A late night flight, an exam or assignment staring at you or a deadline to meet. It’s possible to fight sleep without having to drink cups of coffee
With so much to do on the social media, sleep looks like a lot of time wasted, but we need to sleep. Continuous late-nighters are bad, all-nighters are worse. They leave us with a headache, wooziness and curtailed ability to retain facts. Even hour-long naps reset our short-term memory, helping us grasp facts faster, according to a study by Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California. Snatch a nap — a brief one after lunch, a prophylactic one in advance of expected sleep deprivation, 45, 20, 10, even 5-minute naps when you can, and spring into action.
But sometimes you need to keep awake. There’s that staring deadline, looming exam, the midnight flight. There are lectures, and droning policy meetings. Coffee, obviously, is the usual solution. Caffeine is a natural stimulant; it temporarily wards off drowsiness and restores mental alertness. But, only temporarily. And dependence on caffeine could get you into an addiction loop.
“Coffee or tea even at late hours can’t keep me awake,” says Sheila Subramaniam, educational consultant. “If I have work, I just sit up and finish it.” But chatting online/offline helps, she says, as she can’t sleep at all with people around. At lecture halls, she’d watch people around dozing off and pretend to be interested in the monologue.
Over the years, I have found caffeine-free ways to conquer drowsiness. I always catch up with the mandatory 6-7 hours of sleep, with siestas, but when I have to be wide awake and wired, I go to a list to choose from. See if these help you.
Start by converting your corner into an Arctic zone. Crank up the air-conditioner. Hot, stuffy environments accelerate mental fatigue. When in public, find an open seat under an AC vent. As an alternative, splash cold water on your face, wrists and feet. Drink ice-cold water. Down enough, you’ll feel refreshed and will be up on your feet every thirty minutes. If you’re working alone, turn on the lights. Darkness induces sleep.
Often, sheer boredom places the temptation in front of you. So, give yourself distraction time. Play Sudoku, solve crosswords, join dots. Start on a fresh assignment, that’s time saved! An army trick is to rub hot sauce under the eyes. You could go for the frontal attack by asking questions. That is double advantage — you’re awake and you stand out as someone who pays attention.
Fast at a mealtime. Energy spent on digestion causes fatigue, especially if you’re trying to digest a lot of rice. Combine fasting with drinking water, and you’ve found a healthy way to detox your cells and rejuvenate organs. Take breaks — walk around, check out what family/colleagues are doing, make a call, jump a bit to get the blood moving before returning to work. Even the lightest exercise can act as a healthy way to energise you. Give it a thumbs-up.
A sweet option is to chew sugar-free peppermint gum. It generates just enough physical activity to keep you awake. Munch small crackers dipped in sauce, or low-carb-high-energy fruits such as apples, oranges and grapefruit. Stay away from meats, breads and dairy products.
Take a stab at writing. At a lecture/ business meeting, write down everything you hear. Or create a detailed to-do list for the week, or plan your perfect weekend getaway. Watch a funny video-clip, read your favourite comic strip. A good chuckle will stimulate your brain for the next session of work. If it’s not too much of a distraction, listen to fast music to keep awake. It’s tempting to say “Play a video game,” but make sure you set a time limit.
There are oddball methods on this list. One is to rub your tongue against the top inside front of the mouth. Weird? But it’s supposed to give you a quick, irritating nerve jolt to make you sit up. Another is to pull down on your earlobes. See if it works for you. A third is a daily dose of multi-vitamins or energy shots loaded with vitamins such as B6 and B12. “They help metabolise carbs and synthesise proteins, both critical components in your energy levels. Vitamins fight off fatigue,” says a study.
But all the vitamin pills and shots in the world can’t keep a sleep-starved individual awake for a long time. The healthiest way is to rest well, get enough sleep on a regular basis. Then it’s much easier to push sleep or pull an all-nighter when you absolutely must.
FACTS ABOUT SLEEP
* You have to keep that hippocampus refreshed — to learn, to work, to retain facts.
* Sleep well to avoid drifting into slow-wave sleep.
* Waking up from this stage results in sleep inertia, grogginess, disorientation.