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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

To Increase Alertness

A tired nurse yawning with her hand on her neck yawning

To promote alertness after lunch

  • Take a 20-minute nap if napping is allowed. This short nap can help you feel alert. Do not sleep longer than 20 minutes, or you may experience grogginess for a while after awakening.4 If grogginess does occur, wait until you are alert before carrying out critical tasks.
  • Avoid a high-carbohydrate lunch. Try to include a protein source and non-starchy vegetables or low-glycemic carbohydrates to avoid the drop in alertness and foggy feeling that comes from the body’s response to these sugars.5-7
  • Try to expose yourself to some bright light. Light has a direct alerting influence and can help you to feel more alert fairly quickly.8
  • A brief period of exercise can also be helpful: a brisk walk or a few flights of stairs can help you feel more alert.
  • Consume a caffeinated beverage. You can consume caffeine before taking a short nap to get the alerting benefits of both.
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