21 Expert-Approved Ways to Get Energy Without Caffeine

Get energy without caffeine by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, exercising, playing music, and taking a cold shower.
Updated
2024-01-10
16 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.

How to Get Energy Without Caffeine? 

  • Lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm are the two most impactful things you can do to get more energy.
  • Other caffeine-free energy boosts include exercising, playing your favorite music, taking a nap or cold shower, and eating a healthy snack. 
  • The RISE app helps you get more energy without caffeine by working out how much sleep debt you have and helping you pay it back. The app also predicts your circadian rhythm, so you can get in sync and get more energy.

Caffeine can give you an energy boost, but it’s not the only thing that can perk you up. 

Keep reading to find out 21 ways you can get more energy without coffee and how the RISE app can help you master the two most important things when it comes to energy: sleep debt and your circadian rhythm.

A Sleep Doctor’s Advice on Getting More Energy

A Sleep Doctor’s Advice on Getting More Energy

We asked our Rise Science sleep advisor and medical reviewer Dr. Chester Wu for his advice on getting more energy without hitting up Starbucks.

“Energy without caffeine is possible! Try grabbing a healthy snack like an apple and peanut butter or Greek yogurt instead of a coffee. For the biggest energy boost, focus on catching up on lost sleep, either by getting an early night or taking a short afternoon nap.”

Here’s how to get more energy — no caffeine required. 

1. Lower Your Sleep Debt

Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body. The more sleep debt you have, the less energy you’re going to feel. 

We recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours for maximum energy. 

You can lower your sleep debt by: 

  • Taking short naps 
  • Going to sleep early 
  • Sleeping in later 
  • Improving your sleep hygiene (more on this soon)

Check RISE to see how much sleep you need each night (this is known as your sleep need) and whether you’re carrying any sleep debt. 

You can learn more about how much sleep you need here.

Lowering your sleep debt isn’t a quick fix, but RISE users say it makes the biggest difference to their energy levels. 

“Before seeing the sleep debt numbers I didn’t understand how exhausted I really was. The biggest difference was when I finally reduced it to 0. It was a journey of several months, but I felt years younger after.” Read the review

Dr. Chester Wu agrees: 

“One of the best things you can do to get more energy is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you’re feeling tired all day long, you may not be getting enough. Try heading to bed 15 minutes or so earlier or squeezing in a few afternoon naps over the next few weeks to see if that makes a difference to how you feel.” 

Heads-up: Everyone needs a different amount of sleep. We looked at 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up and found their sleep needs ranged from five hours to 11 hours 30 minutes. 

The RISE app can tell you how much sleep you need.
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep you need.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep need here

2. Get in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

Your circadian rhythm is your internal body clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and helps to control your sleep-wake schedule. 

You can get out of sync with your circadian rhythm by: 

  • Working night shifts
  • Having an irregular sleep schedule (which about 87% of us do)
  • Fighting your chronotype (like a night owl trying to wake up early)

Being out of sync can lead to lower energy levels, even if you’re getting enough sleep. 

Get in sync by: 

  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule 
  • Eating your meals at regular times and during the day 
  • Going to bed during your Melatonin Window (what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production, the sleep hormone, is at its highest. You’ll have the easiest time falling asleep at this time). 

RISE can predict your circadian rhythm each day and show you when your body naturally wants to be awake and asleep. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen here

Heads-up: Sleep debt and your circadian rhythm are the two biggest factors affecting your energy levels.

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3. Exercise

Exercise triggers alertness-boosting hormones and “feel-good” endorphins, and lowers your stress. 

You may not need much of it to get an energy boost: 

  • A 2021 study found 30 seconds of exercise helps you wake up faster in the morning. 
  • A 2017 study found 10 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity exercise can give you more energy than 50 milligrams of caffeine. 
  • Research shows a 10-minute walk can increase your energy levels more than a sugary snack. 

Exercise may even lessen some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation. You can learn more about working out on no sleep here.

Physical activity can also help you get better sleep and more energy in the long run. A 2023 systematic review found regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster. 

Heads-up: Avoid intense physical activity within an hour of bedtime as this can keep you awake. RISE can tell you when it’s best to do gentle activity instead. 

4. Get Out in Natural Light 

Getting out in natural light first thing resets your circadian rhythm for the day. This will help you feel more awake during the morning and day and sleepier come bedtime. Light suppresses melatonin and boosts cortisol, which makes you feel more alert.

Try to get 10 minutes of light as soon as you can each morning. Make that 15 to 20 minutes of light if it’s overcast or if you’re getting light through a window. If it’s dark outside when you wake up, try using a 10,000 lux light therapy lamp. Place the lamp 16 to 24 inches from your face for 30 minutes.

5. Drink Water 

Fatigue can be a sign of dehydration. Mild dehydration can make you feel tired and the simple act of drinking a glass of water can make you feel more alert. 

Make sure you’re hydrating throughout the day, rather than gulping down water at bedtime and waking up in the night to use the bathroom.

If you’re avoiding coffee, water is another drink that can give you natural energy. 

6. Take a Nap 

Dr. Chester Wu recommends taking a short nap to boost your energy. 

“For a quick boost in energy, try taking a short power nap. This will help you catch up on any lost sleep and improve your energy, focus, and mood. Just be sure to keep naps short, sleeping for more than 20 minutes may leave you feeling groggy.”

Research shows 10-minute naps are best for reducing sleepiness without any grogginess afterwards. 

Avoid napping too close to bedtime as this can make it hard to fall asleep at night. We recommend napping during your natural afternoon dip in energy. Check RISE for when this is each day. 

Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, one of our sleep advisors and Co-Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences at Stanford University also loves to nap to get more energy. 

“I inherited a couch in my office and will take a nap!” 

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7. Take a Cold Shower 

A cold shower is a great way to wake yourself up and jump-start your day.

Cold water will give you an energizing buzz by increasing your heart rate, metabolism, and blood pressure. 

If you can’t face a cold shower, try splashing your face with cold water instead. 

8. Eat a Healthy Snack 

Skip sugary snacks and simple carbohydrates that’ll spike your blood sugar levels and give you a sugar crash.

Go for healthy options for a pick-me-up such as: 

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Low-fat cheddar or mozzarella cheese 
  • Fruits and veggies 
  • Nuts and seeds 
  • Greek yogurt 

You can learn more about foods that give you energy here.

9. Eat a Light Lunch 

A big lunch isn’t the cause of your afternoon slump (your circadian rhythm is to blame for that), but it can make you feel sleepier than usual. 

A 2012 study found a heavy lunch can increase sleepiness and decrease performance on a simulated driving test compared to a light lunch. 

10. Eat a Balanced Diet

To feel more awake throughout the day, eat a balanced diet full of fruits, leafy greens, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs like oatmeal, beans, and whole grain pasta for a steady source of energy. 

A healthy diet can also improve your sleep, which will boost your energy. Research from 2022 says a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory nutrients is best for sleep.

Avoid skipping meals or overeating, and speak to your healthcare provider about nutritional deficiencies to see if vitamin D, vitamin B12, or iron supplements could give you more energy. 

Expert tip: Avoid large meals two to three hours before bed to stop them from disrupting your sleep. You can learn when to stop eating before bed here. 

RISE can give you an exact time each day and send you helpful reminders. 

11. Try Aromatherapy 

Try these scents that can increase alertness: 

Avoid these scents that can increase drowsiness

12. Listen to Music 

Research shows listening to music can boost energy levels. Sitting in silence or listening to relaxation instructions can make you feel more tired. 

Listening to 20 minutes of “excitative music” after a nap has also been shown to reduce grogginess, especially if you like the songs. 

Singing or tapping along to the beat can boost energy even more.

Expert tip: Co-founder and CEO of Rise Science Jeff Kahn turns to music for a pick-me-up and puts on his favorite playlist when he needs an energy boost in the afternoon.

13. Do a Breathing Exercise 

Breathing exercises can help to lower your stress levels and help you fall asleep faster to get more sleep and energy. 

Research shows a range of breathing exercises can boost your energy: 

  • A 2022 study found diaphragmatic breathing can help people with sleep apnea feel less daytime sleepiness. 
  • A 2023 study (co-authored by our scientific advisor Dr. Jamie Zeitzer) found psychological sighing is more effective at boosting your mood than mindfulness meditation.
  • A 2014 study found paced breathing can help insomniacs fall asleep faster and wake up less often and for less time during the night. 

We’ve covered how to do these breathing exercises here.

Need help getting started? RISE can guide you through breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing in the app. 

RISE app screenshot showing relaxation reminders
The RISE app can guide you through breathing exercises before bed.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can go right to their relaxation audio guide homepage and get started here.

14. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button 

A 2022 study found hitting the snooze button prolongs sleep inertia compared to using a single alarm.

Heads-up: Sleep inertia is that groggy feeling you get right after waking up. You can learn more about sleep inertia here, including how to shake it off faster. 

A 2023 study suggests hitting snooze for 30 minutes can improve sleep inertia and mental performance, but the study was small, based on self-reported data, and included sleep deprived night owls — a group who benefit from more sleep and later wake times. 

For now, the best advice is to get up at the same time each morning to have more energy. 

15. Have a Consistent Sleep Schedule 

Research shows those with a regular sleep schedule feel less sleepy than those without a regular sleep schedule — even when both groups get enough sleep.

And RISE users with regular sleep schedules have lower sleep debt than those without — and low sleep debt equals more energy. 

You can learn more about the best time to sleep and wake up here.

As well as more energy, a consistent sleep schedule is better for your overall health and wellness.

16. Engage Your Brain 

If you’re falling asleep randomly, try engaging your brain with a trivia task. 

One study found when truck drivers did trivia tasks — like answering a series of multiple-choice questions — they felt more alert and maintained better driving performance.

17. Have a Conversation 

Falling asleep at work? Try picking up the phone or walking over to a colleague’s desk and having a conversation.

The more challenging or stimulating the conversation the better. Getting up to have an IRL conversation is also a great way to add physical activity into your workday. 

18. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene 

Sleep hygiene is the name for the daily habits you can do to improve your sleep. With good sleep hygiene, you can fall asleep faster, wake up less often in the middle of the night, and get more sleep overall. 

Here’s what to do: 

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule 
  • Get out in light first thing
  • Spend as much time in daylight as you can during the day 
  • Avoid bright light about 90 minutes before bed
  • Avoid alcohol, intense exercise, caffeine, and large meals too close to bedtime 
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet 
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine to help you unwind for sleep

To stay on top of it all, RISE can tell you the best time to do 20+ good sleep hygiene habits each day based on your circadian rhythm. 

RISE users have found that better sleep hygiene helps them catch up on sleep and get more energy.

“Just being able to visually see how my sleep habit choices are affecting my energy levels seems to have done the ticket for getting me to catch up on sleep.” Read the review

RISE app screenshot showing sleep hygiene habit reminders
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications here.  

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19. Speak to a Doctor 

If you’re always tired, consider speaking to your healthcare provider. 

Sleep disorders and medical conditions could be to blame, such as: 

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome 
  • Menopause
  • Anemia 
  • Medications 
  • Birth control  

We’ve covered more reasons you want to sleep all the time here. 

20. Use the RISE App 

RISE can help you get more energy without turning to caffeine by: 

  • Working out how much sleep you need, so you know what to aim for each night
  • Working out how much sleep debt you have and helping you lower it 
  • Predicting your circadian rhythm and helping you sync up with it 
  • Guiding you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to make getting enough sleep easier 
  • Guiding you through breathing and relaxation exercises for better sleep 

21. Bonus Tip: Drink Caffeine Responsibly 

If you’re avoiding coffee because you don’t like the taste, it gives you unwanted side effects like the jitters, or because you’re pregnant or have a medical condition, the tips above can help you get more energy without caffeine.

If, however, you like coffee, but it disrupts your shut-eye, there are ways you can enjoy caffeine and a good night’s sleep. 

Here’s how: 

  • Avoid caffeine about 12 hours before bed (or earlier if you’re sensitive to it)
  • Limit your caffeine intake to a maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or roughly four 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee — although it’s tricky to say how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee exactly. 
  • Watch out for caffeine in decaf coffee, energy drinks, black and green tea, hot chocolate, yerba mate, pain and cold medications, and pre-workout. Research from 2023 states you should avoid pre-workout at least 13 hours before bed.  

Learn more about how long caffeine lasts here.

RISE can tell you when to stop drinking coffee each day based on your circadian rhythm each day. 

RISE app screenshot showing when to limit caffeine intake
The RISE app can tell you when to stop drinking coffee each day.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their limit caffeine reminder here.

You Can Have Energy Without Caffeine

Lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm are the two best things you can do to get more energy without caffeine. Exercising, getting out in natural light, listening to music, and taking a cold shower can also help. 

RISE can work out how much sleep debt you have and predict your circadian rhythm each day to help you nail these important factors.  

The app can also guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to make it easier to get enough sleep each night — including telling you when to stop drinking coffee if you want to drink it.

You can get more energy fast — 80% of RISE users say they feel more energy within five days of using the app. 

Summary FAQs

How to get energy without caffeine?

Get energy without caffeine by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, exercising, taking a cold shower, playing your favorite music, taking a power nap, drinking more water, and eating a healthy snack.

What is a good alternative to caffeine to wake up in the morning?

A good alternative to caffeine to wake up in the morning includes taking a cold shower, eating a complex carb-rich breakfast, exercising, using a gradual alarm sound (and not snoozing), and getting out in sunlight or using a light therapy lamp if it’s dark out when you wake up. In the long term, lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm can help you get more energy in the morning without caffeine.

How can I get energy midday without caffeine?

Get more energy midday without caffeine by eating a healthy snack or light lunch, taking a nap, taking a cold shower, playing your favorite music, engaging your brain, drinking a glass of water, or doing some exercise. In the long run, lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm can help you get more energy throughout the day.

How to stay awake without caffeine at work?

Stay awake at work without caffeine by eating a healthy snack, splashing your face with cold water, playing your favorite music, having a conversation, or taking a power nap (if possible). In the long term, lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm can help you stay awake without caffeine.

How to get energy without caffeine at night?

Get energy without caffeine at night by eating a healthy snack, having a cold shower, listening to music, exercising, or having a conversation. Lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm will help you get more energy in the long term. Be careful what you do at night to get more energy as this can disrupt your sleep and lead to lower energy the next day. Avoid large meals, naps, and intense exercise, for example.

How to get energy without energy drinks?

Get energy without energy drinks by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, exercising, taking a cold shower, playing your favorite music, taking a power nap, drinking more water, and eating a healthy snack.

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RISE makes it easy to improve your sleep and daily energy to reach your potential

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