September 10, 2013

The Art of Alertness: 4 Tricks to Appearing Awake.

Speaking as a woman who has suffered on and off from insomnia since the age of seven, I know all too well what it’s like to be sleep deprived.

While there is never a good time for this, some times are worst than ever—i.e., the day before a big event like a wedding, the night before a major presentation, or the week that final exams start. While there is no substitute for Vitamin Z, there are times when you have to at least put in an appearance and appear awake even when your eyelids are struggling to stay up.

Below are some tips that I have found handy time and again. Hopefully, you won’t have to use them that often, but they’re good to have in mind the next time you find yourself in that situation:

1. Smile.

Smiling not only makes you feel better, but it also tends to made the eyes look more awake and open. If you find yourself nodding off and notice your eye lids are drooping, then smiling can immediately help you to lift them and hence appear more awake.

Plus, for some reason, smiling people seem less tired perhaps because they seem more engaged. Speaking of appearing engaged try #2 if possible.

2. Try to engage in a conversation about a topic you are sincerely interested in.

Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to relax or sleep after you’ve participated in a conversation about a topic or cause you are very interested and/or passionate about? That’s because your body is releasing adrenaline which can cause you to feel more awake.

One word of warning, though, try to avoid topics you are extremely passionate about—if your body releases too much adrenaline, the crash that proceeds it may make you more even more tired, jittery or anxious. (Think of a bad caffeine crash, it is  similar to that.)

One way to avoid this is to discuss things you particularly like. If there is no one around, just thinking about someone or something that makes you happy may do the trick.

3. Try ujjayi breathing (deep breathing in and out through the nose).

Tired people yawn because their bodies are not getting enough oxygen. While yogis are familiar with the ujjayi breathing technique, you don’t have to practice yoga to master this quickly.

To start, imagine that you sucking air through a drinking straw. Begin at the base of the belly and work your way slowly imaging that air traveling up the straw. Once you can’t take any more air, release it as slowly as it came in. (Imagine there is a dish of ashes in front of your nose and you are trying not to send them flying in the air.)

Just the mere process of breathing like this can calm the mind which can further help given that many have a “fuzzy” feeling in the head when they do not get enough sleep.

4. Wear a soft color especially near your face.

This is an example of “fake it until you make it” or rather, faking it until your head can hit the pillow. I’ve noticed that when I am sleep-deprived, bright primary colors and black tend to make me look even more washed-out and draw attention to the circles under my eyes. Whether you are a man or a woman, softer shades are your friends here. Pink-based tones tend to give a rosier glow to the skin, which is often associated with more sleep—so if you like pink, wear it. Even a light blue is far-more flattering than a navy.

One friend of mine swears on breaking out her flashiest shoes when she is tired. She says that everyone is so busy checking out her shoes that no one recognizes the circles under her eyes or the fact that her eyes are barely open. I’ve yet to try this, but it can’t hurt.

While nothing can ever take the place of a good night’s sleep, there are some ways to at least fake being alert and awake even when you aren’t. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t ever need to resort to these tricks, but sometimes they are necessary.

However, if your insomnia is chronic, then it may be a wise idea to see a doctor. Despite how successfully you make fake looking awake, your body will always know the difference and going without sleep may have serious consequences on both your mental and physical state of being. And that well-being is something you simply cannot fake no matter how hard you try.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo: Hannah K.}


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