If you suffer from daytime drowsiness and low energy levels, you are far from alone. At any given time, one out of five adults feels unusually tired. One in ten suffers from long-term, persistent fatigue. Sometimes the problem is linked to insomnia, but many people are exhausted in the daytime despite having had eight hours of sleep the previous night. If you often feel mentally and physically drained for no apparent reason, these suggestions could help you to regain your get-up-and-go.
Cut Out Caffeine
Many people grab a cup of coffee when they’re feeling tired, without ever considering that habitual caffeine consumption may be causing their fatigue. Caffeine is an addictive substance and regular users suffer from withdrawal symptoms in the morning after a night of abstention. They tend to feel drowsy and unable to concentrate. The first cup of coffee in the morning brings them back to the normal alertness levels experienced by non-coffee drinkers. This cycle continues throughout the day, with energy dropping as the effects of caffeine wear off and returning to normal levels with the next cup of coffee. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands and heavy consumption over time can exhaust them. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include difficulty getting up in the morning and constantly feeling worn out.
Try to gradually reduce the amount of caffeine you drink. Start by cutting out one cup a day, then two and so on. Once you are no longer dependent on coffee, tea or cola, attempt to go a whole month without caffeine. You may find that your energy levels are consistently higher without it.
Eat Protein at Breakfast
The most popular breakfast choices are cereal or bread products such as toast, bagels or croissants. Eaten alone, these carbohydrate foods are quickly converted to glucose and cause a spike in blood sugar levels. This instant energy can get you going in the morning, but it doesn’t last. The pancreas releases insulin to transport glucose from the blood to the cells. By mid-morning, the drop in blood sugar can cause symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration and food cravings. The solution, for many, is to reach for a pastry, chocolate bar or other sugary snack. Another rapid rise and fall in blood sugar follows.
Carbohydrates can elevate blood sugar in as little as fifteen minutes. By contrast, it can take up to three hours for the body to convert dietary protein into glucose in the blood. When you eat a meal containing equal amount of protein and carbohydrates, blood sugar remains much more stable over time. It doesn’t spike too high or drop too low. This ensures that energy levels remain constant throughout the day. Good breakfast choices are eggs on toast, a roll with bacon or a salmon and cream cheese bagel.
Avoid Alcohol before Bedtime
Many people who experience daytime fatigue don’t associate it with moderate drinking the evening before. However, the amount of alcohol contained in two twelve ounce beers is enough to disturb sleep patterns. During the first part of the night, when alcohol is present in the bloodstream, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is suppressed. As the alcohol is metabolized during the second half of the night, REM sleep rebounds. This sleep phase, associated with dreaming, is the easiest to wake from. Someone who has had a few drinks before bedtime is likely to sleep deeply at first and then fitfully as morning approaches. Even if they have had eight hours of sleep, they do not wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
If you need to feel alert the next day, limit alcohol to one drink with dinner. If you do tend to drink in the evenings and suffer from unexplained fatigue, try abstaining for a week. Your energy and concentration may come bouncing back.
Set Your Biological Clock
Humans have evolved to be awake during the day and asleep at night. The biological clock automatically responds to light and darkness. When the photo receptors in your eyes sense a certain amount of daylight, they stimulate the brain to release invigorating hormones such as cortisol. As light fades in the evening, the pineal gland begins to produce melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone. Unfortunately, an indoor environment can upset the balance of circadian rhythms. People who lack exposure to natural daylight and spend the evenings under artificial light often feel tired during the day, but have trouble getting to sleep at bedtime.
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Try to get as much light exposure as possible shortly after your alarm wakes you up. Eat your breakfast sitting next to a window, in a conservatory or outside on a patio. Aim to spend at least thirty minutes outdoors every day. Even if it’s cloudy, the natural light will still be brighter than indoor light. If you feel drowsy in the afternoon, go out for a short walk during your break. Houselights should be dimmed down a couple of hours before bedtime to encourage melatonin production.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise has several effects that boost energy levels. It increases blood flow and enhances cardiovascular function, making more oxygen available to the brain, muscles and heart. It provides more vitality at the cellular level by stimulating the production of mitochondria, tiny organelles which convert glucose to usable energy. Exercise boosts mental alertness by raising levels of endorphins, hormones that heighten mood and sharpen focus. It also improves sleep quality to help eliminate day time drowsiness. Over time, it increases stamina and endurance, so that everyday activities are less tiring. Studies have shown that sedentary people who suffer from fatigue feel significantly more energetic when they engage in regular exercise.
Any physical activity that increases your heart rate will also raise your energy levels. If you choose a form of exercise that you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. It could be hill climbing, swimming or going on bike rides. If you like to combine exercise with socializing, join a local sports team or take a martial arts class.
If you continue to experience unexplained daytime tiredness despite making changes to your lifestyle, you could be suffering from an undiagnosed illness. There are many health conditions that can leave you feeling run-down. A few possibilities are an underactive thyroid gland, iron deficiency anaemia, coeliac disease and type 2 diabetes. Share your concerns with your doctor if your fatigue is accompanied by any other symptoms.