often falls if employees reach the end of their tether and experience burnout."

If you feel as if your boss has given you far too much work and you truly believe it's negatively affecting your health, Reed says you should speak to management and see if you can divide your workload more fairly.

:: Poor diet

We all know that diet has a serious effect on how you feel. "If you don't have enough iron, for example, then you could be left feeling sluggish, weak and distracted," says Reed.

"If you do find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open next time you're working on a serious project, think about what it is you've eaten recently and consider adapting your diet to promote a healthier and more active lifestyle.

"If you aren't sure whether your diet could be a contributing factor, start a food diary. Too much sugar or fat, for instance, can result in energy crashes throughout the day.

"Instead of eating sugary snacks, try and fuel yourself with natural energy sources such as quinoa, honey, spinach and even peanut butter. Foods rich in vitamin D are also amazing at keeping you awake and raring to go."

:: Sleep disorders

"Falling asleep persistently throughout the day or feeling groggy could be a sign that you're struggling with a sleep disorder.

"Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), sleep apnea and narcolepsy are all sleep disorders that can cause you to not get enough sleep at night, which results in you falling asleep during work hours," says Reed.

Anxiety-induced insomnia can also keep you awake at night, making staying alert during the working day much more challenging.

"Ultimately, feeling like you're about to nod off at your desk once or twice a month is nothing to worry about initially," says Reed.

"But if you find yourself experiencing this frequently, do visit your doctor to rule out a possible sleep disorder."

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