How to stay awake in an online meeting
By Jason Wooden, PhD | October 5, 2021
The reasons people struggle to stay awake in online meetings include poor sleep, monotonous topics, long work hours, and excessive time in front of the computer screen.
Your options to stay more alert include better sleep, caffeine, natural daylight, staying hydrated, energy boosting snacks, adjusting your meeting schedule, and a variety of practical remedies.
If online meetings have become an ongoing issue for you, it’s worth seeing a doctor to check for underlying health issues linked to daytime fatigue and poor sleep.
You’re not the only one struggling to stay awake in an online meeting..
Does this sound familiar?
You’re sitting in front a computer screen and your focus slowly starts to drift as a voice drones on.
You can feel yourself loosing the battle as you struggle to stay awake during an online meeting that’s far from over.
We’ve all been there.
While it’s great to be able connect with co-workers from the convenience of your home, meeting online brings with it new challenges.
Staying focused and awake has to be near the top of the list.
Between COVID lockdowns and business cost cutting, video conferencing has grown in popularity.
In past surveys, two thirds of workers were found to experience fatigue according to a National Safety Council survey. An Amerisleep survey found that as many 70% admitted to snoozing on the job.
Now, with more people than ever before working remotely, I’m guessing millions of people battle fatigue every day and struggle to stay awake during online meetings.
Houston, we’ve got a problem…
It should be obvious by now you’re not the only one dealing with this issue.
The reasons people struggle are varied but include issues like poor sleep, monotonous topics, long work hours, and one too many meetings.
Regardless of why it’s happening to you, it’s all the same to your workday.
There’s the risk of embarrassment and missing out on important details that can come back to bite you.
The risk to your job performance and reputation…
And long grueling meetings…
Whether it’s an occasional or an everyday issue for you, we’re going to look at what you can do to stay more awake and make the most of your online meetings.
20 Remedies worth a try to help you stay awake in an online meeting
If you’re struggling to stay awake while meeting online with your coworkers, the good news is that there’s plenty you can do to ward off fatigue, stay more alert, and make the best of things.
Some of the remedies are obvious and simple. Others may take an investment of time and or money.
And you’ll likely have to mix and match to come with something that works best for you.
1) Get more sleep
It’s hard to stay awake if you start out the day behind the eight ball on sleep. Sooner or later, your body is going to crash.
2) Take notes
It’ll keep your mind active, engaged, and help pass the time.
3) Stay engaged
Another way to keep your mind active. Join in on the discussion, ask and answer questions.
Whether it’s tea, coffee, or an energy, it’s a popular remedy to fight fatigue and promote mental alertness.
Like anything, it’s important not to overdo it. Too much coffee can dehydrate you, make it harder to sleep at night, and lead to coffee addiction.
5) Get natural daylight
Since our bodies are in tune with day and night, a dim low-light room can lull you to sleep.
Try brightening things up with a lamp or natural daylight through the windows.
6) Make the most of your breaks
Use the time to get up, stretch, and move around to help clear your mind.
7) Change your position
Sitting still or standing for long periods can make you feel tired. It’s also not best for you ergonomically.
Try working in a stretch or adjusting your body positing periodically.
8) Stay hydrated
Fatigue can be a symptom of dehydration and dehydration can make it more difficult to concentrate.
As a healthier alternative to caffeine, try a glass of water.
9) Keep a stash of healthy snacks
Healthy snacks can help keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady. Avoid over sugary snacks that lead an energy crash hours later.
Instead, look for foods with a mix of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats such as:
- trail mix
- hard boiled eggs
- fruit and nuts
- raisins and peanuts
- fruit and peanut butter
- veggies and humus
- Greek yogurt
- beef jerky (without the added sugar)
10) Avoid large meals
Heavy meals can slow down your metabolism and make you feel sluggish. Try eating a lighter breakfast and lunch.
13) Take a shower
If you can steak it in during a break, nothing is like a quick shower which can refresh and recharge you.
15) Keep it on the cool side
A warm room can lull you to sleep, especially after lunch. Try a cooler room temperature.
16) Open a window
Sometimes a little fresh air may do the trick…
17) Take a power nap
A quick snoozer during a work break or over lunch can do wonders.
Sleep experts say it’s best to keep your naps under 15-20 minutes so you don’t wake up in a brain fog. Also, set an alarm so you’re not late for anything.
19) Meet when you’re naturally more alert
If possible, morning larks may want to schedule most of their meetings earlier in the day. Likewise, night owls might want to stick the afternoon.
Another idea is to schedule your most monotonous class for when you’re most alert.
20) Try a change of scenery
Mixing things up a bit with a change of scenery can help.
Things you didn’t think of could be why you can’t stay awake in online meetings
There’s along list of things that can cause daytime fatigue including poor sleep.
Some things to think about are:
1) Underlying health issues
One of the reasons you could be struggling to stay awake at work is because something going on with your body.
Some health issues directly linked to day time fatigue are:
- anemia (iron deficiency)
- under active thyroid
- coeliac disease
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- too much calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia)
2) Mental health challenges
Stress, anxiety, and depression can leave you feeling drained. They’re also linked to poor sleep.
And it turns out that people who sleep poorly are more at risk for stress, anxiety, and depression. If you’re not careful, you can get in a vicious cycle where more of one leads to more of the other.
A type of counseling known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective for both anxiety and depression. It focuses on changing thinking and behavioral patterns.
Did you know some commonly used meds can make it harder to stay awake?
The list includes:
- allergy meds
- anxiety meds
- muscle relaxants
- heart meds
- prescription pain meds
Other things you should be doing
If you’ve tried everything you can think of and you’re still struggling to stay awake for online meetings, there’s still hope.
Ditto, if you struggle with poor sleep and it’s become an ongoing issue.
It’s just time get more serious.
Depending on your situation, you should:
Watch your sleep hygiene
There’s a long list of things that can cause problems for sleep. This makes it important to practice good sleep hygiene, the everyday habits that set the stage for deep restful sleep.
For better sleep hygiene, you should:
- keep consistent wake up & sleep times
- avoid naps
- exercise during the day
- avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime
- maintain a regular bedtime routine
- avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before sleep
- keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing
Get a checkup
I’ve already mentioned the health issues that can cause daytime fatigue.
Too many people are unaware how many other medical issues can cause problems or worsen sleep. The list includes things like asthma, allergies, acid reflux and heartburn, heart issues, chronic pain, and diabetes can keep you up at night.
You may also be living with an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.
And even prescription drugs can cause or worsen sleep issues.
A doctor can help you work through any underlying issues that may be making it harder to sleep at night and stay awake when you’re online for meetings.
Talk to someone
If you’ve been feeling down a lot lately, it’s worth having a chat with a therapist.
Stress, anxiety, and depression can leave you feeling drained. They can also lead to poor sleep.
Altogether, that will make it even harder to stay awake for online meetings.
Caffeine alternatives to help you stay more alert
Looking for something else besides coffee to help you stay awake in online meetings?
Caffeinated beverages may help, but too much of anything can become a bad thing.
As you load up on double espressos and high octane energy drinks, it can come back to bite you later at night and wreck your sleep.
Caffeine can also cause more trips to the bathroom.
Also, there’s the very real risk of caffeine addiction which can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
The good news is that there are plenty of caffeine-free alternatives worth a try:
1) Sparkling water:
It gives you pop and fizz without the caffeine or sugar.
2) Flavored sparking water:
You can find fizzy water flavored with lime, strawberry, and many other flavors. You can also just add slices of your favorite fruit to a glass of fizzy water.
3) Coconut water:
A popular drink with natural vitamins and electrolytes.
5) Chicory Coffee:
Available online and made from roasted roots of the chicory plant, it tastes similar to coffee but is caffeine free.
6) Rooibos Tea:
Slightly sweet and caffeine free, Rooibos tea is made from leaves of a shrub native to South Africa.
7) Protein shakes
Did you know that too little protein can cause fatigue? The body needs it for fuel to help repair and build tissues.
You may also be interested in:
1. “Workplace Fatigue Statistics and its Staggering Costs”, 2020, Ergonomic Trends
2. “Sleeping at Work”, 2021, Amerisleep.com
3. “18 Essential Oils You Can Use to Boost Your Energy”, Healthline
4. “10 medical reasons for feeling tired”, NHS website
5. “What to do when medication makes you sleepy”, Harvard Health Publishing
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