With increasingly busy lives, many people regularly find themselves feeling tired and drained. However, if the tiredness you’re experiencing is lifestyle-related, there are lots of things you can do to increase your energy levels.
This article looks at 9 ways you can change your lifestyle and boost your energy levels naturally.
1. GET MORE SLEEP
Sleep is something that easily gets put on the back burner when you’re busy. From pushing back bedtime to meet a deadline to missing out on a few hours of sleep due to shifts at work, many people cut back on hours that should be spent in bed.
Furthermore, it’s been estimated that 20–30% of the general population may experience poor sleep, hence missing out on vital rest time (1, 2).
This lack of sleep can result in you feeling lethargic, grumpy and tired. If you often feel this way, you may want to consider whether you’re getting enough sleep (3, 4). It’s recommended that you aim for around 7 hours of sleep per night, although some people require a little more and others need a little less.
If you don’t sleep as much as you need to, you can try winding down from your day with relaxing behaviors before bed. This could be taking the time to have a bath, reading a book or getting into bed half an hour earlier than usual.
You should also try to avoid using phones and other screens around bedtime. The use of screens before bed has been linked to poor sleep quality, lack of sleep and increased sleepiness through the day (5).
If you’re trying to get more sleep but are struggling due to worries and stress keeping you awake at night, you could try meditation or mindfulness practices to calm your busy mind (6, 7, 8).
2. REDUCE STRESS
It’s not uncommon for people with busy lives to feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. Feelings of stress can mean that you struggle to concentrate, experience racing thoughts and have difficulty switching off.
This can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Feeling stressed has been closely linked to tiredness (9, 10). In many cases, it may not be possible to completely remove sources of stress from your life. However, if you minimize lifestyle related stress, it could increase your energy levels.
Strategies to improve your energy levels include taking some time for yourself to relax, reading or going for a walk (11). You could also try mindfulness or meditation techniques, which may reduce anxiety (12, 13). However, it’s important to note that if you feel very stressed and your anxiety is severe, you may need to seek medical and psychological support (14).
3. MOVE MORE
Regular exercise is important for reducing your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle, it could also boost your energy levels (15, 16).
This may seem counterintuitive, as when you’re feeling tired, getting up and moving your body can feel like the last thing you want to do.
Luckily, you don’t need to take part in killer workouts to experience these benefits.
In fact, one study found that sedentary people with persistent, unexplained fatigue decreased their tiredness by around 65% just by regularly participating in low-intensity cycling (17).
Other studies have suggested that going for a 10-minute walk when you feel tired is a superior “pick me up” compared to having a snack (18).
To incorporate exercise into your day, you could try getting away from your desk and going for a walk on your lunch break or walking to and from your place of work.
4. AVOID SMOKING
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health.
The smoke from cigarettes is extremely harmful and increases your risk of numerous health conditions such as lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The toxins and tar in the smoke also reduce the efficiency of your lungs. Over time, this can reduce the amount of oxygen transported around your body, making you feel tired (19, 20).
If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do for your energy levels and your health is to quit smoking (21).
Some find it helpful to switch cigarettes for a nicotine replacement like gum or an e-cigarette (22).
However, once you have made the decision to quit, reach out to your doctor who can point you in the direction of the support services that will suit you best.
5. LIMIT ALCOHOL
Drinking alcohol is another lifestyle habit which may make you feel tired. This is because alcohol can act as a sedative and make you feel drowsy (23).
Because of this, many believe that an alcoholic drink (or a “nightcap”) will send them to sleep and help them sleep more soundly.
However, regularly drinking alcohol before bed can interfere with the quality of your sleep. This could make you feel more tired than you otherwise would (24, 25).
Alcohol can also act as a diuretic, meaning that if you drink it before bed it can make you get up at night to pee, disturbing your sleep.
If you want to enjoy a drink, make sure to drink within recommended guidelines and try to avoid drinking alcohol close to your bedtime.
In the US, the alcohol guidelines are a maximum of one drink per day for women and two per day for men. A standard drink is one beer (12 ounces) or a glass of wine (5 ounces).
However, keep in mind that this is a maximum recommendation and that when it comes to your health, limiting alcohol as much as possible is advised.
6. EAT A NUTRITIOUS DIET
If you’re always feeling tired, sluggish and low in energy, it might be worth taking a look at your eating habits.
Good dietary habits decrease your risk of developing chronic diseases and can also affect your energy levels and how you feel from day to day (26, 27, 28).
Your body needs fuel to keep you going. Choosing whole, nutritious foods most of the time will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function at its best (29).
If you’re eating a lot of processed foods high in sugar and fat, you may find that they affect your energy levels as well as your health (30, 31).
Additionally, if you have an erratic meal pattern and regularly skip meals, you may miss out on necessary nutrients, making you feel tired.
One study found that students who skipped breakfast or had an irregular eating pattern involving regularly skipping meals were much more likely to experience fatigue (32).
It’s also important that you eat enough food to fuel yourself during the day.
Extreme dietary restrictions can result in a lack of both calories and essential nutrients, such as iron, which can negatively affect your energy levels (33).
7. AVOID ADDED SUGAR
When you feel tired, it can be easy to reach for a sweet, sugar-filled snack.
However, although sugar can give you a short-term energy boost, it will wear off quickly (18).
This is because high-sugar foods cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, sometimes referred to as a blood sugar spike. This results in your body releasing large amounts of insulin to bring your blood sugar back down.
It is believed that this rise and fall in blood sugar is what causes a rush of energy followed by a slump (34, 35, 36).
For example, one study showed that adults eating a sugar-filled breakfast cereal rated themselves as more tired than those eating a breakfast cereal with more complex carbs. Complex carbs are released more slowly into the bloodstream (37).
Eating large amounts of added sugar may also increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, so limiting added sugar in your diet is not only good for your energy levels but also for your health (38, 39).
To keep your energy levels more stable and reduce fatigue, try avoiding foods high in added sugar.
You can improve the quality of your diet by eating whole and fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes (40, 41).
8. STAY HYDRATED
Depending on age, your body is made of 55–75% water (42).
During the day, you lose water via urine and sweat. So in order to stay hydrated, you need to drink enough water to compensate for this loss.
Dehydration can affect your brain function, mood and energy levels (43).
In one study, young men who lost 1.59% of their fluid had a poorer working memory function and experienced increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue (43).
However, keep in mind that a loss of more than 1% of body fluid typically only occurs in people who sweat a lot, usually due to high activity in high temperatures.
To stay hydrated, make sure you drink when you’re thirsty. Also remember that if you sweat a lot due to hot weather or being very active, you may need a little more water.
Additionally, keep in mind that older people may not always feel thirsty, even when they need to drink, and may need to make a conscious effort to drink more (42).
Overall, if you feel tired and don’t think you drink enough water, try drinking it regularly through the day to ensure you stay hydrated.
9. BE SOCIAL
Social connections are incredibly important for maintaining good health.
In areas of the world with unusually low rates of disease and a high number of centenarians (people who live to be over 100 years old), one of the common factors is a strong social support network.
Social isolation can cause low mood and tiredness, especially as you get older (44).
In fact, people with stronger social networks are thought to have better physical and mental health as they age (45).
If you feel tired and in low spirits, it can be helpful to get out socializing with friends, joining a social club or starting a new hobby that gets you out and about.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Many people feel tired and lack the energy to function at their best throughout the day.
However, drinking enough water, eating healthily, getting enough sleep and exercise and being sociable can benefit your energy levels and your health.
If you feel tired, it’s worth taking a look at your lifestyle to see which healthy changes you can make to boost your energy levels and make you feel great.