7 Tips to Boost without having Caffeine
We have compiled a list of scientifically-backed ways — in addition to napping — to stay alert without drinking or consuming caffeine at all. Some of them are actually kind of fun.
Take a Nap
As long as it’s not for too long or too close to bedtime, napping for a brief 5 to 25 minutes, about 6 to 7 hours before you’d normally go to bed is a great way to recharge.
Going much longer than that means the post-sleep grogginess of “sleep inertia” will kick in, leaving you sluggish after you wake. Longer naps — of up to an hour — can sometimes be worth it, as long as you can afford the extra time to push through that groggy after-glow.
A 2008 study found that an afternoon nap was better than both getting more sleep at night and using caffeine to get over a midday slump. Other studies have shown that sleep improves learning, memory, and creative thinking, and even quick six-minute naps help people retain information better than if they hadn’t slept at all. “Naps, in contrast to caffeine, have been shown to enhance not only alertness and attention, but also some forms of memory consolidation,” University of California–San Diego researchers reported.
Eat a Healthy Snack
Low blood sugar can make you feel foggy and mentally lethargic. Large meals can have the same effect, because digestion takes energy. If you try to mask this effect with sugary foods and caffeine, you’ll get a momentary high before a rapid crash.
Eating small snacks packed with certain nutrients and good fats is a great way to get the benefits of a natural buzz. One study found that a high-fiber breakfast provided the greatest boost in alertness, and high-quality proteins — like those found in eggs — are also important. But there are a wide variety of foods that can help keep your energy levels high throughout the day.
Dehydration is a huge energy suck. It can cause fatigue, confusion, heart palpitations, and fainting, according to an American Chemical Society.
This is because up to 60% of the human body is composed of water. In addition to lubricating joints and flushing waste from the body, the bloodstream uses water to shuttle nutrients like oxygen and carbohydrates to various body parts, including the brain. A 2009 study by Tufts University researchers showed that even levels of mild dehydration — a loss of 1-2% of the water in your body — was associated with fatigue and confusion.
If you’re dragging at work, a quick step into sunshine may be all you need to recharge. Studies indicate that exposure to blue light during the day — a type of visible light that comes from natural sources like the sun and artificial sources like TVs, laptops, smart phones, and LED lighting — immediately improves alertness and performance.
But to keep us perky during the day, we need more than a softly glowing screen (which may be plenty to keep us wired when we’re trying to sleep at night). That’s why a dose of sunshine is ideal, while the less-bright lights of indoors aren’t quite enough to keep you from dozing off at your desk. In a 2014 study, those exposed to special formulations of blue light reported feeling less tired and had quicker reaction times and fewer lapses of attention during memory tests.
Bright light also activates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls our circadian rhythms. Those are what regulate sleep and wakefulness, setting a normal schedule for our bodies and minds.
Calm and relaxed employees make for productive employees. Breathing deeply shuttles more oxygen to various parts of your body, which can boost your dipping energy levels and help keep you feeling active.
Deep breathing also decreases stress and anxiety, which in turn helps to boost your immune system, keeping you healthy and strong. But make sure you are practicing deep belly breathing to reap the benefits. Try some exercises here.
Listen to Music
Grooving to your favorite song releases multiple feel-good chemicals in your brain that can give you a boost.
A study from 2011 showed that when people listened to music that gave them — as science writer Virginia Hughes put it — “Goosebumps or chills” for 15 minutes, their brains overloaded with dopamine, a brain chemical that is involved in pleasure and reward. Your favorite tunes also activate other feel-good chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin.
Some studies of drowsy drivers have also found that music — especially loud music (that’s what headphones are for!) — can help keep people alert, though the effect may not be long-lasting. And certain playlists might be better than others: “The more varied the music,” noted a 2004 review, “the more [stimulating] it is.”
Keeping your mouth busy seems to keep your mind alert as well. Some studies have suggested that chewing gum might be an effective way to reduce daytime sleepiness, perhaps because the act of chewing somehow increases circulation and activates certain regions of the brain.
Recent studies have also demonstrated that chewing gum can help people concentrate on exams, reduce anxiety, and increase reading comprehension. Just make sure you’re not smacking your gum too loudly if you’re around coworkers.