Working late hours—either the night shift or overtime hours—at work is no joke. It seems totally doable until hours four, five, and six when you’re just ready to crawl into bed and fall asleep.
But, if you handle it right, you can stay alert, awake, and energize through your shift. Here’s how to stay alert while working late hours.
You can’t nap while you’re on your shift, but a quick rest right before you head to work can help boost your alertness. Even a nap as short as fifteen to twenty minutes can make a huge difference in keeping you awake. And, make sleep a priority every night! The more well-rested you are, preferably nine hours a night, the better you’ll be able to focus and engage at work every shift.
Related Content: How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
If you sit still at a desk during your shift, you’re likely to drift off. But, if you stay busy, you won’t even notice how tired you are until your shift is over and you’re headed home.
If you’re required to sit still, take regular activity breaks. Take a walk around the building, do some squats or pushups, or a quick yoga flow. Just by getting your blood flowing, you’ll feel more alert and think more clearly.
Related Article: 6 Simple Exercises to Do At Your Desk
Caffeine can be helpful when you’re trying to stay alert but using too much or at the wrong time can have the opposite effect. If you chug a huge coffee at the beginning of your shift, it’ll make you alert for the first few hours, but then, depending on how quickly you metabolize it, you might crash hard later. On the other hand, if you drink it too late, it might mess with the quality of your sleep once you get home. Try to pace yourself, sipping a little at a time so that the caffeine has a steady effect.
Other Quick Tricks
Drinking water, playing music, and using energizing scents, like citrus, jasmine, or peppermint, are other good ways to increase your alertness. Darkness and dim lights just induce sleepiness, so keep your lights on to keep yourself awake and alert. And you might consider adjusting your to-do list so you’re working on your more complicated tasks when your shift starts, while you’re more awake and save your easy, mindless responsibilities for when you’re starting to drag.
Keep Snacks on Hand
Not a big, sleep-inducing meal!
You want something healthy that will keep your blood sugar steady during your shift, instead of temporarily spiking it with something sugary or letting it drop by eating nothing at all. Try something with protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, like carrots and cheese, nuts and fruit, granola and yogurt, or apple/banana/crackers/celery with peanut butter. Soda, candy, and other foods with added sugars will just spike your blood sugar and make you even more tired.
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