Are you dragging today?
According to surveys, odds are pretty good that you are. In fact, one survey found that a full two-fifths of people in the U.S. report being notably tired most days of the week. Another two-fifths of respondents reported feeling tired at least 1-3 days out of the week.
That's a problem because that to-do list doesn't get any shorter just because it feels like nap time.
If you've had enough of just dragging yourself through the day, then you want to change things up. We'll outline the big-picture lifestyle steps you can take to pep up perpetually, and we'll also give you some quick tips to increase your energy right now.
Big surprise... the first big lifestyle factor to address with chronic tiredness is sleep.
The first clue that tired people need sleep is the fact that when exhaustion comes, nothing in the world sounds better.
So how do you know if more sleep is the answer to your daytime drowsiness? The current recommendation from sleep authorities is for adults to get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. That changes slightly after age 65, when the recommendation drops to 7-8 hours.
While these recommendations are good general guidelines, they may not be incredibly useful for you individually. Sleep needs actually vary quite a bit from person to person (hence the reason for the wide recommended range in the first place).
To make sure you're getting the right amount of sleep it's better to take note of your body's signals as you make incremental change. The main thing to take note of is how you feel in the morning.
The goal is to sleep as long as necessary in order to awake feeling rested and ready for the day. In order to get to that place, you want to be very intentional about your sleep. Start by developing a consistent bed and wake time. And yes, that includes weekends, especially as you're developing your pattern.
Once you've developed consistency, start going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual. How do you feel the following morning? If you don't feel great, just rinse and repeat until your alarm clock finds you ready to rise and shine.
And if you've been skimping on sleep for a while, it's likely that you've developed what's known as a "sleep debt". Sleep debts can take a little while to pay back, but once you start getting more rest with the system outlined above, you will eventually pay it back all the way.
Just stick with it, and don't be surprised if you need a little less sleep after you've caught back up. The goal is to fall asleep easily, and wake rested. Stay consistent, and listen to what your body tells you, and you'll be in great shape.
Okay, getting more sleep if you're tired isn't exactly mind blowing. But the research on the effects of exercise for energy aren't so intuitive.
If you're struggling for energy, spending a bunch of your reserves on exercise would make things harder, right?
For reasons that aren't entirely clear to researchers, mild exercise actually results in a significant decrease in feelings of tiredness. Don't believe us? Check out this article from the New York Times: The Cure for Exhaustion? More Exercise
And we're not talking about a huge commitment. According to the study, the group that saw the best results only added 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise, three times a week. Six weeks later, they reported an average of a 65% reduction in feelings of fatigue.
It may be one of the last things you want to do, but a simple walk a few times a week could really shift the balance in your energy levels.
The final lifestyle arena to address for better energy is the food that you're putting into your body. A discussion of how we perform, has to include a look at how we're fueling our bodies.
So how do our bodies get energy from food in the first place?
There are three main types of foods that can be converted to energy: Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
While all three groups have the potential to be used for energy, proteins and fats will generally only be used after the consumed carbohydrates have been converted. That's because carbohydrates don't need much altering to become the glucose that energizes all of our cells.
A well-rounded conversation about overall diet must address protein and fat consumption, but that's for another time. If your priority is increasing energy, the diet focus basically begins and ends with carbohydrate regulation.
For many of us "carb" is one of the worst four-letter words going. That's because the average western diet is far too carbohydrate heavy. When we take in too much of these energy-rich foods, we end up wearing them on the middle of our bodies.
But in order to improve your energy throughout the day, you're going to need to incorporate carbohydrates. So what's the answer? Getting the right kind of carbs.
There's a world of difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs like sugar and high fructose corn syrup provide the body with huge amounts of energy, but that energy burns away quickly (usually within an hour).
And after the energy has been spent, there's a similar decline in blood sugar that leaves us feeling more tired and hungry than before. If simple carbohydrates are a consistent source of energy throughout the day, energy will continue to spike and crash.
By contrast, complex carbs like whole grain breads, high fiber cereals, beans, and starchy vegetables break down slowly in the gut, and provide sustained consistent energy that doesn't spike and crash.
Downside: Bran Flakes aren't as fun to eat as Cookie Crisp.
Upside: The right foods get you off the sugar roller-coaster, and feeling good throughout the day.
Okay, all that lifestyle stuff is fine, but what about right now? My eyelids weigh, like, three pounds each.
We hear you, and we've got some tricks for individual moments of fatigue that can help you get up and going without resorting to a candy bar or energy shot.
1. Drink Water
Hydration is an often overlooked part of maintaining energy. Water is needed to carry the energy to our cells in the first place, so even mild dehydration can cause some fatigue.
2. Turn Up The Temp
A drop in body temperature is one of the defining features of sleep, so when we're a little cold, the signals can get crossed. Let your body know it's not nap time by adding a sweater or bumping up the thermostat.
3. Get Some Sun
Sunlight reduces melatonin, which signals our bodies to sleep. So just a few minutes in the sun sends the right message.
4. Follow Your Nose
Certain scents have the power to improve wakefullness. Take advantage with a quick sniff break. We recommend lemon or peppermint.
5. Chew Gum
Speaking of peppermint, why not throw in a stick of peppermint gum. You'll get the benefits of the peppermint, and chewing gum also increases blood flow, and increases energy by the repetitive motion. Best of both worlds.
How great would it be done with fatigue, and live how you want? Following these steps has a great chance to increase your energy and get you there.
If you've tried everything, but still don't seem to have any energy, it may be that there is an underlying hormonal deficit. If that sounds like you, check out our Vitality and Performance Page.