Back away from the energy drinks! If you want to short-circuit your slump without feeling wired, you want a smoother, less jolting solution. These eight natural energy lifters are proven to work.
1. Snap open the shades. A jolt of morning light – scientists call it the dawn signal – activates special cells in your eyes that send a wake-up call to your brain's internal clock.
2. Light up your brain at lunch, too. Sitting beside a sunny window for 30 minutes midday makes you more wide awake. In one study, women who did scored better on alertness tests afterward.
3. Top off your tank. Getting to the point where you're just starting to feel thirsty – a mere 2.6% drop in hydration levels – can double your feelings of fatigue. It made study volunteers work twice as hard on a set of brain-teasing puzzles.
4. Squeeze your hand or tap your head. Sounds crazy, but DIY acupressure boosts alertness as effectively as a small cup of coffee, say University of Michigan researchers. Rap your knuckles a few times on the top of your head, squeeze the fleshy pad between your thumb and first finger, or massage the base of your skull and the front of your shins.
5. Have salad and grilled chicken for lunch. Not the tuna melt, pizza, or meatloaf. High-fat foods are likely to make you moodier and more tired by midafternoon than lower-fat meals are, according to a British study. Digesting fat releases a hormone called cholecystokinin, which seems to provoke a brain drain.
6. Take a tea break. Black, green, and white teas all contain the energizing amino acid L-theanine. Brits given L-theanine plus caffeine equivalent to several cups of tea and a cup of coffee increased their speed on word and number problems and felt less tired than when they got either substance alone. (Nope, there's no L-theanine in coffee.)
7. Catch a cat nap. Close your office door or slip out to your car for a quick snooze. In NASA-funded research, a siesta boosted the performance of long-haul airline pilots by 34%. (Air-traffic controllers lobbying for nap times take note.)
8. Splash your face. If even a 20-minute nap leaves you groggy, stop in the restroom and splash cool water on your face. Volunteers who did this in one study felt the most awake after a snooze. Surprisingly, having coffee just before your nap and then splashing your face afterward seems to be the perfecta of wake-up calls.
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