10 tips for staying alert without drinking caffeine

My least favourite part of the day is when I have to decide if it’s too late for a cup of coffee.

Around the late-afternoon slump, it usually is — and I’m stuck with the task of devising creative ways to keep my brain sharp for the rest of the work day.

Turns out there are a ton of scientifically-backed ways to stay alert without drinking or consuming caffeine at all. And some of them are actually kind of fun.

Read on for 10 tips and tricks that can help you make it through the day without the use of sweet, sweet caffeine.

Breathe deeply.

Calm and relaxed employees make for productive employees. Breathing deeply shuttles more oxygen to various parts of your body, which can boost your dipping energy levels and help keep you feeling Zen.

Deep breathing also decreases stress and anxiety, which in turn helps to boost your immune system, keeping you healthy and strong. But make sure you are practicing deep belly breathing to reap the benefits. Try some exercises here.

Listen to music.

Grooving to your favourite song releases multiple feel-good chemicals in your brain that can give you a boost.

A study from 2011 showed that when people listened to music that gave them -- as science writer Virginia Hughes put it -- 'goosebumps or chills' for 15 minutes, their brains overloaded with dopamine, a brain chemical that is involved in pleasure and reward. Your favourite tunes also activate other feel-good chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin.

Some studies of drowsy drivers have also found that music -- especially loud music (that's what headphones are for!) -- can help keep people alert, though the effect may not be long-lasting. And certain playlists might be better than others: 'The more varied the music,' noted a 2004 review, 'the more (stimulating) it is.'

Chew gum.

Keeping your mouth busy seems to keep your mind alert as well. Some studies have suggested that chewing gum might be an effective way to reduce daytime sleepiness, perhaps because the act of chewing somehow increases circulation and activates certain regions of the brain.

Recent studies have also demonstrated that chewing gum can help people concentrate on exams, reduce anxiety, and increase reading comprehension. Just make sure you're not smacking your gum too loudly if you're around coworkers.

Dance or take a quick walk.

Treating yourself to a little jig or a quick run up and down your building's stairs is a great way to keep yourself awake. One study found that when participants exercised 'during peak levels of sleepiness, subjective fatigue appeared partially alleviated.'

Getting up and getting moving also gets your endorphins flowing. These feel-good neurotransmitters help to relieve stress and fatigue and increase feelings of euphoria.

And if you dance to your favourite tunes, you'll get the extra energy-boosting benefits of music.

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