How To Stay Awake Without Caffeine

Trying to stay awake without caffeine is always a bit of an adjustment, but there are many great ways to stay awake without caffeine, from building healthy habits to exercising to hydration.

May 31, 2024
Coffee beans are placed in a "no" sign.

If you’re trying to reduce your caffeine intake, stay awake for a little bit longer, or just feel like cutting back, it’s really common to feel tired for the first couple of days. Since our bodies get used to caffeine, we go through caffeine withdrawal when we stop drinking coffee or dramatically cut our daily amount. It’s probably why most of us think we can’t function without our morning cup of coffee!

So, how can you lower your daily caffeine intake and still function like a reasonable human? Here’s our guide on 10 effective methods to stay awake without caffeine:

1. Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is a great way to regulate our energy levels and keep us awake throughout the day. On average, we should be drinking between 6 and 8 cups of water per day to remain hydrated.

When we’re dehydrated, we often feel sleepy or sluggish. It's also common to feel your heart beat faster. Having another big glass of water should help wake you up a bit. Extra water is even more important if you’re cutting back on caffeine or trying to stay awake without caffeine altogether or help with heart palpitations

Also, caffeine is a diuretic [1], which can make you more dehydrated. A lot of your body’s water content is lost when you go to the toilet, so it’s important to replenish it throughout the day. 

2. Wake Up With Exercise In Nature

We live pretty sedentary lives. A lot of us work at desks all day or chill on the couch in the evenings. This lack of movement can actually make our bodies feel tired and low. To stay awake, make time for exercise.

It doesn’t have to be anything super intense. Even if you go for a walk around the block, the movement and the fresh air should make you feel more awake and alert [2]. It’s all about striking that balance between getting enough movement into your daily life and not necessarily tiring yourself out! 

Being outside helps us stay awake without caffeine due to the amount of stimulation our brains get. When we’re walking in a park, for instance, it’s a multisensory experience [3]. We hear bird songs, we can smell the cut grass, we feel the wind, and we can feel the temperature changes. This immerses us, distracts us, and makes our brains alert to our surroundings. We often feel like we’re more awake and alert — just from being outside.

3. Avoid Screens

Let's be honest; we've all heard mixed messages about screens and sleep. While the blue light from screens can make it harder for you to go to sleep if you stare at them just before bed, most of the time, screens make your eyes tired.

Staring at different screens all day, whether it's a computer, phone, TV, or tablet, is going to take a toll on your eyes. When our eyes get heavy and tired, our body automatically thinks that it’s time to go to sleep, even if the rest of our body isn’t super tired. By cutting down your screen time, you should be able to stay awake easier without caffeine.

4. Eat a Balanced Diet

This is a big one. If we eat a balanced diet, we should be getting all the nutrients necessary to keep us awake. On the other hand, if we’re relying on one category more than another, it’s likely that we’ll become tired and sluggish throughout the day.

While having foods that are high in sugar can give us that welcome energy boost, the crash an hour or so later hits us hard. When we hit all the nutrients our body needs, we feel fresh and awake throughout the day, getting slow and quick-release energy hits when we need them.

Related: How Much Is Too Much Caffeine?

5. Try to Keep a Routine

Another great way to stay awake without caffeine is to stick to a routine. Your body loves regular habits, so create a rhythm for it to stick to. That means waking up at the same time, eating meals at roughly the same time, and just training your body to know what to expect each day.

Although it might be tricky to stay awake in the beginning, your body will soon adapt to this new caffeine-less routine. When it does, you’ll have no problem staying awake without your morning cup of delicious coffee.

6. Focus on Your Breathing

It might sound strange to focus on your breathing as a way of staying awake, but deep, focused breathing has been shown to improve energy levels [4]. If you’ve ever been to a yoga or meditation class, you’ll know that you often leave refreshed and rejuvenated. Scientifically, this is called stimulated breath, and it can have powerful effects on your energy levels. 

For example, the 4-7-8 breathing technique helps to increase the oxygen supply around your body, giving you a boost of energy that keeps you awake for longer.

When you focus on controlled, deliberate breathing, you increase the flow of oxygen around your body, which makes you feel more awake. This is essentially what the body goes through in any anaerobic exercise and enables you to stay awake without caffeine. 

7. Get Into A Regular Sleep Schedule

Okay, this is probably the most important way to stay awake without caffeine, so we’ve saved the best til last! If you’re on a regular sleep schedule and look after the quality of your sleep, you won’t be as reliant on caffeine to wake you up.

If you get a good eight hours of sleep that isn’t interrupted and you wake up slowly — ideally with natural light — you’re not going to feel as groggy and sluggish when you wake up. 

Obviously, the less sleep you’re getting, the more caffeine you’re going to want to have. But if you get yourself into a schedule where you’re getting 8 hours of sleep every single night, your body is definitely going to adapt to a caffeine-less existence a lot better

8. Non-Caffeinated Supplements

If you’re looking to stay awake without caffeine, then non-caffeinated supplements might be perfect for you. One of the main supplements that’s used to combat tiredness is B12. It’s been proven to improve cognitive function and reduce tiredness throughout the day [5]. 

B12 tablets are widely available at grocery stores, over-the-counter pharmacies, and at health food stores. Alternatively, you can eat more B12-rich foods like meat, fish, and dairy products.

You can also use carob — the small chocolate-like chips — as they contain pinitol. While this might sound like a medicine, it actually has similar energy-boosting effects to insulin [6]. So, you can have that non-caffeinated hit without the accompanying sugar crash. It’s super sweet and makes a great addition to your drinks or snacks if you want to cut back on caffeine and sugar.

Another popular supplement that you can get in most health food shops is maca. It normally comes in powder form so you can add it to your baked goods, smoothies, or shakes. Maca has its ancient roots in Peruvian culture and has been scientifically linked to improving fatigue and adrenal function [7], to give a healthy energy boost without that sluggish feeling afterwards. 

9. Power Naps

Who doesn’t love a nap? If you’re trying to stay awake, having a nap might seem counterintuitive, but studies suggest that a 20-minute power nap leaves you refreshed, allowing you to stay away for longer [8]! 

For the best impact, aim to have your power in the early afternoon. This way, you'll have a nice energy boost into the afternoon and minimal impact on your body clock when bedtime rolls around. 

10. Have a Snack

Regular meals and a balanced diet can help you feel more awake, but sometimes you just need a snack. However, don’t grab a candy bar or other high-sugar food. Instead, go for protein and fat, like full-fat Greek yogurt or hummus, since those give sustained energy without crashing. 

FAQs: Coffee & Sleep

Now that you know how to stay awake without caffeine, let’s find out a little bit more about coffee and sleep. 

1. Does coffee affect sleep?

Yes, coffee definitely can affect sleep as the caffeine can stay in your system for 8-12 hours, which not only keeps you awake but also prevents you from slipping into REM sleep. This is the same for energy drinks and certain types of tea that contain caffeine. Of course, if you prefer to drink decaff before bed, this shouldn't be an issue.

Related: Why Doesn’t Caffeine Affect Me?

2. How late can I drink coffee?

The expert guidance is that you should stop having caffeine — including coffee — around six to eight hours before you go to bed. While some people enjoy a coffee after evening meals to balance out the heavy feeling from food, this can be counterproductive to your sleep schedule.

3. Can coffee help you power nap?

Some people swear by having a coffee in order to enjoy a quick power nap. The reason for this is that it takes a short while for the caffeine to hit your system — around five minutes to start and 45 minutes to peak — so that gives you plenty of time to have an up to 45-minute nap before the caffeine wakes you back up. However, this set of actions can be confusing for your body.

4. Should I have coffee as soon as I wake up?

Ideally, you should wait over an hour after you wake up to have a cup of coffee. Some studies show that drinking coffee within an hour of waking up decreases glucose tolerance and increases glucose and insulin concentrations [9].

Related: Long Term Effects of Caffeine


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