Four science-backed tricks to feel less tired during the day

Fatigue is real, and our energy levels have taken a hit. The obviousness of this has reached public polls – an increasing number of Americans are reporting cognitive fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and physical fatigue. People feel exhausted by current events, their jobs, and increasing general stress.

This may be why there is a craft industry of self-styled social media sharing tips experts on how to feel less tired during the day. Some videos on TikTok that promise to teach you how to boost productivity and not feel tired have millions of views.

The problem, however, is that much of the advice shared isn’t necessarily science-based. But there are actions (supported by studies) that can help. Basically, there’s a caveat you don’t often come across on social media: what works for some people isn’t guaranteed to help everyone. In the meantime, the steps you can take to feel more energetic are probably easier than you think.

Here are four things you can do.

4. Limit your caffeine consumption

This may seem counterintuitive, but more coffee won’t help. Getty Images

Limiting caffeine consumption is one of the most underrated ways to maintain energy throughout the day, says Judith Wylie-Rosett, a professor emeritus at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

“While a cup of coffee gives us a boost, we tend to feel fatigued when the effects of the caffeine wear off,” says Wylie-Rosett.

Caffeine increases alertness, but this change is temporary. The maximum effect of the coffee is usually felt between 30 and 60 minutes after finishing the cup. Since caffeine temporarily suppresses fatigue, that feeling returns once your body returns to its normal state.

“If you sleep less and are stressed and rely on caffeine to improve it, it’s just a perfect storm for a short-term solution that will make things worse in the long run,” Mark Stein, a professor at the University of Washington, said. The New York Times. “You’ll add more hits to your espresso, but the negative impact on your sleep will continue, and that’s cumulative.”

Fatigue after drinking coffee is also a result of its effect on blood sugar and dehydration. For the best effects, have a coffee after breakfast and limit the cream and sugar you add to your cup. Research suggests that four cups of coffee a day should be your limit, but because caffeine tolerance depends on the individual, some experts say that generally reducing the amount you consume is probably best.

3. Have a consistent sleep schedule

It is important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.London Express / Getty Images

Instead of trying to “catch up” to sleep and stay in bed until noon after nights with too few hours, it is recommended that you stick to the same sleep schedule to improve physical and mental health. This should include the recommended hours of sleep for your age group – for adults, that’s seven or more hours a night.

Wylie-Rosett explains that varying sleep times can disrupt our necessary sleep cycles. Irregular bedtime times result in insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality. As a result, structured sleep schedules are associated with better alignment between sleep and circadian timing.

Consistent sleep schedules, in turn, are known to result in better health, improved mood, and improved performance, both at school and at work.

2. Stay hydrated

The relationship between dehydration and energy is two-way.Walter Leporati / Getty Images

One of the first signs of fatigue is dehydration. Even mild dehydration is associated with decreased alertness, increased sleepiness and confusion.

The relationship between dehydration and energy is two-way: dehydration can make you tired, sleep poorly and make you dehydrated.

For example, a 2018 study published in the journal Sleep found that those who only slept six hours a night were much more likely to be dehydrated than those who slept eight hours a night. This refers to a hormone called vasopressin which regulates hydration. As it is released throughout the day, a pivotal time for this hormone is the end of the sleep cycle. But if you are awake during this time window, it can interrupt the body’s hydration.

“If you sleep only six hours a night, it can affect your hydration status,” lead author Asher Rosinger, an assistant professor at Penn State, said in a statement. “This study suggests that if you don’t get enough sleep and feel sick or tired the next day, drink more water.”

1. Pay attention to what you eat and when you eat

What you eat matters to how energetic you feel throughout the day. Getty Images

Some foods are known to contain nutrients that are useful for maintaining energy. Some of these include:

  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Apples
  • Tomatoes
  • Peanuts
  • Oatmeal

In general, eating processed and ultra-processed foods – such as potato chips, sugary breakfast cereals, and anything with high fructose corn syrup – is associated with a higher risk of disease and worse sleep.

Wylie-Rosett says a growing number of research states that two full meals a day may be better for our energy levels than three, while some dieticians recommend having five or six smaller meals and snacks throughout the day (with at least three hours between our last meal and before bedtime).

But ultimately, it’s the quality of the food that matters, says Wylie-Rosett. She recommends focusing on increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables and points to the “MyPlate” chart developed by the US Department of Agriculture as a helpful guide to balance what you eat.

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