Ask LH: How Can I Improve My Energy Levels?

Dear Lifehacker, Any suggestions on how I can improve my energy levels? For the last couple of months, I get tired very quickly and stop doing my work efficiently at noon. Can you help? Thanks, Energy Down

Sleeping worker picture from Shutterstock

Dear ED,

There's a whole cavalcade of reasons why you could be feeling dead-tired in the middle of the day, which is an unfortunate ailment of modern living. It could be related to poor-quality sleep, high stress levels, a bad diet or symptoms of something more serious (which we'll get to in a moment).

The first thing you should do is assess your sleeping patterns. Most doctors recommend getting a minimum of seven hours per night, but you also have to ensure you're sleeping soundly. In fact, it's probably better to get a small amount of deep sleep than 8+ hours of restless shuteye. The key to improvement is a mix of good sleep habits and identifying the things that wake you up in the middle of the night or keep you from drifting off.

A sleep tracking tool is one of the most effective ways of monitoring sleep — these are gadgets and smartphone apps that log how often you wake up and the amount of 'deep' sleep you get during the night. Personally, I'm a fan of the Jawbone Up wristband which covers all areas of fitness. You can read up on five of the most popular sleep tracking tools here.

Once armed with your sleep tracker, hit the hay at different times of the night to calculate which hours work best for you. The trick is to wake up in-between deep sleep cycles instead of in the middle of one. If you can crack your cycle, you should feel more refreshed at the start of the day and stay alert for longer.

Naturally, it's also important to refrain from sleep-detrimental activities prior to bed — examples include avoiding caffeine and alcohol after dinner, cut back on computer and smartphone at night (especially in the dark) and eradicate external distractions (if this means the cat has to sleep by itself, so be it.)

You can find a stack of other useful sleep hacks via our 'Sleep' tag — start with our guide to rebooting your sleep cycle: in addition to quick-fix tips it contains advice that can help you on the road to long term recovery.

Along with sleeping patterns, diet is one of the main causes of fatigue and physical exhaustion. When you consider that food is basically fuel for your brain, this isn't too surprising. What you decide to stick in your mouth can have a huge effect on your overall energy levels.

Certain sugary and high-fat foods can cause your body to crash in a short period of time. Likewise, healthy snacks like eggs and oranges are known to to sustain energy levels longer. To avoid afternoon burnout, try to plan your meals intelligently both in terms of timing and what you choose to eat.

As a general rule of thumb, look for foods with less fat content and higher carbohydrate levels. This should help to create a more high-energy day. It also pays to keep tabs on your vitamin intake, particular B and C.

Another reason you might be feeling rundown could be related to stress or workplace malaise. Anxiety, depression and boredom can all cause energy level to drop; especially in the long term. You can find plenty of articles relating to effective stress management on our website.

Finally, if nothing seems to be working and you still feel perpetually tired, you should definitely pay a visit to your GP. There could be a more serious issue contributing to your fatigue, ranging from iron deficiency to an underactive thyroid. A blood test and full physical checkup will help to identify any underlying health issues.

We're also keen to hear any energy-booting hacks from our readers: what else should ED do to put a spring in his step? Share your tips in the comments section below.

See also: How To Reboot Your Sleep Cycle And Get The Rest You Deserve | How To Transform Your Bright And Noisy Bedroom Into A Sleep Paradise

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    I also suggest diet high in iron, like red meat, and see if that helps.

    Err, Chris, I'm pretty sure eggs aren't "carb-loaded" :P They only have like 1g of carbohydrate. I thought you might have meant "protein-loaded" but then I saw you mentioned oranges. So yeah, not sure what you were going for there :).

    MORE RED BULL!

    Is there an article that focuses on the other end of the scale? Eg. Wake up tired, sleep through alarms [2 hours of them] and things closer to the hypersomnia end of the scale instead of the insomnia or light-sleeping end of the scale?

      ... See a doctor.

        It's not that serious, not actual hypersomnia [where you sleep 16 hours a day]. Doctors are for when you're on the edge of carking it and even then it's debatable.

    Here's a painfully truthful one:
    - You're fat. Seriously.
    I am currently in the process of moving to a healthier weight range. I'm not grotesque or anything, but if I take a broad look at myself from now to when I was not so big, I can see a remarkable difference in energy levels and stamina. After high school I could get through the day easily, now I am going for a nanna nap at 2pm for a couple of hours (I'm 22) Although, this could also be attributed to a low quality of sleep at night or garbage food which is explained in this article. Anyhow, I just use it as blackmail to make myself lose weight.

    Last edited 11/11/13 5:59 pm

      I do find that I have more energy now that I've lost weight too. I attribute it to eating better foods and exercising more (thus losing and now maintaining weight), more than actually weighing less, but I guess it could be all of the above.

    change your diet to paleo or 4HB. easy

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