5 Ways to Stay Awake Using Your Face

We’ve all pulled the infamous all-nighter. Whether staying up late studying for an exam or pulling together a presentation, time sometimes gets away from us. Yet, many of our obligations demand our rapt attention. If you find that the second cup of coffee or tea isn’t really cutting the mustard, here are some tricks to stimulating your nerves in a way that will keep you awake and relieve a bit of stress at the same time.

If you find yourself asking, “Why the face?!”

The reason why the facial nerve is a great way to wake yourself up is because it’s accessible and rooted close to your brain stem. Your tongue is an excellent example of this. When you’re tired and you drink coffee or tea, it’s the hot sensation that immediately wakes you up more than the actual caffeine. We’re simply applying those same nerve mechanics to the rest of your face to “hack” into your central nervous system. The goal should never be pain and all motions should be gentle but insistent.

1. Tug on your ears

Grab the outside cartilage mid-way between the top and bottom of your ear. Gently tug forward as if you were making a “monkey face”. Complete the look by puffing out your cheeks as far as you can and look at yourself in a mirror. Alright, that last part isn’t necessary but the science behind the first part is this:

While your ears don’t contain a great many blood vessels, they are connected to quite a few nerve-endings. Your ears are one of the first stops of the interconnected highway of nerves emerging from your skull to the rest of your face. Interacting with these nerves is one of the shortest pathways you can take to stimulating your brain. A light tugging motion can both be a soothing and invigorating exercise when you find your eyelids growing much too heavy.

2. Push on the bridge of your nose

Making your index finger into a straight bar, place it on the bridge of tissue and cartilage between your nostrils. Apply pressure upward until you feel a slight discomfort. These nerve endings are particularly sensitive and are a quick way to keep you from nodding off. A few gentle pushes should do it. Beware that sometimes this can also cause you to sneeze – so have a tissue handy.

3. Massage the muscles beneath your cheek bones

With the flats of the fingers from both of your hands, apply a gentle pressure in the valley of connective tissue beneath the protrusion of your cheekbones. Your maxilla bone plate stretches all the way to the back of your eyes and protects your sinuses. The nerves you’ll be interacting with will be the branch of the facial muscles that coincide with the inferorbital region. Not only is lightly pressing inward a great way to gently wake yourself up, but it’s also great for offering some relief from sinus headaches.

4. Press the flat of your thumbs against the crest of your forehead

Your nasofrontal and frontomaxillary sutures are the boundaries where many of the connecting bone plates in your skull meet. They can also acquire decent amounts of stress due to a lack of sleep or nasal congestion. Simply relieve a bit of pressure by placing the flats of both of your thumbs into this indent so the tips touch in the centre. Just a little bit of pressure ought to be sufficient and the effect is wonderfully clearing for your mind.

5. Give yourself a temporary face lift

Placing the flats of your index and middle fingers at the top crest of your cheekbones – roughly that spot between where your cheekbones begin and your ears end. Press in and up and back in a steady motion and hold position. The skin of your face should be pulled back like you’re making your best impression of a Middle Earth elf or someone with a bad face lift. This nerve center is the other major hub of your facial nerve ganglia and is rooted just outside where the nerves go into the skull and protective tissue before reaching your spine.

Each of these exercises will require a little bit of experimenting on your part. Your nerve centres are very unique and may need to be located by you. You will know your fingers are in the right place when you feel a pressure or slight sharp discomfort. If you don’t feel anything, you haven’t found it yet. Keep experimenting. …Or there’s a chance it may have been deadened due to repeated impacts if you’re an MMA fighter. As with all things, if you have no success finding your own pressure points, enlist the help of a volunteer. It’s a great way to take a break from studying and also convince your fellow library patrons you’re practicing the Vulcan mind melding.

About the Author

Mike_YapMike Yap is a long time martial artist turned yoga teacher. Ever since birth, he’s had a strong passion for technology and stretching his mind and body to their limits. He lives in Vancouver, Canada and is currently working on his website about meditation, yoga, and God – Sound of Om. Check out his iPhone alarm clock.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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