A few years ago, after I had gotten sick of complaining to myself about being tired all the time, I went to see my doctor—and complained to him. He sent me to a specialist. And what was that specialist’s sage advice?
Geez, thanks, doc!
Sleep is, of course, important to provide you with the energy you need during the day to power through work, working out, extracurricular activities (and life in general) to help make your life enjoyable. But energy is a funny thing. Even if you’re getting enough sleep, you can still find your energy levels feel low, or that you have energy dips during the day.
As with anything health-related topics, there are many contributing factors. But there are also several strategies you can try to increase your energy levels. Some are more simple than you might think.
First: What not to do: Don’t reach for an energy drink! I mean, did you ever really believe the marketing behind “5-hour energy” shots anyway? Check out this Jerry Seinfeld piece about the 5-hour energy drink for a good laugh: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpQtSNqTSuM)
“5 hours? That’s a weird amount of time. Who’s working 1 to 6?…The work day is 8 hours…hour for lunch, so now you’re down to 7. So I only need 2 hours of my own natural human energy, and one of those meth lab Hawaiian punch jello shots and I guess I’m good to go.”
Seriously, though, between the high sugar content and the inevitable crash that follows, and the numerous side effects (agitation, upset stomach, insomnia, etc.), the stuff is not worth even dabbling with.
Here are a few better options:
- First, rule out illness: Go to the doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying health issue that is causing your lack of energy. And there are certainly many of issues that can, including diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, mental health issues like depression or anxiety, thyroid disease, or even heart disease. So rule out these things first.
- Discover WHEN is best for you: We assume many things when it comes to sleep, like staying up late isn’t as healthy as getting up early, and that everyone needs 8 hours of sleep. Truth is, though, your internal body clock (your circadian rhythm) is unique to you, thanks to your genetics and brain structure. Check out this book by Dr. Michael Breus called “The Power of When.” (http://integratedlistening.com/michael-breus-phd-discusses-sleep-book-power/). It talks about finding your own natural rhythms. Maybe you’re most productive at 6 a.m., or maybe you’re most productive at noon or midnight. The bottom line is, we’re certainly not all wired for a 9 to 5 job, and the book helps you figure out what kind of schedule will provide you with the most energy and happiness in your life.
- Workout: No matter how tired and hesitant your might feel when you get to the gym, do you ever feel worse when you leave? Not usually. I know I’m always more alert, happier, less stressed and have more energy to tackle the day after a workout.
- Lose weight: Losing weight is beneficial for so many health reasons, and often provides a boost in energy. If you’re overweight, even shedding a few pounds can make a difference in your energy levels (not to mention your self-esteem, which will help your mood and further promote increased energy).
- Eat more often: Many studies show eating more frequently (smaller meals) throughout the day can have a positive effect on your blood sugar levels and speed up your metabolism, which once again, bodes well for the energy levels.
- Play a game: Sometimes, feeling low energy can be the result of simply being bored or lacking stimulation. Take a break from whatever mundane thing you were doing (which caused you boredom) and play a quick game. This could be on the computer or your phone, or the old-fashioned way (tossing a football around). It will shift your focus from boredom to something fun and can boost your energy levels for hours to come.
- Play some tunes: What are you always told to do if driving at night? Crank the music to keep yourself awake at the wheel. But music can do more than just keep you awake. It can lift your mood, get your mind more active, and get your blood flowing. Go with something with an upbeat tempo. You can even listen to the music that you do when training in the gym. It’ll put you in that headspace and give you a boost in energy.
- Get up and walk around: If in doubt, move! Staying in one position for too long can make anyone tired or zap their energy levels. If you work in an office, take frequent breaks to walk, stretch your legs, chat with a co-worker, get a drink of water (drink more water!), or get some fresh air outside. A change in scenery is enough to trick the mind, while movement is enough to overcome the sluggish inertia state that you found yourself in.