You've been feeling pretty good all morning, but now you're ready to pass out. Research has shown that a short afternoon nap can make up for the loss of one hour of nighttime sleep and can improve alertness, performance and mood, says Clete A. Kushida, medical director of the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center. (Here's how to do it right.)
12:30 p.m. Cancel your lunch reservations.
Today is not the day for a heavy sit-down lunch at a restaurant (you'd be better off eating something like this). And if you ordered a light salad, eat it at your desk so you can make time later to...
3 p.m. Take a walk.
Late afternoon is an energy quagmire for most people, says Grandner, even those who got enough quality shut-eye the night before. When you feel the effects of your nap wearing off, drag yourself outside. Experiments conducted by psychologist Robert Thayer, PhD, at California State University have found that a brisk 10-minute walk can boost energy—more than a candy bar, and often for up to two hours. If you're able to work out during the workday, now's the time: Research with rodents suggests that afternoon exercise can have a beneficial effect on the circadian rhythms of humans.
4 p.m. Breathe like a seething cartoon villain.
Oh, no: Afternoon meeting (sitting quietly + 4 p.m. – a good night's sleep = zzzzz)! Before heading to the conference room, find a private area where you can do some noisy power breathing. The Bellows Breath involves inhaling and exhaling quickly and evenly through your nose, and yogis like Tara Stiles as well as spiritual leaders like Deepak Chopra swear it will make you feel as invigorated as if you just finished a workout.
5:30 p.m. Get a ride.
You're not in the home stretch yet...because you haven't made it safely home. This time of day is dangerous for the sleep-deprived, says Rafael Pelayo, MD, sleep specialist at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science. Pelayo and other experts we spoke to warned that there aren't any real tricks to keep you awake while driving—especially when you're traversing roads so familiar that your mind can easily shut down. What's more, Pelayo says, most people don't realize how exhausted they are at this time of day, and in the lab they'll swear they were awake even when their eyes were closed. Consider hitching a ride home with a spouse or a friend or take public transportation—especially if your sleepless night is one of a series and not just a blue-moon occurrence.
8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Relax.
Good news, says Pelayo: We all get a second wind about two hours before our usual bedtime. So you shouldn't need to do anything special to stay awake during this time.
10:30 p.m. Go to bed a half-hour earlier than usual.
This will give you just enough of a boost to be energized and ready for tomorrow.
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