Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Louise Carter
Boredom is often linked to yawning, napping, and other tiredness-related activities.
This is no coincidence. When the human brain isn’t engaged with a task or activity, it releases hormones and neural messages that promote sleepiness.
The main reason we feel tired when bored is the nucleus accumbens. This is the area of the brain responsible for motivation and slow-wave sleep.
If the nucleus accumbens isn’t receiving stimulating input, it encourages the body to sleep.
Equally, boredom can be stressful, especially if you feel trapped in a tedious situation, thinking about everything else you could do with your time.
This frustration leads to elevated cortisol production levels, which has the same effect as being overworked and overstimulated.
The less engaged you are with your task, the more your thoughts will turn to other things, which can be exhausting. You may contemplate deep and philosophical matters, leading to mental duress.
Rather than sitting back and relaxing, a bored individual is likelier to hunch and sit forward. This exerts pressure on the airways, reducing oxygen and leading to drowsiness.
Eat a light snack, change location, take breaks from mundane activities, and hone your focus sufficiently to complete what you’re putting off.
Can You Get Tired from Being Bored?
Yawning is an involuntary act associated with tiredness. However, it’s also linked to boredom and low engagement. In reality, they’re closely related. If you’re bored, you will likely start to grow tired.
If you failed to sleep well the night before, boredom will be tiring. The best way to make it through the day when you have limited rest is to remain engaged with your surroundings and tasks.
However, you may still find yourself lapsing into sleepiness when bored and disinterested in your surroundings, even if you enjoy 8 hours of sleep.
Why is being bored exhausting? Here are the reasons we feel tired and sleepy when bored:
Limited Brain Activity
When we are engaged with our surroundings or activities, the nucleus accumbens is stimulated.
Located close to the hypothalamus, the nucleus accumbens manages feelings of pleasure and motivation. If you’re bored, the nucleus accumbens becomes inactive.
According to Nature Communications, the nucleus accumbens also controls our desire to sleep. Thus, if this part of the brain lacks stimulation, it sends messages to the body that it’s time to nap.
This won’t be a conscious choice. After all, nobody sits in a meeting or presentation at work and actively decides to fall asleep, as this could have a damaging effect on your reputation and career.
Unfortunately, the brain finds it hard to block the messages of tiredness produced by a disengaged nucleus accumbens, as the body is flooded with adenosine, a neurotransmitter that causes drowsiness.
Blocking adenosine is the only way to remain mentally alert.
The brain reacts to boredom similarly to being overworked.
While you’d be forgiven for assuming that boredom is akin to a state of relaxation, the frustration and impatience associated with feeling bored floods the brain with cortisol, the stress hormone.
Experimental Brain Research stated that feelings of boredom and disengagement promote a somewhat unique chemical reaction, with heightened cortisol release accompanied by an elevated heart rate.
If your heart beats too fast, you’ll feel more tired as the body must work harder to remain functional. If a lack of interest in your surroundings gets you agitated, slow your heart rate with deep breaths.
Your thought processes will likely wander when bored and struggling to engage your mind with a task.
This may start relatively harmless, thinking about a shopping list for the grocery store on your way home or a phone call you need to make later.
If you can’t get your head back in the game and focus on what you intended, these loose thoughts can become increasingly pronounced and abstract.
You may move from shopping lists to weekend plans to questioning your entire place in the world.
That may sound extreme, but a bored mind tugs on threads that are left alone. Racing thoughts that fly in many directions soon become tiring, especially if the thought processes are worrying.
If you find your mind wandering as you cannot focus on a task, the journal Emotion recommends taking a mental trip down memory lane. Nostalgia is a powerful antidote to boredom.
When disengaged from a task, you’re likelier to slump lower into a chair and have poor posture.
Body language experts associate feelings of boredom and disengagement with leaning forward in a chair. This is a spontaneous effort to force the brain closer to the source of focus, attempting to find something interesting.
The posture isn’t productive to feeling your best. As the shoulders slump forward, the rest of the body follows. This causes the stomach muscles to cave and retract, limiting your ability to breathe.
If you retain this posture for a prolonged period, airflow to the brain will become limited. This will leave you feeling light-headed, tired, and ready for a nap.
How Do I Stop Feeling Tired When Bored?
Feeling bored and the exhaustion that comes with that can be hazardous.
If you’re working a manual job that doesn’t stimulate you but involves operating heavy machinery, your sleepiness can lead to lapses in judgment that endanger yourself and others.
Long drives require focus throughout the journey, and even dull tasks at work often need to be completed within a set timeframe.
If you’re not intellectually engaged with work, you must find other ways to remain awake and alert. Consuming caffeine seems like the obvious solution, but it carries risks.
Your mind will sharpen in focus, becoming increasingly active, alert, and desperate for stimulating input. If you’re trapped in a boring situation, this will result in more stress.
Adjust your behavior and routines instead of relying on coffee and energy drinks. Boredom impacts the mind and body alike, so both must be tended to remain awake.
The most obvious remedy for boredom is doing something else. That opportunity won’t always be open to you, but temporarily move your attention to a different duty if you can.
This doesn’t mean you can abandon whatever you were doing and never return to it, but switching focus for a while will reset your brain and give you a better chance of remaining engaged the next time.
This activity adjustment can even apply if changing the direct duty isn’t an option.
For example, if you’re in a workplace meeting that doesn’t concern you, don’t just doodle on a notepad the entire time. Periodically, find different ways to mask your indifference.
If possible, take occasional breaks. These need to be short, as time away from a tedious duty makes it unlikely that you’ll find the motivation to return.
Stepping away from a brief stretch or walking around the block can restore concentration.
When bored, many of us take a trip to the refrigerator for a snack.
Eating gives us something to do, and some foods can sharpen and hone mental performance. If you’re not engaged with your daily routine, choose what you eat carefully.
Avoid foods that promote sleepiness, most notably foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan.
This amino acid promotes melatonin production and makes you even sleepier. Tryptophan is found in dairy, nuts, turkey, and fish,
Equally, don’t consume foods that take a long time to digest, like red meat or anything too dense with carbohydrates, as these foods will increase your sluggishness.
Leafy greens, fruit, and berries are the best snacks when bored because they’ll enhance your mental performance and keep you awake.
Check The Temperature
Check the ambient temperature if you’re yawning and struggling to stay awake while disengaged. Hot weather makes us sleepy, but lowering the temperature encourages the body to sleep.
Physiology and Behavior stated that people are likelier to feel tired at a temperature of around 68°F or lower, so do your utmost to remain slightly warmer without growing uncomfortably hot.
Location plays a prominent role in how the brain reacts to unstimulating tasks.
Just as it’s advisable to get out of bed if you can’t sleep for 20 minutes, as your mind links the bedroom with insomnia, it’s best to change location when bored.
You may question this, worrying that you’ll be just as listless and disengaged in another location. Breaking the connection between a place and a lack of interest can make a big difference.
This won’t always be an option, as you’re unlikely to be entitled to leave a workplace meeting or presentation and listen from elsewhere.
Consider moving to a different room if you’re completing a less-than-compelling task.
Hone Your Focus
If you can divert your mind while still completing a tedious task, grasp this with both hands. Music is an ideal solution, as it gives the brain a rhythmic beat and distraction.
Music can be motivational to keep going with dull household tasks, like dusting or folding laundry.
If distracting the brain isn’t an option, embrace the opposite approach – find a way to laser-focus on the task at hand. Remind yourself that this means you will wrap up and move on faster.
Boredom and sleepiness are intrinsically linked due to chemical reactions in the mind and body, so it’s not your fault that a lack of engagement makes you tired.