In this day and age, we oftentimes have to stay awake late. Whether it’s to study for an exam, finish a project, or to organize that file your boss gave you in alphabetical order!
The final result is the same, we need something to keep us awake to fight that irresistible urge to crawl under our blanket and give in to one of the most powerful instincts out there. The instinct that’s carved in the brains of most creatures on earth; sleep.
Most people would run to coffee or tea to keep them awake at night, and this is due to the high levels of caffeine found in coffee seeds and tea leaves. However, that’s not always a good choice, as it could be harmful to your body if consumed for a long time.
In this article, we will discuss the potential adverse effects of caffeine, as well as some safer alternatives to keep you awake.
What is caffeine and how does it work?
Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that induces alertness in people, and although the exact mechanisms involved are not clearly understood, scientists believe that caffeine exerts its arousing effects by blocking the Adenosine receptor found in the CNS.
Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that’s believed to promote the movement of GABA, the latter being another neurotransmitter with inhibitory properties.
As a result of Adenosine release and subsequently, GABA, the neurons responsible for keeping us awake are inhibited, thus making us fall asleep.
Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors, which halts the activity of GABA and prevents drowsiness.
Moreover, caffeine is also believed to upregulate the action of two natural CNS stimulants: norepinephrine and dopamine.
What are the side effects of too much caffeine?
Although caffeine is considered relatively safe, too much of it can damage your body. Additionally, some people are just intolerant to caffeine as it would cause them to experience several adverse effects.
Too much caffeine can cause the following symptoms:
- Rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown)
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diarrhea)
- High blood pressure
- Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
- Cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm)
- Frequent urination
Tips on how to stay awake without caffeine
Go for a walk
This tip is especially helpful if you work on a desk. Taking a brisk 10-minute walk every now and then will refill your energy for at least 2 hours.
This is due to the boosted blood circulation when you walk and the enhanced oxygen delivery to the brain and muscles.
Preferably, do your 10 minutes-walk outdoors because the fresh air can act as a stimulant to your brain, helping you stay awake.
Nap during the day
It goes without saying that napping during the day can help you stay up late and work on that important project of yours.
However, it is important to avoid napping close to your bedtime since that risks you taking a 9-hour nap.
Additionally, keep your naps short. No more than 25 minutes.
If for some reason you can’t nap during the day, try to close your eyes for 10 minutes and then get back to your daily routine.
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue and drowsiness in the world. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they are dehydrated until it’s too late, especially if no noticeable symptoms are present.
For this reason, it is important to drink water while you work on your project, which will help you stay hydrated and serve as a “mini-break” that will further stimulate your brain.
Turn on the lights
Turning the lights will stimulate the receptors found inside the retina of your eyes to signal the brain. As a result, the brain will release neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which will give you a boost of energy.
While the source of the light is preferably the sunlight, any type of light including the LED lamps and screen in your house can do the job.
Take a deep breath
Taking a deep breath will decrease your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Subsequently, this will improve your cardiovascular circulation, aiding in your mental alertness and improving your performance.
Start a conversation
Engaging in a conversation with a friend or a colleague can stimulate your brain and reduce your drowsiness, especially if the topic involves some heated arguing such as politics, sports, or religion.
Nevertheless, you could use this tip to stimulate your CNS, which will keep you awake for longer hours.
Do something else!
Switching from one task to another can be very efficient at keeping your brain alert. This is due to the recruitment of new areas of the brain each time you change the type of task you’re working on.
Monotonous work was found to be quite harmful to the circadian rhythm (biological clock), as well as your mental clarity during work.
Music can either make you fall asleep or be wide awake; it all depends on the type of music you’re playing.
For our purpose; however, you should choose music that is upbeat and cheerful. Moreover, you should try to sing along while playing the music as that would stimulate your brain even further.
Make sure to use your headphones if you’re in an office setting.
Before the invention of electricity and lightbulbs, our sleep was solely controlled by sunlight. We wake up at sunrise, sleep at sunset, wake up again at midnight, sleep around 2-3 AM until sunrise.
Our ancestors slept this way for millennia and their circadian rhythm was controlled by sunlight.
Since the invention of artificial light, our sleep rhythm got messed up! Moreover, it was further disrupted when we started resisting urges to sleep because of projects and exams, and people turned to caffeine as a resort.
In this article, we’ve discussed some of the safe alternatives to stay awake without caffeine, but if you tried something else and it worked, please let us know in the comment section below.