Food has the ability to bring a rush of energy followed by a crash, especially when eaten in large portions or in carbohydrate-rich combinations. If you need to stay awake, whether it's to make it through the last half of the day or to pull an all-nighter, your best bet is to eat small amounts of lean protein and healthy carbohydrates about every three hours. Eat regularly so your body will be constantly digesting and delivering a steady, even stream of sugar into the blood system. This can help keep you feeling alert.
To stay awake, try eating whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese, a small handful of nuts with a serving of grapes, or half a turkey sandwich. The idea that eating turkey will cause drowsiness appears to be a myth, since the levels of tryptophan, a compound that causes drowsiness, in turkey is about the same as in other meats. Other energy-boosting snacks include yogurt, an apple with peanut butter, and cottage cheese with fruit or vegetables. Fruit is often a good choice to help you stay awake, because it boosts your blood sugar relatively quickly, but doesn't make you crash the way candy or other sugary foods can.
In addition to eating snacks, drink lots of cold water. Dehydration can make you tired, and prevent your mind from being at its sharpest. In addition, drinking water will force you to take more breaks — for obvious reasons — which can help prevent eye strain if you're staring at a computer or book. Getting up and walking around briefly can also help wake you up, as can the cold of the water itself.
Drinking caffeine is not always a good choice to help you stay awake. It will give you a short burst of energy, which is an option if that's all you need. Consuming large quantities of caffeine usually causes an energy crash later, however, and can make you feel worse the next day. Sugar is an even worse choice because the subsequent crash happens even more quickly. While both caffeine and sugar may help you stay awake for an hour or two, be sure to consider the long-term ramifications.
Eating the right foods is only one part of staying awake; you should move around regularly as well. Take frequent breaks, since eye strain and sitting in one position for a long time can cause drowsiness. Create a strategy to stay awake that includes eating healthy foods to give you the energy you need, drinking water to stay hydrated, and taking frequent breaks to help keep your mind sharp enough to get the job done.