How to Feel More Awake: 24 Ways to Improve Your Energy

Feel more awake by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, exercising, drinking coffee, taking a nap, or listening to music.
Updated
2024-01-10
19 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.
Learn more
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 Feel More Awake: What You Need to Know

  • To feel more awake long term, lower your sleep debt and get in sync with your circadian rhythm. These are the two biggest factors affecting your energy levels. 
  • To feel more awake instantly, get some bright light exposure, drink some caffeine, exercise, take a cold shower, and drink some water.
  • The RISE app can help you feel more awake naturally by working out how much sleep you need, how much sleep debt you have, and predicting your circadian rhythm each day, so you can sync up.

Whether you’re waking up groggy, struggling through the afternoon slump, or trying to stay awake at work, there are ways to feel more awake.  

Below, we’ll share 24 science-backed tips to help you get more energy. Plus we’ll share how the RISE app can help with the two biggest factors influencing your energy — sleep debt and your circadian rhythm.

A Sleep Doctor's Key Advice

We asked Dr. Chester Wu, Rise Science sleep advisor and medical reviewer, for his expert opinion on how to make yourself feel more awake. Here’s his key advice:

“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.”

How to Feel More Awake Naturally? 

1. Find Out Your Sleep Need 

Your sleep need is the amount of sleep you need each night. It’s determined by genetics and unique to you. When you know your sleep need, you know how much sleep you should be aiming for each night to get the most energy each day. 

RISE uses proprietary sleep-science-based models and a year’s worth of your phone use behavior to work out your sleep need.

You can learn about how much sleep you need here. 

Expert tip: Don’t just shoot for seven hours of sleep and hope for the best. We looked at 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and older and found 48% of them need eight hours or more sleep a night.

The RISE app can work out how much sleep you need
The RISE app can work out how much sleep you need.

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

Heads-up: Sometimes, you can temporarily feel more awake when you don’t get enough sleep. This can happen because your body is producing more of the stress hormone cortisol. Don’t be fooled. This “fake” energy may get you through the day, but your performance will be impaired and high cortisol levels can cause health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, and stroke in the long run.

2. Lower Your Sleep Debt 

Sleep debt is the running total of how much sleep you owe your body. If you’ve been missing out on sleep lately, you’ll have built up sleep debt. The more sleep debt you have, the more tired you’re going to feel and high sleep debt could even lead to falling asleep randomly throughout the day.

Luckily, you can lower your sleep debt to feel more awake. We recommend keeping your sleep debt below five hours to maximize your energy levels. 

Here’s how to pay back sleep debt: 

  • Take short afternoon naps (check RISE for the best time to do this)
  • Go to sleep a little earlier 
  • Sleep in a little later
  • Improve your sleep hygiene (this will help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often, so you get more sleep overall — more on what to do soon)

RISE can work out how much sleep debt you have and keep track of it each day.

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

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

{{ cta }}

3. Get in Sync With Your Circadian Rhythm 

We all have a circadian rhythm, or body clock, ticking away inside of us. Your circadian rhythm runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and it dictates things like your sleep cycle, when your body temperature fluctuates, and when your body produces certain hormones. 

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

  • Having an irregular sleep schedule 
  • Working night shifts
  • Ignoring your chronotype (like night owls trying to wake up early) 

If you’re out of sync with your circadian rhythm, you can feel low on energy

Get in sync by: 

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, even on weekends.
  • Eating at regular times and during the day. 
  • Going to bed during your Melatonin Window — this is what we call the roughly one-hour window when your body’s rate of melatonin production (the sleep hormone) is at its highest.

RISE can predict the timing of your circadian rhythm each day so you can see when your body wants to be awake and when it wants to sleep.

RISE app screenshot showing melatonin reminder
The RISE app can predict the timing of your circadian rhythm each day.

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

Expert tip: Lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm are the two most impactful changes you can make to feel more awake.

How to Feel More Awake Instantly? 

4. Do Some Exercise 

Exercise can give you a rush of endorphins, boost blood flow, improve your mood, and help you keep in shape, which will help you have more energy. 

Beyond the obvious health benefits, working out can improve your sleep and energy levels directly.

  • Exercise can boost your energy quickly. One study found a 10-minute walk can boost your energy more than eating a candy bar.
  • Working out can improve your next-day energy. A 2022 study found the more physical activity you do during the day, the more energy you’ll have the next morning. 
  • And exercise can improve your sleep, and therefore energy, in the long run. A 2023 systematic review found regular exercise can improve your sleep quality and help you fall asleep faster. 

Just make sure to avoid intense exercise within an hour of bedtime as this can make it harder to fall asleep. RISE can tell you when it’s best to swap a hard gym session for gentle yoga.

Learn more about the best time to work out here.

5. Drink a Cup of Coffee (But Avoid Caffeine 12 Hours Before Bed)

Coffee can be a great way to wake yourself up — but you need to drink it at the right time. 

Enjoy a cup of coffee or two in the morning and then avoid caffeine about 12 hours before bed. 

Even a seemingly innocent afternoon espresso can mess with your sleep, and therefore next-day energy levels. A 2023 paper found caffeine can reduce how much deep sleep you get and how much sleep you get overall. The researchers recommend avoiding caffeine at least nine hours before bed to avoid “significant” sleep loss. The closer to bedtime you consume caffeine, the more it can reduce your sleep time.

We’ve covered more on how long caffeine lasts here.

RISE can tell you the exact time you should have your last coffee to make sure it doesn’t impact your sleep.

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

{{ cta-mini }}

6. Combine Caffeine and a Nap (Cautiously) 

Drinking a coffee and then taking a short nap — sometimes called a nappuccino — can wake you up fast. 

But you want to use this energy booster cautiously and sparingly. Drinking coffee too late in the day can impact your nighttime sleep, tanking your energy levels the next day. 

A coffee-then-nap can work well when you’re having trouble staying awake but have an important meeting in the afternoon, or when you’re falling asleep while driving and can’t pull over to rest for longer. 

Research shows participants doing a two-hour driving simulation had fewer incidents after combining caffeine and a nap compared to those who just had caffeine alone. 

7. Take a Cold Shower 

Jump in a cold shower to give yourself an energizing buzz. Cold water can increase your heart rate, metabolism, and blood pressure, making you feel more awake. It could even have an anti-depressive effect.

Not brave enough for a cold shower? We don’t blame you. Try splashing your face with cold water, instead. 

8. Drink a Glass of Water 

If you need a quick and easy pick-me-up, grab a glass of water. Research shows even mild dehydration can make you feel tired, and the very act of drinking water can make you feel more alert. 

How to Feel More Awake Without Caffeine? 

{{ video }}

9. Play Your Favorite Music 

Research shows listening to music can increase your energy levels, while sitting in silence or listening to relaxation instructions can make you feel sleepy. 

Music can be especially effective when it’s upbeat. One study found 20 minutes of “excitative music” after a nap decreased sleep inertia, or grogginess when you wake up. The music worked even better when participants liked the song. 

10. Avoid Large Meals Two to Three Hours Before Bed 

This tip is one to build into your everyday routine. 

Eating too close to bedtime can cause digestive issues, make it harder to fall asleep, and cause you to wake up during the night. 

Aim to be finished with dinner two to three hours before bedtime to help you get better sleep. RISE can give you an exact dinner time to aim for. 

You can learn more about what time you should stop eating before bed here. 

Expert tip: You want your overall diet to be healthy and balanced to feel more energy day to day. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and complex carbs like oatmeal and brown rice for a steady source of energy.

What you eat can also impact your sleep. Research from 2022 shows an overall diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory nutrients is best for sleep. 

And overeating can make you feel sleepy. Your digestive system has to work harder to digest a large meal and blood flow is diverted to the gastrointestinal tract and can’t be used elsewhere, like in the brain.

11. Do a Relaxing Bedtime Routine 

Stress and anxiety can easily keep you up at night. In fact, RISE users say stress and anxiety are the biggest hurdles to getting a good night’s rest. 

To help, start doing a relaxing bedtime routine in the hour or so before you go to bed.

This can involve: 

  • Reading 
  • Listening to music
  • Taking a warm shower or bath (or even just a footbath)
  • Doing yoga or some gentle stretches 
  • Meditating or doing a breathing exercise 
  • Doing a relaxation exercise 

RISE can guide you through relaxation exercises like progressive muscle relaxation. This can help you wind down for bed and drift off more quickly. 

RISE app showing relaxation session reminders
The RISE app can guide you through relaxation exercises.

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

{{ cta-mini }}

12. Try Aromatherapy 

The right scent can make you feel more awake. 

These scents can boost your alertness: 

But scents can cause drowsiness (save them for your bedtime routine): 

13. Do a Breathing Exercise 

Breathing exercises can help to calm stress, boost circulation, and increase your brain’s oxygen levels. They can also help you fall asleep faster, so you’ll get more sleep and feel more awake the next day. 

Research from 2022 found diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, helped those with sleep apnea feel less daytime sleepiness.

A 2023 study — co-authored by one of our science advisors Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, Co-Director of the Center for Sleep & Circadian Sciences at Stanford University —  found five minutes of psychological sighing can improve your mood. Psychological sighing is also known as cyclic sighing and involves extended exhalations.

A better mood will feel great during the day and can help you fall asleep more easily at night. 

RISE can guide you through breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing within the app. 

We’ve covered more breathing exercises to try here.

How to Feel More Awake in the Morning? 

14. Get Out in Sunlight in the Morning

Morning sunlight can reset your circadian rhythm, waking you up for the day and setting you up to feel sleepy at bedtime. 

Aim to get out in natural light for at least 10 minutes as soon as you can each morning. If it’s overcast or you’re getting light through a window, aim to get 15 to 20 minutes of light.

15. Don’t Hit Snooze 

As tempting as it can be to hit snooze once or twice — or several times — try to get up at the same time each day. 

A 2022 study found hitting the snooze alarm makes sleep inertia last longer compared to using a single alarm.

Plus, waking up at the same time will help to keep your circadian rhythm in check for long-term energy. 

Expert tip: If you need to sleep in to get more shut-eye, limit this to an hour or so to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm too much.

You can learn the best way to sleep in here.

16. Choose the Right Alarm Sound

Did you know the sound you wake up to can make a difference to how tired you feel in the morning? 

These alarm clock sounds can help to reduce sleep inertia:

With the RISE phone alarm, you can choose from melodic sounds, your choice of music, or gentle Apple watch or phone vibrations. The alarm also has the added feature of telling you whether your wake-up time will add to sleep debt as you’re setting it the night before.

We’ve covered more on how to wake up to an alarm here.

RISE app screenshot showing smart alarm
The RISE app alarm can wake you up gently.

17. Do a Burst of Physical Activity to Shake Off Sleep Inertia 

We already know exercise can boost your energy, but doing some physical activity first thing can help to jumpstart your day. 

You don’t need to schedule a full gym session, though. 

One study found just 30 seconds of exercise can help you shake off sleep inertia in the morning. And research shows 10 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity exercise can give you more energy than 50 milligrams of caffeine. 

Discover more ways to wake up faster in the morning here.

How to Feel More Awake in the Afternoon? 

18. Eat a Lighter Lunch 

A heavy lunch isn’t the reason for your afternoon slump — that’s a natural part of your circadian rhythm and made worse by high sleep debt. But a large lunch can make afternoon sleepiness worse. 

Research shows a heavy lunch can increase sleepiness and decrease performance on a simulated driving test compared to a light lunch. 

Opt for a lower calorie balanced lunch to feel more awake through the afternoon. 

19. Eat a Healthy Snack

Resist the urge to reach for a sugary snack to make you feel more awake. It spikes your blood sugar levels in the short run, but you’ll get a sugar crash shortly afterward. 

Opt for healthy snacks instead such as: 

  • Fruits and veggies 
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Unsweetened Greek yogurt 
  • Low-fat cheddar or mozzarella cheese 

We’ve covered more on what gives you energy here, including specific foods to add to your grocery list.

20. Have a Conversation

Having a conversation can engage your brain and wake you up — especially if it’s a challenging conversation. 

If you’re falling asleep at work, try walking over to a colleague’s desk rather than pinging them on Slack. If you’re WFH, take a break to call Mom. 

21. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule 

Aim to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same times each day — even on your days off. 

This will help you regulate your circadian rhythm, so you feel more awake during the day and sleepy come bedtime. 

Research shows those with a regular sleep pattern feel less sleepy than those without a regular sleep pattern — even when both groups get the same amount of sleep.

Our data shows RISE users with consistent sleep patterns have lower sleep debt than those with inconsistent sleep patterns. And lower sleep debt will help you feel more awake during the day and make your afternoon dip in energy feel more manageable. 

We’ve covered how to beat the afternoon slump here. 

How to Feel More Awake With Less Sleep? 

22. Do Some Exercise When Sleep Deprived 

If you’ve had little sleep and you need to stay awake when tired, do some exercise.

One study looked at participants who spent five nights getting either eight hours in bed, four hours in bed, or four hours in bed and did three high-intensity interval exercise sessions during the five days.

Those who only got four hours of sleep had a reduced glucose tolerance and mitochondrial respiratory function (the process of energy conversion in your cells).

But these impairments were not seen in the group who got four hours of sleep but did the three exercise sessions. 

It’s not clear whether exercise can stop the negative effects of sleep deprivation in the long term, however, so focus on catching up on sleep when you can. 

Working out while sleep deprived can increase your risk of injury, so depending on how much sleep you got, you might want to stick to a gentle workout, like yoga or swimming. 

Check out our guide on how to work out on no sleep here.

23. Take a Nap 

Napping is a great way to lower your sleep debt to feel more awake in the long run, but it can also give you an energy boost that day. 

To make sure your naps don’t make it hard to fall asleep at night, we recommend napping for no longer than 90 minutes and napping during your afternoon dip in energy. 

A 10-minute power nap is enough to reduce sleepiness in sleep-deprived people, and research shows naps can improve your alertness, performance, and mood. 

Naps can even be beneficial for those who are not sleep deprived. 

24. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene 

Sleep hygiene is the set of daily behaviors you can do to get a good night’s sleep. Good sleep hygiene will help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often in the night. 

This means you’ll spend more time sleeping while in bed and won’t need to spend extra time in bed to meet your sleep need. 

Good sleep hygiene can also help you get more restful sleep, which can make you feel more awake. Research from 2022 found more light sleep and less time awake at night are linked to better sleep satisfaction. And a 2021 study found how people feel about their sleep had a bigger impact on daytime fatigue than sleep duration. 

Here’s what good sleep hygiene looks like: 

  • Get out in sunlight for at least 10 minutes as soon as you can after waking up 
  • Spend as much time in daylight as you can during the day 
  • Dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses about 90 minutes before bed.
  • Avoiding intense exercise, caffeine, large meals, and alcohol too close to bedtime 
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet 

RISE can guide you through 20+ sleep habits and tell you when to do them based on your circadian rhythm each day. 

RISE app screenshot showing sleep hygiene reminders
RISE can guide you through 20+ sleep habits and tell you when to do them based on your circadian rhythm each day

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

We’ve covered more tips on how to wake yourself up when tired and how to function on no sleep here.

Heads-up: If you’re always sleepy, speak to your healthcare provider. They can test you for health conditions or sleep disorders that could be to blame. Your tiredness may also be caused by nutritional deficiencies, birth control, menopause, or even wildfire smoke.

Feel More Awake Fast

The two biggest factors influencing how awake you feel are how much sleep debt you have and how in sync you are with your circadian rhythm. Focus on lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm to get more energy. 

For extra boosts in energy, you can exercise, drink coffee, play your favorite music, take a cold shower, and take a nap. 

The RISE app can work out how much sleep you need and whether you’ve got any sleep debt to pay back. RISE can also predict your circadian rhythm, so you can easily sync up, and guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits to help you get better sleep.

You can feel more awake fast, too. We found 80% of RISE users feel more energy within five days.

Summary FAQs

How to feel more awake?

Feel more awake by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, exercising, drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, playing your favorite music, and taking a nap.

How to feel more awake in the morning?

Feel more awake in the morning by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, doing some exercise, drinking coffee, playing your favorite music, taking a cold shower, and getting out in natural light.

How to feel more awake in the morning with little sleep?

Feel more awake in the morning with little sleep by doing some exercise, drinking some coffee, taking a cold shower, playing your favorite music, and getting out in bright light. When possible, catch up on sleep to feel more awake.

How can I feel more awake without sleep?

Feel more awake without sleep by drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, playing your favorite music, getting out in bright light, and doing some (gentle) physical activity. If you can, take a nap and get some sleep to feel more awake. When possible, catch up on sleep for more energy.

How to feel more awake immediately?

Feel more awake immediately by drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, playing your favorite music, doing some exercise, or drinking a glass of water. To feel more awake in the long run, lower your sleep debt and get in sync with your circadian rhythm.

How to feel more awake naturally?

Feel more awake naturally by lowering your sleep debt, getting in sync with your circadian rhythm, exercising, drinking coffee, taking a nap, playing your favorite music, or taking a cold shower.

Try 7 days free

The power behind your next best day

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

App store icon

Natural Energy

View all
Try 7 days free

The power behind your next best day

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

RISE app iconApp store icon