25 Things to Do When You’re Too Tired to Work

Feeling ready to doze off? Try these!

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

A man feeling too tired to work

Did you stay up all night binge-watching Stranger Things only to immediately regret it in the morning when you’re struggling to pull yourself out of bed? Or maybe your other half kept you up all night because they were snoring their head off? Whatever the case, a lack of sleep can make us too tired to work, and the struggle of getting through an eight-hour workday without falling asleep seems impossible.

Not only can a lack of sleep affect your work ethic, but it can also “ripple throughout various [other] areas of your life … causing exhaustion and a run-down immune system,” according to Dr Wayne Scott Andersen, the medical director at Take Shape for Life.

So, what can you do to combat tiredness at work with little or no sleep at all? The following tips will help you push through the challenge and feel a little better by the end of it.

1. Jump right in

It can be easy when you’re tired to just delay your morning routine by a few minutes. A few minutes can turn into a few hours and before you know it, that has caused you to miss an entire day of productivity. Do yourself a favor; even if you’re tired, try to avoid procrastinating and jump right in; you’ll thank me later.

2. Freshen up

Maybe you could go to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face? Or if your office has a shower, take a quick shower in your break. Even a simple refresh of your hair could liven you up a bit. Take a minute and freshen up your look to distract your brain and wake you up!

3. Take energy-boosting vitamins

As mentioned before, a lack of sleep can affect your immune system, which, in turn, can make you sick. To avoid complete burnout, use energy-boosting supplements to help you fight that sluggish feeling and get back on track. Multivitamins release energy throughout the day to enhance mental performance. You could also opt for supplements with vitamin B or echinacea to boost your energy and immune system.

4. Get some sun

Sometimes a few rays of sunlight and a little vitamin D is all you need to feel more alert and energized. Spare 15 minutes, find the sun in your office and embrace it. The sun will release happy endorphins and leave a lasting effect to perform well on the job all day.

5. Eat small meals

Have you noticed how you feel bloated and tired after your lunchtime meal, making you want to curl up into a ball and take a catnap? It may be because of the quantity of food you’re consuming, so swap your heavy meals for several smaller ones throughout the day to fight this dreadful feeling. Spacing your meals throughout the day will help regulate your blood sugar and combat any loss of energy.

You should also avoid high-sugar, high-carb and processed foods that will give you a small sprout of energy before making you crash and burn. Instead, opt for healthy snacks that are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats, and low in sugar.

6. Limit your caffeine intake

As a coffee lover myself, this point seems contradicting, as coffee is the savior that picks you up when you’re feeling down. However, too much caffeine can cause headaches, bad bellies and jitters, as well as keep you up all night, causing a ripple effect on your sleep for the rest of the week. Instead, space out your cups of Joe throughout your day, and don’t consume more than the recommended daily caffeine allowance (400mg). It’s also advised to have your final coffee for the day before 2pm to combat the afternoon tiredness. You can also opt for green or black tea that will give you a caffeine boost if you’re not much of a coffee drinker.

7. Take a nap

You’ll probably get fired if you’re caught napping at your desk, so don’t take this literally. But if you live close to your workplace or the company has a breakroom where it’s acceptable to have a quick snooze, why not take advantage and doze off on your break? A quick 20-minute nap is enough to boost your energy levels and leave you feeling refreshed. Don’t overdo it, though: sleeping for more than 40 minutes will make you feel groggy and confused when you wake up!

8. Make a to-do list

Chances are that there’s a dreadful task lurking on your to-do list that you just really can’t face in your current state of exhaustion. If it’s not urgent, it’s okay to place it on the back-burner for today and focus on tasks that require less brainpower and, therefore, are easier to do. Just make sure you don’t make this a daily habit!

9. Move around regularly

Getting away from your computer screen and moving around will keep you going throughout the day. Taking a break from your screen every 30 minutes — whether it’s a trip to the watercooler, the kitchen or to a colleague’s cubicle — will help prevent drowsiness and boost your drive. If you need an excuse to get up, it’s a good way to discuss important things with coworkers in person rather than having to fire constant emails and IMs back and forth all day.

10. Listen to music

If you’re really struggling to get through the day, music may be the answer to your problem. In fact, listening to upbeat music will wake you up, get your brain working and make you feel good all at the same time. It can also help you refocus and keep you away from distractions that can destroy your motivation.

11. Exercise

Use the stairs instead of the office lift and do some desk exercises or office yoga to keep you energized throughout the day. If you can, take a walk on your lunch break to your local park — walking in nature has been found to decrease neural activity in the sub-genual prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain active during rumination (or repetitive thought focused on negative emotions).

12. Work standing up

This can have many benefits, like helping your posture and keeping you from falling asleep at work. If you can, shift your workspace to an upright position that allows you to stand up. You obviously don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb, so only follow this tip if you have your own office or work in an environment that accepts these changes.

13. Look the part

When we feel sleepy, we generally look tired due to a lack of effort. A good way to hide your tiredness and to make yourself feel more awake is to make sure you look the part. Get out of bed when your alarm goes off and put in the effort as you usually do to get ready for work. Whack on that bright lipstick or patterned shirt to distract your colleague from the bags under your eyes.

14. Switch your tasks around

Some of us usually feel more productive at mid-afternoon and spend the morning (while still trying to wake up) completing easier tasks. When you’re feeling exhausted, you’ll most likely just feel even more tired by the afternoon. Therefore, you should complete your important tasks in the morning (after your coffee boost) and save the easy tasks that require little brainpower for the end of the day.

15. Stay hydrated

It’s easy to forget about drinking when you’re busy, but dehydration saps your concentration, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Keep a big bottle of water on your desk and take small sips in between tasks to make sure you’re drinking enough. As our bodies are made up of 60% water, we should consume around 6–8 glasses of water per day.

16. Avoid distractions

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re feeling tired. Suddenly, your coworkers gossiping about Jen in Accounting sounds way more interesting than the emails you need to send to clients. However, try to avoid big distractions as they’ll only make you feel more tired and demotivated. This includes avoiding logging into Facebook and turning off email notifications if you’re trying to complete a challenging task. The fewer distractions, the more focused you’ll be on the task at hand.

17. Talk to a coworker

On the other hand, if you feel so tired that you are really battling to keep your eyes open, talking to your desk neighbor might be your only hope of staying awake. As long as you’re not getting in the way of their work, have a five-minute chat about anything that’s not work-related to make you feel a little more alert.

18. Lie low

Even after your best efforts, some days are just really hard to get through, and you simply can’t shrug off the exhaustion. In this case, your best bet is to try to lie low. Stay out of people’s way, avoid in-depth conversations and important meetings, and keep your head down. This will avoid any bad decisions and poor communication which can (and will) work against you.

19. Stay accountable to someone

If you’ve tried talking to your coworkers and you’re still struggling, it’s time to take it up a notch. Ask for some accountability. Have your coworkers follow-up on how you’re progressing throughout the day. Sometimes having that little extra push is what you need to stay focused.

20. Change up your views

I’m talking about an entire desk overhaul. If you’re facing East, maybe you’ll be more productive if you change to North, give it a whirl. Don’t start unplugging computers and needing any IT help but do what you can to adjust your workspace a little to increase your productivity and change it up!

21. Turn on a fan

You may not be able to go sit outside in the breeze while you work, so bring the breeze inside. Even if it’s not too hot to work, a cool fan blowing on you as you work is a great way to keep you alert in your tired state as you tackle your tasks for the day.

22. Clean out your inbox

Many of us leave emails to be done at a later date or to kill time on a slow day; we have ones we need to delete and those we need to respond to. Now is the time! The menial, repetitive tasks help your brain light up, so hit those emails!

23. Learn something new

Maybe there’s a training your boss has been asking you to watch or an article you need to read about recent changes to your industry; now is the time. Learning can help keep you feeling happy and purposeful at work, and with the day of sleepiness you’re having, that’s exactly what you need!

24. Ask for help

You’re not the only one who’s been too tired to work; we’ve all experienced it. Sometimes it’s important to call in the reinforcements! Ask for help from a friend, coworker, or even your boss, if you can trust them. Maybe they have recommendations on how to adjust your deliverables or an even help you achieve them as you flex those teamwork skills and work together. Sometimes it’s time to call in troops!

25. Go home

Let’s be reasonable here; if you’ve tried everything and you just can’t wake up, you might as well cut your losses and go home. If it’s possible, see if you can take some time off and start again tomorrow. Don’t start a pattern here, but sometimes, despite your best efforts, it’s time to regroup and start again tomorrow.

Tips to wake up when you

Key takeaways

If you’re having a bad day at work and want to spend the day sleeping, you need to try and shift the drowsiness. When you’re feeling tired, you need to be smart about your energy and concentration levels, and these tips can help you get over the slump. While we can’t take away the tired, or prevent it for you, try to remember a few key points:

  • Repetitive tasks can actually help you focus.
  • Change up your routine to keep you alert.
  • It’s okay to ask for help!

What do you do when you’re feeling too tired? Let us know in the comments!

This is an updated article that was originally published on 26 February 2018 and contains contributions by staff writer Shalie Reich.