Coffee may be the workplace standard for staying alert, but it has its tradeoffs: it raises the heart rate, increases blood pressure, and inflates stress. Caffeine makes it harder to fall asleep at night, which is the last thing most of us need—one in three US workers, or 40.6 million people, aren’t getting enough sleep. Fatigue is also a growing problem in the workplace. Poor sleep paired with longer hours means that tired workers have less self control and are more hostile—hardly a recipe for productivity. So how do you stay awake without that cup of joe? Here’s our complete guide to staying alert at work, without caffeine:
Get some exercise
Thirty seconds of blood-pumping exercise can give you the same mental boost as an espresso, because of the link between aerobic activity and cognition. A study also found that eating breakfast and working out improved mood and mental alertness later in the day (compared to various combinations of skipping food and exercise), and that morning exercise banished post-breakfast sluggishness.
Keep it cool
The average room temperature is around 70°F, but lowering this just by a couple of degrees can keep workers awake. Cooler air has been found to increase levels of an enzyme that correlates with higher mental alertness, and make workers slightly uncomfortable, which keeps them from getting drowsy. When people are warmer, they can feel grumpier, be less motivated to work hard, and show a decrease in job performance.
Turn up the lights
A study of college students taking night classes found that exposure to bright lightboosts alertness and reduces sleepiness. Depending on the time of day, the effects were visible after about 30 minutes to an hour. Another study found that LED lighting is better than fluorescent lighting for beating fatigue, since it leads to clearer vision, faster response times, and improved memory.