Whether you got a bad night’s sleep or the 3 p.m. slump is hitting extra hard, you need an energy boost—immediately. But what if caffeine isn’t really your style? Are you doomed to a lifetime of sleepiness? No way. Read on for eight all-natural ways to keep your energy up without coffee, green tea or any kind of caffeine, for that matter.
How to Stay Awake Without Caffeine
1. Make an Upbeat Playlist
We suspected music was making us feel better, but a study by the University of Missouri proves it. Researchers found that upbeat music can positively affect your mood. Create an “I feel like going to sleep but I can’t right now” playlist, and then shuffle that bad boy any time you need a little pep in your step. (Our current one includes lot of these summer bops.)
2. Chew a Piece of Peppermint Gum
We first learned about this semi-strange tip from 5-Minute Energy, a book by Isadora Baum that suggests more than 200 activities to put a little pep in your step. Activities, in turns out, that include freshening your breath. Huh? Per a study at Coventry University, chewing gum stimulates the autonomic nervous system, which increases alertness. Chewing also increases blood flow to the brain, which can wake you up. But before your reach for a stick of Juicy Fruit, consider adding to gums' energizing effect by sticking to peppermint. According to Baum, peppermint gum is particularly effective, since “studies show that the smell of peppermint can uplift mood and energy as well as bring a sense of mental clarity and focus.”
3. Turn the Lights On
This mostly goes for morning grogginess, but according to Barbara Nosal, Ph.D., chief clinical officer at Newport Academy, spending time outside helps regulate hormones and neurotransmitters that have strong effects on mood, behavior and the body’s natural rhythmic patterns. You can also reap the positive effects of sunlight by filling your living and working spaces with natural light. So before you start your morning routine, make sure to throw open all of your curtains and blinds. For all those cloudy days, consider investing in a light therapy box (like this one from Verilux), which gives off light that mimics natural sunlight. Dr. Nosal says that this “naturally stimulates the body’s circadian rhythms and suppresses the release of melatonin.”
4. Make Sure You’re Hydrated
When you don’t drink enough water, you get dehydrated. When you’re dehydrated, you feel sluggish and sleepy. Plain water will do the trick, but if you’re craving a little more flavor, try sipping on warm lemon water. This citrusy drink boasts a number of health benefits (from jump-starting digestion to boosting your immune system), including boosting your energy. That’s because warm lemon water helps keep your body in an alkaline state. A body that’s too acidic can suffer from low energy, fatigue and digestive problems, so keeping yours in a healthy, balanced state will allow you to thrive and maintain a better mood and more stamina.
5. Eat a Healthy Snack
It can be tempting to reach for a candy bar or bag of chips when you’re tired and hungry, but sugar and carbs (which turn into sugar) aren’t the way to go. Research suggests that while sugar blocks neurons that help keep you awake, the amino acids in protein prevent that from happening. Here are 25 protein-packed snacks to keep on hand at all times.
6. Try an Ear Massage
It sounds odd, but it’s a common (and centuries-old) practice in traditional Chinese medicine. Next time you feel yourself fading after lunch, take your thumb and pointer finger and gently rub the tops of your ears. Work your way down to the lobe slowly and repeat as needed. Why does it work? According to Eastern medicine, it gets energy to flow through your meridians (aka the energy channels running throughout your body). Western medicine says it stimulates the reflex centers in the brain because the ears are packed with nerve endings. We say: It just feels really nice.
7. Take a Power Nap
No, not an hours-long snooze. We’re talking about a quick recharge here. According to a Flinders University study, even a ten-minute snooze will help you feel more alert and improve your cognitive performance. But don’t change into PJs. Instead, lie on your bed or couch fully clothed, with a blanket over you. Keep the shades open to let some natural light stream in—it’ll be easier to wake up again if the room isn’t pitch black. Even if you don’t fall asleep, just lying quietly with your eyes closed should be enough to give you a little boost.
8. Skip the Piping Hot Shower
You know how a warm bath can make you sleepy? A cold shower basically does the opposite. That’s because the temperature shock increases your body’s heart rate, which in turn releases a rush of blood throughout your body, kicking it into gear. The good news is that you don’t need to step into an ice bath every morning to reap the benefits—even ending your usual shower with a quick cold blast can increase alertness, say experts. Hold that double espresso.