9 Ways to How to Fight Sleepiness at Work You Need to Know

9 Ways to How to Fight Sleepiness at Work You Need to Know

It’s a new day.

Opening your eyes, you can see a strange and intermittent light, emitting an annoying sound.

It is the alarm clock of your phone.

It’s time to get up. How did you sleep?

Maybe you slept 8 or even 10 hours last night, and yet the fatigue doesn’t go away.

So you decide to take some coffees and energy drinks, hoping to find that distant hint of energy needed to fight sleepiness at work and make it till the end of the day.

Don’t worry, tonight it will be better.

But the following day is still the same situation as the previous day.

Why did you sleep so much, but you are still so tired?

The answer is very simple: you haven’t learned the right sleep techniques yet.

In the next chapters we will see how to sleep well and finally wake up rested, giving you the opportunity to apply these principles already for this night:

1 # Let's find out which chronotype are you

The Chronotype is a natural characteristic of human beings that indicates when your body is  most active during a particular period of the day.

The “larks” people are those who get up early in the morning and are most active during the first part of the day;

The “owl” people, on the other hand, are more active during the evening and prefer to go to bed late;

Why is it important to know your chronotype?

Depending on the job you have, you may be more likely to have more energy in the morning than in the evening and viceversa.

Since the society doesn’t care about this distinction, the best solution for you is to align your daily activities with your chronotype.

Here you can find the information needed to determine which chronotype you are, divided into four types:

  • Dolphin
  • Bear
  • Wolf
  • Lion

Dolphin chronotype:

Dolphin chronotype

Bear chronotype:

Bear chronotype

Wolf chronotype:

Wolf chronotype

Lion chronotype:

Lion Chronotype

Once we have identified which chronotype you belong to, let’s now move on to the next step: resetting your biological clock.

2 # How to reset your biological clock

Our organism is the same as our ancestors, when they used live in nature and sleeping in caves.

In the modern era, once the sunset and temperature drops, silence falls too (a feeling that is more noticeable during camping, rather than in the city).

Then the brain begins to increase the secretion of melatonin, allowing us to perceive fatigue and providing us with sufficient stimulations, telling us that it needs to rest.

At dawn, the sun rises, the animals start to make us to hear them (sometimes even too early in the morning) and the temperature tends to rise.

The body decreases the production of melatonin and thanks to the sunlight that penetrates from the window, directly into our eyes, it tells us that we have to wake up.

The most important factor that regulates our biological clock is the natural light, as well as temperature, meal times and other external signals.

How to reset the biological clock:

  • Stay in the daylight as long as possible: if you find yourself spending too much time indoors (at home, in the office, etc.), even if it is a cloudy day, before going out, open the curtains when you wake up, go out to the balcony, have breakfast and get dressed in the daylight.
  • Get to Know Your Rhythms: Identify your energy peaks, observing how your energy changes throughout the day.
  • Learn to know your rhythms: identify your energy peaks, observing how your energy changes throughout the day.In the morning as soon as you wake up, slow down. The quality of your sleep depends a lot on what you do in the morning as soon as you wake up.

Just for these little tricks you may already need a few days, unless you are already aware of them.

Take your time to check the energy trends of your body, during the various daily activities.

Once the biological clock has been reset, it is time to understand how to set the night time:

3 # How many hours should you sleep at night?

  • Sleep in cycles, not hours:

Eight hours is an average amount of sleep per night, which somehow seems to have become the recommended amount for any person, regardless of gender, age, etc.

The fact is that we all are not the same and a “one size fits all” cannot work.

Just imagine the difference between a sedentary person and the amount of calories he needs, compared to a fitness fanatic, who weighs over 100 kg of muscle mass alone.

Our need for sleep also varies throughout our life.

As children, and then as teenagers, we need more hours as adults.

A teenager (between fourteen and seventeen years old) needs about eight to ten hours of sleep, an adult seven to nine.

So when we hear parents telling us, as teenagers, to go to sleep early in the evening, it is like seeing them going to sleep at 4pm.

The body recovers its energy in cycles of 90 minutes, the time it takes to go through the various phases that create a sleep cycle.

Our sleep cycles are made of 4/5 distinct phases:

Stage 1, drowsiness:

It is the state halfway between wakefulness and sleep.

In this stage we can be abruptly awakened by any noise, such as a car going at full speed, a slamming door, a louder voice than normal.

Stage 2, light sleep:

During light sleep, your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops.

Stage 3 and 4, the deep sleep:

It is during this stage that we reap the greatest benefits of sleep, including:

  • production of the growth hormone (GH);
  • improvement of our ability to learn, to memorize, to make logical choices and decisions;
  • strengthening of the immune system;
  • prevention of infections;
  • improvement of the metabolic state of the body and the rebalancing of insulin and glucose in the blood;
  • appetite regulation and body weight control;
  • lowering blood pressure, to keep our cardio-vascular system in good health.

Stage 5, the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase:

The REM phase is where most of the dreams come to life, and at the same time the body is temporarily paralyzed.

When we are in debt to sleep, our brains will slide into REM sleep for a longer time during the first two cycles (stage 1, light sleep and stage 2, deep sleep).

So when we try to “retrieve” by going to bed earlier than usual, or sleeping late in the morning, it’s a waste of time.

We never recover the lost sleep; our body, however, is surprisingly good at doing it for us, lengthening the first two initial stages.

How to establish sleep cycles?

Through tests and adjustments:

  • Start with five cycles, and see how you feel after a week.
  • If that’s too much, go down to four.
  • If it is too little, go up to six.

You will automatically understand what is the best solution for your body, because once you have tried and adapted to the routine, you should feel good and be in full strength.

To recap:

  • we have established your chronotype;
  • restarted your biological clock;
  • set sleep cycles.

Now we have to decide the right time to wake up.

4 # What is the right time to wake up?

Establish which is the right time for you to get up in the morning and set your alarm as follows:

  • it must be set at least 90 minutes before the time you need to be at work, school, etc .; remember that you will also have to respect the alarm clock on weekends so set a reasonable time.
  • Since the wake up time has been established, count backwards based on 90-minute cycles, to know at what time you need to go to sleep.

For example:

If I need 5 cycles to rest properly, and I have to wake up at 7.30 (90 minutes before going to work), I know that tonight at midnight I have to go to sleep.

if I need 4 cycles, however, I will be able to go to rest at half past one.

if I need 4 cycles, however, I will be able to go to rest at half past one.

example of five, four and three sleep cycles

Personal experience advice:

If you start worrying about how many hours you will have to sleep, especially if you are late and you know you will have to get up early in the morning, you are only making problems in your head, and when you’re focusing on sleep that does not come in the middle of the night, certainly does not help you to fall asleep again.

When you continually think about why you are not sleeping, your body produces stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which will make you even more alert and active.

In order to be fully relaxed, you need to distract your mind.

It only needs an initial training and then it becomes natural.

A technique that I always use during stress periods, or when I need to sleep fast, is the following:

  • Lie on your back (belly up) and inhale through your nose for 4-5 seconds, inflating your abdomen (if you find it difficult, you can put a hand on your belly, thinking about pushing it towards the ceiling, while you accumulate air in the lungs);
  • Hold your breath for 4-5 seconds;
  • Exhale through your nose for 4-5 seconds.

The technique is very simple.

As previously mentioned, the mind must be distracted and in this way you take command of your thoughts, focusing on the seconds.

The mind understands that thoughts have changed and sends direct commands to the brain to stop producing stress hormones.

In this way, you should experience a well-being feeling, even after the first controlled breaths.

5 # What to do in the morning to sleep well?

  • Set a post sleep routine:

A good sleep routine helps you go from a state of sleep to a complete awakening state, giving you a way to manage your day with positivity.

90 minutes may seem a very long time in the morning, but once you know how to use it to your advantage, it will feel like a minimal amount of time.

You can also include various activities, during periods of “dead” time like driving from home to work.

6 # What you shouldn't do after waking up:

  • You absolutely don’t have to check notifications and messages coming up from your phone immediately  after waking up, unless you want to see your stress levels increase.

As soon as we wake up, we are in the worst state to deal with stress coming from the outside, because the body reaches its cortisol peak.

Evolution has allowed us to be able to activate the body quickly, to be alert, increasing the focus of sight.

But we tend to use it to increase our stress even before leaving the house.

The best solution is to buy a normal alarm clock, leaving your phone in another room.

  • Stop hitting snooze:

Each time you press the “snooze” button you put yourself in a state of resistance to your day, negatively impacting brain function and productivity that can last up to four hours.

If you go back to sleep, you force your brain to start a new sleep cycle.

When the alarm goes off 5, 10 and again 15 minutes later, the cortical region, which is the responsible part of the brain, which processes decision making, attention, alertness, and self-control, is still in the sleep cycle.

It will not be able to wake up for another 75 minutes to complete what has started.

It can take up to four hours for this “sleep inertia” condition to wear off and cognitive functions to return to its full capacity.

That’s why you may feel that incredibly dizzy feeling when you get up.

It’s not because you haven’t slept enough or you’re not a morning person. A new sleep cycle has just started and then you stopped it.

Don’t leave your phone near your bed:

Don’t use it as an alarm clock unless you put it so far away from your bed, so that you have to get up to turn it off.

Open the curtains and let the daylight to come in:

In this way you make your body change hormones, going from a melatonin secretion to a serotonin secretion, giving you a well-being feeling and not anxiety.

  • Eat something within 90 minutes after waking up:

Your body runs out of water and food for several hours during the night.

Even a small dose of water (just water) is fuel, it will help your body to wake up at full strength.

7 # What to do in the afternoon to sleep well?

  • Take a nap in the early afternoon:

During the day, you may have a moment of “urge” to sleep, usually around mid-afternoon, between 13 and 15 for most people, or little later for some owl chronotopes.

This happens when our sleep pressure builds steadily as expected, but our circadian rhythm spikes upwards from its morning low, producing an increased urge to sleep that coincides with quite a high need as the day has gone on, which offers up another sleep window:

The question you may now asking is the following:

How can I have a nap of 90-minute if I have a very short break time?

A ninety-minute cycle has a potential drawback immediately afterwards, in the form of sleep inertia, which is the groggy, disoriented feeling on waking.

The thirty minute option is your best bet.

Take some caffeine just before your nap, so that it takes effect towards the end of your nap.

Caffeine takes between 20 and 30 minutes to be effective, and in controlled doses is a useful stimulant.

cup of coffee and the use of caffeine

If you work from home, don’t use the bed to take a nap, preferably use the sofa or a chair (the bed should be reserved for a night’s rest or a full ninety-minute sleep cycle in the afternoon).

If you can’t take a 30-minute nap, set your alarm clock according to your available time.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t really reach a state of sleep.

What matters is that you are able to take advantage of this moment to close your eyes and disconnect from everything else for a while.

You can just reach that near-sleep point where you daydream and you are not thinking of anything in particular, your thoughts are totally absent.

When you wake up, hydrate yourself and stay in the daylight as long as possible.

  • Take a late afternoon nap:

Make the most of that time in the late afternoon or early evening, around 5-7pm, when our need for sleep is high, especially if we rested less than normal the night before.

Always use this window for a controlled recovery period of 20-30 minutes.

  • Take frequent breaks during work:

Use the pomodoro technique. 

This technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, uses a timer to divide each activity into 30 minutes blocks.

25 minutes of hyper-focused work and a 5-minute break.

Each break is called “pomodoro” (from the old timer used in the kitchen, which had the shape of a tomato).

cooking tomato used for the pomodoro technique too

Every 4 tomatoes (around 2 hours) take a 20-30 minutes break.

During the 5 and the 20-30 minute breaks, you just have to relax.

No phone, no TV, or various distractions.

You can find a detailed explanation of the tomato technique at the following link: pomodoro technique

8 # What to do in the evening to sleep well?

  • Set a pre-sleep routine:

What you do immediately before bedtime has direct consequences on the quality and duration of sleep.

The same goes for what you do after getting out of bed and it significantly affects the rest of your day and the next night.

  • Set a 90-minute pre-sleep time frame:

The pre-sleep routine simply means to prepare your body and your mind for sleep.

If you’ve had a late dinner, you shouldn’t go to bed immediately, because the digestive process takes time and can interfere with the quality of your sleep.

Alcohol also produces the same effect, although it gives a pleasant feeling of sleepiness.

  • Turn off all the technology:

You must reduce the exposure of your eyes to artificial light coming from electronic devices.

This light, in fact, is like a laser that penetrates directly into the pineal gland, blocking the melatonin production.

  • Keep the room cool and not cold:

Make sure the duvet is neither too heavy nor too light;

In winter you can turn off the thermostat when you go to sleep;

Take a warm (and not too hot) shower, to raise your body temperature a few degrees, so that, when going in bed, it will be a little cooler;

In summer, keep the curtains and blinds closed all day;

If you have air conditioning, you can use it to cool the room before going to sleep during sultry nights, or just use a fan aimed at your legs, with a bottle of ice water in front of it.

  • Create the right amount of darkness in your bedroom:

Make sure there is no way for light to filter through.

  • Dedicate yourself to small, simple and relaxing activities at home:

It can be anything, for example:

Prepare everything you need the next day, such as coffee, clothes, cooking meals, etc .;

Take care of your home, for example ironing, taking out the garbage, etc.

  • Reset your thoughts:

Reducing the unnecessary use of electronic devices just before going to bed helps to ensure that new reasons for anxiety do not come up, but it does not eliminate existing worries.

Increase your security:

When we sleep we must have the sensation to be as safe as possible.

Closing doors and windows before going to bed will help to instill this kind of feeling.

It helps to reduce any fear or anxiety too.

  • Make some light exercises before sleeping:

Do light exercises, such as yoga, pilates, gymnastics, stretching, go out for a walk after dinner, a bike ride.

Intense exercises should be avoided just before going to sleep because it speeds up the heart rate and increases the production of adrenaline.

9 # What is the best sleeping position?

  • Sleeping on your side (also called fetal position) is the best way to get the right amount of relaxation.

The body is more prone to relax on the non-dominant side, because this is the less used and therefore less sensitive side.

So if you’re right handed you sleep on your left side.

If you’re left handed you sleep on your right side.

If you’re genuinely ambidextrous, think about which side you would instinctively use to protect yourself.

The best thing is to stay in this position as long as possible (of course you will move during the night, but your mattress should allow you to keep it for an adequate time).

The brain also appreciates this position because it feels that your body is safe: the dominant arm and leg protect the heart, other organs and genitals.

  • Use the military half-crawl position:

Lie on your chest with your head on a pillow and turned to the right.

Both arms should be straight by your sides, palms up.

Now bring your right arm up until the top of your right elbow is bent at 90 degrees and your hand is close to your head.

Alternative hand placement: the right hand is under your pillow and under your head.

Next, bring your right knee out to that side until it is bent at approximately 90 degrees.

This is a last resort that works for one simple reason: you can’t move.

It’s like a self-imposed papoose, which the Inuits and other cultures have used to calm infants by immobilizing them.

To toss and turn from the half military crawl position, you have to first lift your entire body off the bed.

Less fidgeting means faster sleep.

  • Adopt a surface that fits with your body:

If you sleep on the right surface, the pillow is almost completely superfluous; it should keep the head, neck and vertebrae aligned.

If there is a gap of six centimeters (about the thickness of two praying hands) or more, then the mattress you are testing is too hard.

On the other hand, uf your side sinks into the mattress and your head is perfectly resting on it, then it is too soft.

A properly profiled surface should fit with your body by distributing weight evenly and giving you a straight posture:

Some people are unable to lie on one side of the body for a very long time and in this case they have to lie on their back.

In this case, to understand if the mattress is too hard, you have to keep that position for a minute.

If after some seconds you tend to cross your legs, then the mattress is too hard, or there is too much tension on your lower back, which can cause muscle dysfunction syndrome.

  • Give some space to your partner:

The less space we have, the more we can disturb the person sleeping next to us.

For example:

  1. A leg or an arm touching you during the night;
  2. your partner is always turning around, throwing the pillow from one side of the bed to another;
  3. your partner is breathing on you.

All these actions can prevent you from achieving adequate sleep.

  • Adopt hypoallergenic blankets:

Dust mites proliferate in carpets and rugs, clothes and sheets, preferring humid environments and feasting with skin flaking.

The problem here is not about the mites that trigger allergic reactions, but it’s their droppings.

In the wrong environment, you may find yourself sleeping in a cloud of their excrements.

Allergens can hinder breathing during the night, making it difficult through the nose and causing complications such as snoring, sleep apnea, dry mouth, disturbing your sleep.

10 # How can you maximize sleeping well, waking up refreshed and fight sleepiness at work:

  • Control your diet:

If you eat badly, you can run into serious problems.

A balanced nutrition plan and exercises can only increase the quality of your sleep, life and help you to lose weight fast.

Make sure to have the last meal of the day two cycles (or three hours) before going to sleep, and every light snack no more than ninety minutes before, at the beginning of the pre-sleep routine.

  • Eat a high-fat, high-protein meal no more than three hours before bedtime:

The meal should contain at least 800ml of cholesterol (for example 4 or more large whole eggs) and 40g. of protein.

  • Beware of drug abuse:

Sleeping pills can be addictive, cause memory loss and sleepwalking. 

They stay in your body longer than you could expect, with consequences on balance, clarity and reaction times the day after taking them.

Medications are not the answer to persistent sleep disturbances.

They are effective in some cases, like short-term insomnia, caused by traumatic events.

Therefore, using potent and addictive drugs without the supervision of a professional figure, is a bad choice.

  • Use insomnia in your favor:

In fact, insomnia is a word that describes a whole host of sleeping conditions in which the sufferer experiences trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep, and which impairs the ability to function in the waking hours.

Insomnia is caused by hyperactivation, a state in which a person’s brain is essentially too excited to sleep.

For someone it means a period of stress, caused by difficult moments at work, in family, etc., which forces the person to deal with short-term insomnia.

For other people, it is a long-term problem, chronic insomnia, a serious condition that may have unclear causes or a sign of other disorders, for example anxiety and depression.

If you can’t sleep, find other ways to rest.

Do meditation. Watch a video that can teach you a new skill, use the time to do other things.

It is certainly better than thinking about the fact that you can’t sleep.

Get up, make something similar to a second pre-sleep routine and then try to fall asleep at the beginning of another cycle.


In this article, we’ve discovered 9 ways on how to fight sleepiness at work with a scientific and proven method.

What you needed to know in those ways are:

  • which chronotype characterizes you;
  • how to reset your biological clock;
  • how to count the resting hours, according to the 90-minute technique;
  • which activities you must do and which one you shouldn’t do during the day, to maximize the night’s rest;
  • how to understand which mattress is the most suitable for your needs and the best position to assume during the night.

Now I would like to hear your experience:

Have you already had the opportunity to try this method?

How long did it take for you to notice any improvements in your sleep?

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Bibliography and fonts

Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. Harmony; 1st edition (December 14, 2010).

Nick Littlehales. Sleep: Redefine Your Rest, for Success in Work, Sport and Life; Penguin Life (October 27, 2016).

Matthew Walker. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Scribner; Illustrated edition (October 3, 2017).

Mel Robbins. The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage; Savio Republic; Illustrated edition (February 28, 2017).

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