How do you avoid being tired after work?
May 17, 2012 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Give me your best tactics for avoiding sleep and slack after a long workday.

I work in a very demanding mental and physical environment. It is high-stress, high-risk, high-reward. And I love it. But the time demands can be severe, which make my non-work hours VERY precious.

When I get home at night, if I get anywhere near my bed or sit still for too long I simply fall asleep until the next day. This is not OK. I have many projects and hobbies, dreams and plans that need doing and this post-work tiredness is really cramping my style. It seems to have gotten worse lately. It's worst between 7 and 9:30PM, if I manage to stay up that long I can go until midnight or so, which is my goal.

So far I've tried a few things -
1. Changing clothes when I get home.
2. Caffeine/snacks.
3. Brief exercise (unfortunately just makes me more tired)
4. Avoiding the Internet (instead I spend mornings on RSS feeds)
5. Multivitamins.
6. Showers (helps more than anything but takes time)

So what are your best tactics for
A. Not falling asleep and
B. Feeling motivated to do your thing instead of lounge?

If it matters, I live alone and have no pets and this will not change soon. It's just me and my robots. I saw this thread and the "brush your teeth" recommendation which I will be trying tonight.
posted by fake to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
You can't make more hours in the day. You might actually just need that sleep in order to function. You could examine the work-life balance that your current job affords you and decide if it might be time to make a change.

Aside from that, I find that I'm consistently less sleepy when my diet is lower in carbs. Maybe you could give that a try.
posted by telegraph at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

What time are you getting up? If you're drinking coffee and staying up until midnight, you may have gotten yourself into a cycle of chronic sleep deprivation.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:30 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would do a fifteen minute sitting meditation (in whatever moderately uncomfortable pose your knees can manage.) Give yourself permission to do nothing and de-stress for a little while - slow down, get out of work mode, let your body adjust. Then stretch a little, have a snack, and begin the second part of your day.

If you don't get that time, your body never gets out of high-stress mode and you just burn out faster. That's probably why showers help the most - it's one of the few times in your day where you are allowed to do nothing at all. Make some dedicated time to be unproductive and you will probably find that you are more productive overall.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd consider not going home, actually, and going somewhere else if you really want to get anything done after work. Home is comfort.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

Keep the lights on and bright. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, keep them on/in.
posted by John Cohen at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2012

My trick is actually to follow those bodily rhythms. So, in your case, I'd actually start winding down and letting myself go to bed around 8 pm, and then you could get up at 4 am after a full 8 hours of sleep, and have 3-4 hours before work for your projects.
posted by salvia at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

Instead of multivitamins, you may want to try a higher dose of vitamin B-12. This is one of the main components of those 5-hour energy drinks, but is much cheaper (and in my opinion, more effective) if you get it in drop form.
posted by samsara at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

5. Multivitamins.

Don't take multivitamins; they hardly ever have enough of anything you're actually missing, and -- assuming you have a healthy diet -- are overlapping with vitamins you're already getting. Instead, take a good dose (I don't know your body size, so I can't suggest a dosage) of B-6, B-12, D-3 and Fish Oil.
posted by griphus at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding what salvia says above, getting up really early works for me. However, it can put a real damper on any kind of social life. Consider getting up just one hour earlier, use that hour for exercise. Then when you get home from work take a shower and a 30 minute nap, set the alarm clock. Get up and enjoy your evening.
posted by mareli at 9:42 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you nap? If your body hits a down cycle after dinner, maybe institute a firm 20 or 40 min nap, and some kind of non-negotiable wakeup strategy.

Dedicate that hour 7-8 to mentally non-demanding tasks that keep you on your feet - clean dishes, tidy your room, do household maintenance, do exercises, etc. Remaining standing is definitely a winning strategy.

If you normally take your shoes off when you get home, you could try keeping them on. Weirdly, this makes me much more productive, somehow sends a signal of "work mode".
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2012

First, know thyself. Take a few days and measure how much sleep you actually need to feel comfortable and refreshed - without caffeine - during the day. This will require you to kick caffeine for a week or so (I know, it's rough.)

Begin with a bedtime at midnight, and work your way back in hour increments. Once you find a comfortable hour, step it forward a half hour and see if it still works for you (IE: you find 11:00 the optimal bedtime, try 11:30.)

You will resist this, as you feel you could be doing more with your time than sleeping. It's a lie you're telling yourself.

Now that you have a bedtime - nap. As soon as you get home, even before dinner. Sometimes a small refresher will allow you to go further with less sleep overall, and definitely allow you to function with more energy. This was actually everyday practice before the industrial age... you had "First Sleep" and "Second Sleep." First sleep to recover from the labors of the day, second sleep to rest for the labors tomorrow, and between them productive evening hours for dining, socialization, crafts, etc.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:48 AM on May 17, 2012

Unfortunately if I nap after work it goes on for about 12 hours and nothing can wake me up. If I could find a way to nap during the day (maybe skipping lunch)...
posted by fake at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I eat at my desk and spend my lunch hour napping in my car, most days. Have done for years.

As for evenings, I've just accepted that if I go home, I'm useless. I can usually handle getting groceries or running errands a night or two a week, but no matter how good my intentions I just can't seem to get anything constructive done at home.

I've pretty much accepted this and now I get up early to do stuff. I've been known to clean house at 5 a.m. or work on hobbies. Yesterday I got up later than I wanted to but still sat down to crochet for half an hour.

It seems easier to just go along with my natural energy rhythms and enjoy what I'm doing rather than have everything be this herculean effort to stay awake and motivated.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:03 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

People I know wake up early and work on their projects before work when energy is high.
posted by !Jim at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2012

I'm an early to bed, early to rise type myself. It makes it hell when I really want to stay up late for a particular reason (catching a good band, etc.) but then there are those glorious quiet mornings when I can get things done. Plus exercising early in the day gives me a tremendous lift.

How many hours of sleep do you need, and how many do you actually get? Most people need anywhere from 7 to (alas) 9 hours a night. Are you sleep-deprived? Try just letting your body crash, pull on your pajamas, and crawl into bed at 7 PM for several nights (anywhere from two or three to a week). Paying off any "sleep debt" in this way might solve the problem.

If you pay off your sleep debt, get a reasonable amount of sleep (at least 7 hours) and you are still crashing at 7 PM every evening, maybe you need more in the way of actual dinnertime than you are getting. Try eating something at about 5 PM that is protein-intensive, like tuna or chicken salad. And drink plenty of water. Part of the problem may be that your body is running out of fuel, especially if you last ate around noon.

If you are getting adequate sleep and food and are STILL crashed every single night after work, you may need a sleep test. If you get nine hours max of sleep but still crave more, you might have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea; your sleep may not be good, refreshing sleep, and you are craving more because the sleep you get doesn't fill your "sleep tank" adequately.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2012

Make plans with people.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:03 AM on May 17, 2012

I have the exact same problem! To combat, I crank some "get shit done" music and dance around while doing whatever it is I need to do. Whatever it is, it has to be loud. Simple, but works.

Bonus: it's silly and fun, and annoys the dog.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:24 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

My SIL lives a crazy busy life, 2 kids and 1.5 jobs, she manages on what she calls Nana Naps. The minute she gets home from a job she goes and lays down for 15 minutes, no more or she gets in too deep a sleep and can't wake up. Her kids know to leave her alone, and for 15 minutes she just switches off and naps. She then wakes up energized and ready to go. I've seen her take these naps in her car, waiting at the doctors and once on the floor of my lounge room. Meditation I imagine does similar things.
posted by wwax at 2:18 PM on May 17, 2012

If you can easily sleep for twelve hours, and then do the same the next day as well, is it possible that you have some sort of sleep disorder that is preventing your sleep from being 'quality' sleep?

What you describe something like what I went through before I was diagnosed, and began treatment for sleep apnea. I could fall asleep in the early evening anytime, anywhere, in just about any position and not wake up until morning...

Of course, I am not in any way familiar with anything medical, just linking two dots that probably shouldn't be connected. Perhaps a sleep study, just to rule it out?
posted by csmason at 6:10 PM on May 17, 2012

I've had a similar problem in the past. I thought I could deal with it by getting up early, but man-oh-man is it hard to get OUT of bed when you're already in it!

Naps have helped me a lot. And yes, I used to let them go for 4-12 hours and it was awful waking up not knowing what day it was. But setting an alarm for 20-30 minutes AND wearing socks helped me keep them short. The socks are like this small physical cue I give myself that I am NOT supposed to sleep all night.

If you wear socks to bed already, that might not work though.

How long have you been at this job? Was it ever not this tiring?

I really think most of us are not particularly well built to handle 8+ hours of continuous stressful and engaging work. It could be you just need the sleep.

nthing a potential sleep study. Sleep apnea? Without a partner there you may have no idea how crazily you snore or stop breathing.

And finally, if this is really important to you and the above don't work, you could see a psych Dr about getting some ADHD meds. They are great for getting rolling on projects without dilly-dallying. And at relatively low doses one can still go to sleep if one is really tired.
posted by MonsieurBon at 6:27 PM on May 17, 2012

Maybe you just do need to sleep that much 5 days a week if your job is that hard. Some folks just have to realize that they aren't going to get anything done on worknights. If you sleep 12 hours, that's saying something. You also haven't said what time you have to get up in the morning, but if you work a typical sort of job, you probably have to get up early + commute time, so I'm guessing you probably get like what, 6 hours a night?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:07 PM on May 17, 2012

I don't snore or have sleep apnea - I've actually set a camera on myself to check and have had others over who would comment.

How long have you been at this job? Was it ever not this tiring?

I've been at this level of activity (though not at this job) for about two years straight, and I'm just now noticing that my habits are tending toward sleeping.

I do appreciate all the thoughtful answers here. My total sleep time ranges from 6.5 to 8 hours per night, unless I decide to take a nap or something and waste a bunch of time. When I do sleep, I sleep very deeply and wake up feeling rested most days. I just want to keep from falling asleep to early, is all. I have so much stuff to do!
posted by fake at 8:55 PM on May 17, 2012

Okay, if you're determined to stay awake for more than you can handle and you've already tried conventional tactics, perhaps you should consider taking some medication or drugs. I've read that Provigil/Nuvigil is good for staying up without having crashes that you would get from stimulants and uppers.

Here's a topic on Ask where some users describe their experiences.
posted by FJT at 1:26 PM on May 21, 2012

Oh yeah, IANAD, so talk to your doctor first and consider the pros and cons.
posted by FJT at 1:32 PM on May 21, 2012

Eat better, drink more water, go for a bike ride. Dont drink.
Or like others have said, go to bed earlier, wake up earlier.

It always takes me a few weeks to adjust my sleep schedule.
It will take time, you will get less done for a while, but you'll feel better


You may just need to sleep. And cool your jets.

I've been sick(?) for the last 2 weeks. Congested, splitting headaches, etc.
I weasled out of work early on friday and slept for 15 hours and woke
out completely fine. I've gotten more done in the last 2 days then I have
in the last 2 weeks.

Are't there military excersises on staying awake?
posted by misformiche at 9:50 PM on May 27, 2012

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