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In today’s connected society, burning the candle at both ends is the norm. The average adult requires seven to eight hours of sleep a night for optimal physical and mental health, yet studies show the majority of us don’t get that much. In fact, according to the American Sleep Association, 30 percent of Americans report issues with short-term insomnia. Somewhere between 50 and 70 million people are estimated to suffer from sleep disorders, including chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorders and more.

Insufficient sleep is costly for business as well. A Rand study found that poor sleep costs the U.S. economy $411 billion in lost productivity and associated issues each year. It’s a problem in Canada too, where it sets business back $21.4 billion.

Even if you do get the recommended amount of nightly sleep, there’s a good chance you’re well acquainted with hitting the afternoon wall – that mid-day slump, usually around 2:30 or 3 p.m., when you start to feel unmotivated and drowsy.

While we are apt to grab another cup of coffee in an attempt to perk up or simply try to push through, it’s not always the best solution. Here are five quick ways you can shake the sluggish feeling to make yourself more alert and productive.

1. Stay Hydrated

Often, we turn to drinks filled with caffeine – such as coffee, soda or energy drinks – to get us through the afternoon crash. However, water is truly the best option. Studies have shown that our body usually needs water when we feel tired. It not only wakes you up but fills you up too, which may prevent you from reaching for a snack, something many people automatically do when they’re tired.

2. Eat Well

Snacks aren’t bad, as long as we are eating them for the right reasons. If we’re feeling languid, a healthy snack may be what we need. But be smart – reaching for sugary treats could wake you up in the short term but lead to a miserable crash. Ensure you eat a variety of foods throughout the day that make your body and mind feel good. Foods that are heavy in refined carbs can make you feel dopey and devoid of energy, so they’re best avoided around sleepy times. Plus, these foods are usually processed and not the healthiest choice.

Experiment with your eating schedule and listen to your body’s cues to decide what is best for you. Some people find eating a good breakfast will kickstart their metabolism and help wake them up for the entire day. Others prefer intermittent fasting and choose not to eat until a bit later, opting to consume their daily meals within a shorter time frame. It all depends on the person, their schedule and their body … get to know yours.

3. Exercise

After water and food, you probably guessed this one was coming next. It is well established that a regular exercise routine will not only get your blood pumping and give you more energy during the day, it can also help improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Again, what you choose to do and when really depends on your schedule, your personality and what suits you best. Some people love getting up early and hitting the gym at 5:30 a.m., while others prefer to blow off steam by running outside in the early evening hours.

The key is finding activities you enjoy, building them into your schedule and making exercise a habit. Even though you’re burning calories, it won’t zap your energy – it will improve it.

4. Get Moving

Exercise … getting moving … isn’t it the same thing? Not necessarily. While a regular exercise routine is important, this is more about taking breaks to refresh you when you start to feel fatigued. You can head outside and take a quick walk around the block or do some stretching in the office. Heck, close your door, turn up the tunes and have a quick dance party to release some endorphins. If you don’t have much natural light in your workspace, simply moving closer to a window for a few minutes and soaking up some sun can help.

5. Choose Your Tasks Wisely

Though sometimes easier said than done, if you are fortunate enough to be able to structure your workday to your preference, try to complete a fun or interesting task during your most lethargic time. Simply having a task that excites you or challenges your brain can automatically wake you up. On the flip side, tackling your most dreaded task first thing in the morning – when your brain is fresh and you’re ready to go – can prevent you from procrastinating as the day drags on.


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