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Carrington College Blog

4 tips for staying awake on the job

October 22, 2013

If you find yourself falling asleep on the job, use these tips for staying awake and alert.If you’re pursuing a nursing career, chances are you’ll have to work a night shift every now and then. While it’s important to stay awake and alert no matter what job you do, when you work in health care it is critical because you are responsible for the well-being of patients.1 To make sure you don’t accidentally zone out on the job, try these tips for staying awake:

1. Drink some caffeine

While ingesting too much caffeine should be avoided, it’s OK to have a cup of coffee or tea to give yourself that extra jolt that you need. Try to set your limit at three 8 ounce cups daily¬†– that should be enough to keep you awake without giving you the jitters. If you don’t like coffee or tea, you can try having a can of caffeinated soda or an energy drink. Just make sure you pay attention to the amount of caffeine each beverage contains – try to avoid drinking more than 200 or 300 milligrams worth.2

2. Take a nap

If you know you’re going to be working the night shift on a certain day, you’ll need to plan your sleep schedule accordingly. Taking an extended nap in the afternoon prior to heading off to work will help you be better rested and more able to stay awake while on the job.3

3. Exercise

Exercising not only helps you maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, but it can also give you that little extra burst of energy you need to stay awake during a late shift. When you take your break, go for a quick walk with one of the other nurses. If it’s too cold to go outside, try doing 50 jumping jacks or walking up and down the stairs a few times. It will release endorphins and make you more alert.4

4. Eat a snack

Believe it or not, having a small snack can also help you regain focus when you feel your energy fading. The key is to eat something with plenty of protein – try reaching for a handful of nuts, some Greek yogurt or pumpkin seeds. Whatever you do, avoid carbohydrates – the rapid change in your blood sugar levels can cause you to feel drowsy.5

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Registered Nurses,’ March 29, 2012 –
2 Soloman, Amy, Everyday Health, ‘7 Ways to Stay Awake on the Job,’ March 3, 2012 –
3 Huffman, Joshua, Yahoo! Voices, ‘How to Stay Awake During the Graveyard Shift,’ May 13, 2010 –
4 Tucker, Kristine, The Houston Chronicle, ‘How to Keep Awake When Working Nights,’ 2013 –
5 Soloman, Amy, Everyday Health, ‘7 Ways to Stay Awake on the Job,’ March 3, 2012 –