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7 Reasons Why You Fall Asleep at Your Desk

When I was in college, I had a bad habit of sleeping around.

No, I’m not talking about hopping into bed with every guy I met. My husband Chris and I were college sweethearts, and on the spectrum of sex appeal, I was closer to Minnie Mouse than Jessica Rabbit.

But I did find myself waking up in weird places all the time.

College was an intense time for me, and I never seemed to get enough sleep at night. So I would sneak off during my breaks to get some shut-eye wherever I could.

I distinctly remember counting the minutes until my kinesiology class ended, then darting under the bleachers to nap for an hour before my medical terminology class started.

And yes, I do see the irony of my studying physical education yet being completely oblivious to my own health needs.

My dorm room was a 20-minute walk across campus so I got my sleep under those bleachers, in the library, in an empty classroom, or any nook or cranny I could find.

Many things contributed to my stealth naps including my coffee addiction, demanding course load, my day job modeling for the art department, and staying out too late dancing at the smelly dive bar where Chris and I met.

Thankfully, I’m now a functioning adult who gave up napping in strange corners long ago.

I’ve learned a few things since my college days about keeping my energy high so I can do all the things I want to do in my life.

Are you struggling to stay awake at your job? Or do you work from home and find yourself nodding off when you should be working?

Here are 7 reasons why you fall asleep at your desk (and how to fix ‘em!).

1. Poor Nutrition

My college nutrition could be described in two words: SUGAR HIGH!

I drank several cinnamon hot chocolates per day, ate white flour bagels smothered in jelly, and had daily dates with my boyfriend (now husband) Chris at a local pie shop. It was very romantic at the time, but I’m surprised my teeth didn’t fall out from all the sugar I was ingesting.

Maybe you’re still eating like a teenager and crashing and burning from your sugar addiction?

Some common foods that could be messing with your energy include sugar, white flour, caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda, and processed foods. You know your body best, so try cutting back on any foods that make you lethargic.

2. Sitting for Too Long

Sitting for hours in lecture halls at college was one thing, but I didn’t expect to be sitting so much as an adult too. I run my life coaching business from my home, and I spent countless hours per day sitting on my butt.

Standing up and moving at least once an hour has dramatically changed my energy levels. I’m able to get more work done by taking a 5-minute break to walk around the house and do some stretching. I always return to my desk feeling rejuvenated.

Set a timer on your phone to go off every hour so you’re reminded to stand up and get the blood flowing again.

3. Boredom

No offense to my former professors, but it was easier to fall asleep in the classes I didn’t care about. Being bored is the fasted way to lose your energy and want to take a nap.

Take a moment to figure out why you’re feeling bored. What is it about your work that’s not interesting? Why isn’t it grabbing your attention?

Try to add some novelty to your day by working someplace new like a coffee shop, or listening to upbeat music, or using colorful office supplies. Just because it’s work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun!

4. Not Enough Sleep

Of course! This is the no-brainer reason why you’re falling asleep at your desk—because you didn’t get enough sleep in your bed.

Aim to get 8 hours of sleep per night and treat it like any other appointment. It’s that important! Determine what time you need to wake up in the morning and then count backwards 8 hours to find your new bedtime.

Set an alarm to go off 30 minutes before you need to be in bed so you can do your nighttime routine and put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, turn down the lights, etc.

5. Decision Fatigue

This reason might not be on your radar, but you’d be surprised by how many decisions we’re faced with every day. You have to choose when to wake up, what to wear, what to eat for every meal, what to work on, what deserves your attention, and a thousand other choices.

Limiting your choices will give you back the energy you’d normally waste trying to come to a decision. Plan your clothes the night before, eat the same lunch every day, and choose your 3 main priorities before you start your work day.

6. No Focused Passion

This reason is similar to feeling bored but it goes deeper than wanting your work to be fun. It’s hard to keep up your energy if you don’t feel like there’s a bigger meaning as to why you’re doing what you’re doing.

What’s your “why”? What are you trying to put out to the world? How are you contributing to society in a meaningful way? Take some time to write in your journal about what your passion is and how you can make it a part of your daily routine.

For example, if your passion is teaching children, then sign up for some volunteer activities in your town where you can work with kids. If your passion is the environment, then start a recycling program at your office or encourage the employees to ride their bikes work (I did both at one of my former editing jobs!).

7. Not Being Strategic With Your Time

Sometimes you’ll fall asleep at your desk because you’re genuinely tired and your body has had enough! Maybe college students can survive a few all-nighters, but that’s not a healthy lifestyle for most of us.

Ask yourself why you’re not getting your work done during your normal work hours. Perhaps you’re goofing off on social media or checking emails when you should be starting your biggest project.

One way to be strategic with your limited time is to front load your days. Jot down 3 things you want to work on first thing in the morning each day. I call this my Before Lunch List. When you focus on your #1 priorities first, then it’s OK if you get tired in the afternoon because your important work will be finished.

Those are 7 reasons why you’re falling asleep at your desk. What tactics will you try this week to use your energy wisely?

Ready for a Boost?

For even more energy boosting tips, watch the video class “10 Easy Ways to Have All-Day Energy” in the Life Editor Clubhouse.

In This Class

  • Learn simple food and nutrition tweaks that don’t involve gulping down gallons of Starbucks drinks.
  • Get sneaky and trick yourself into feeling like you’re fully rested. You can outsmart your lazy tendencies!
  • Reboot your brain with rejuvenating spiritual practices that even a meditation newbie can master.

Click here to join the Clubhouse.