Yes, Boss I'd like to work on the proj- zzz zzz zzz
February 2, 2017 6:38 PM   Subscribe

I've been finding lately that I have little ability to stay awake in certain meetings. I need your advice on what to do.

I work for a fortune 250, in a position of influence and have recently been finding that I get so tired that my eyes shake and I fight to keep them open. I am BiPolar and take medication and have consulted my prescriber. We've adjusted my medication and I'm still having trouble. I've held paperclips in my hand just to jab myself when it's happening but it doesn't work. I'm looking for ideas that might help. Especially if you've experienced. Help Meta-green, you're my only hope.
posted by Draccy to Human Relations (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to your doctor about perhaps taking Provigil? I don't know if it's contraindicated for people with bipolar.
posted by praemunire at 6:40 PM on February 2, 2017

Best answer: Something I learned from a long-ago thread here: make sure you're breathing normally, in those meetings you're having trouble with. I was holding my breath (anxiety symptom, often in response to having to sit at too-crowded a table) and it was giving me all my extreme tiredness symptoms, including watering eyes and stuffy nose and the nods and inability to concentrate. Breathing exercises help, and if it's a really crowded room I've just pushed away from the table and written on a notepad on my lap or whatever.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:45 PM on February 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

There could be something more complicated afoot, but have you had a sleep study done? If you have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, you may have a huge sleep deficit which is interfering with your waking hours, especially when you're being very still and a lot of interaction isn't involved. The other thing I'd suggest examining is your diet and blood sugar levels. I've noticed that as I get older skipped or paltry meals have a much bigger impact on me than they did when I was in high school. Hope this helps!
posted by katemcd at 6:54 PM on February 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

An old roommate would tape an ice pack to her lower back when she needed to stay focused during meetings that it was too easy to doze off in.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:01 PM on February 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Can you walk around? You can blame it on back pain or too much caffeine or that study about the benefits of standing meetings if you don't want to say "this meeting is putting me to sleep."
posted by salvia at 7:05 PM on February 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Like Lyn above, this is worst for me when I am inadvertently holding my breath, as well as forcing myself to sit still. Focusing on deep (silent) breathing--plus allowing myself to fidget a reasonable amount-- seems to help, as does having a huge bottle of cold water on hand to chug, which typically jolts me back into full consciousness for a while.
posted by lovableiago at 7:20 PM on February 2, 2017

Can you take notes? I do this to keep engaged with things I find very boring, but I imagine it might also help with staying awake.
posted by Cheese Monster at 7:28 PM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've had this problem with meetings and classes most of my life.

1. Have you thyroid levels checked.
2. Doodle. Or if you are usually using a laptop, stealthily play minsweeper or something. I listen way way better if my hands are doing something mindless. It's hard sometimes to disguise it because people who operate differently seem to think that the only way to listen is to stare holes into the person talking and remain utterly motionless but zzzzz that way lies unintentionally starting to drool in the middle of a meeting.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:33 PM on February 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Drinking ice water, small sips so you're not filling up.
posted by Nyx at 7:33 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

2nding katemcd's comment on sleep apnea. A few years back I found I was having trouble keeping my eyes open during meetings and during my work commute (very scary!) I was constantly snapping rubber bands against my wrists and pinching myself just to stay awake. I finally arranged for a sleep study and was diagnosed with apnea. After my first night using a CPAP I woke up feeling like a million bucks.
posted by kbar1 at 7:34 PM on February 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I second drinking ice water, and add that if you can put a bit of lemon or lime in it, it is somehow more refreshing and keeps you awake better. I have so much trouble staying awake in meeting rooms, especially when the lights are dimmed, and it is amazing how much a bit of lime in cold water makes a difference.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:40 PM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty unapologetic about my well-known distaste for meetings, but there are times when I have to stay focused in seminars, meetings, or exchanges when I'm jetlagged or apathetic. I know it's awkward in lots of situations, but where conditions permit, quietly stand instead of sitting. Or suggest a walk & talk. Anything to battle the mid-day bluuurrrrrghgh.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:02 PM on February 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Take notes constantly throughout the meeting. Unless there's something medical going on, this should work. You can always just recycle the pages afterwards.
posted by heatherlogan at 8:43 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

When it's possible, I get involved in the discussion, rather than being an observer. Sometimes that means I say something I know would be better left as a sidebar afterwards, but it works for me if I keep it to just enough to stay engaged.

Oddly enough, I haven't become "that guy" like I was afraid I would. In fact, I get invited to or sent as a representative to a lot of meetings that I strictly have no business in, because my bosses are impressed with my critical thinking and whatnot.

So there's that danger to that plan.
posted by ctmf at 8:49 PM on February 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

I sleep like a baby -- that is, it's been months and months since I got more than two hours of sleep at a time. It sucks, and I sometimes have the same problem you do in meetings at my own big company. What I do, if all else fails -- that is, all of the excellent suggestions in this thread -- is to feign a coughing fit and excuse myself from the room. I can then rub a wet paper towel on my face, or just do a lap of the cubicle farm, get ahold of myself and come back. 2-3 minutes, tops. Guaranteed, someone will helpfully offer that, "pH, while you were gone, Joe and Mary were discussing blah."
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:32 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have really struggled with this for many sit-and-listen situations, especially in the afternoon or evening.

If it's a meeting where it would be acceptable to listen standing up, that works (especially with the documented health risks of sitting down for too long).

I also found that avoiding simple carbs at lunch helped me be less sleepy in the afternoons.

I don't do caffeine myself, but if you do, a caffeinated beverage before or during the meeting might also help.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:30 PM on February 2, 2017

Sit by an open window, on the very edge of a chair, with something sharp jabbing into your spine, asking uncomfortable questions. Good luck!
posted by fritillary at 1:50 AM on February 3, 2017

On the plus side, if it's sleep apnea, treatment does not involve medication & CPAP use can have you feeling more refreshed overall, as that was the experience of two family members, one of them having your issue of nodding off, went for a sleep study after being written up for falling asleep on the job once too often, in the wrong place.

And sleeping, when you are supposed to be working (different from napping during lunch break) is not part of a reasonable accommodation, so it's great that you are working on strategies to be alert and aware at the meetings.
posted by childofTethys at 3:54 AM on February 3, 2017

Response by poster: Hi all,

Thank you for some great suggestions. I probably should have noted that I do have sleep apnea and my machine is set to the highest setting. There's a lot of good stuff in this thread. Please keep them coming especially if you have best practices.

posted by Draccy at 4:45 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you have any control over it, keep the meeting from going over-long. Long meetings are not a good idea in any case.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:05 AM on February 3, 2017

I do that, have my whole life, and it is incredibly embarrassing and problematic. It is super common for ADHD Inattentive type, which I have been officially diagnosed with. More likely it is your sleep apnea, but just tossing this out there as a possible other thing.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:22 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I second the idea of being involved in the discussion. It's the only thing that keeps me from dozing off in a droning discussion.
posted by toastedbeagle at 8:27 AM on February 3, 2017

Have you checked with your doc or via freeware like SleepyHead to make sure your CPAP machine is providing adequate therapy? I've heard of a lot of patients hooking up their machine and using it each night but not even realizing that for whatever reason (usually pressure setting or mask problems) it is not effectively treating the apnea. Just a thought!
posted by bologna on wry at 8:45 AM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I realize this is perhaps simplistic, but are you getting enough sleep at night? Most Americans don't, and sleeping 7-8 hours every night for several days in a row might solve your problem.
posted by eglenner at 6:02 AM on February 4, 2017

If I don't really need to take detailed notes, then I take them with my left hand. I spend a lot of time carefully crafting the letters of a just a few key words. Somehow using the other hand opens up new pathways in the brain or something.
posted by CathyG at 6:33 PM on February 4, 2017

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