These days it is becoming increasingly common for people to lack in energy and feeling fatigued. I used to always be rushing around, not getting enough sleep, not eating right and I would feel exhausted every day. Over the last two years I have made some simple changes in my life so that I would have more energy throughout the day, making me a happier person and easier to be around.
As you might know, I recently teamed up with Sealy NZ and Massey University researcher Dr. Karyn O’Keeffe to look into natural ways to improve my sleep, particularly in the lead-up to summer (which is a time when many people struggle with sleep). Throughout this process I’ve discovered many factors that contribute to poor sleep and energy. These include :
A tip that I always preach is getting enough sleep each night and that also means good quality sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep or poor quality sleep we have a slower reaction time, low concentration, higher stress levels and can often feel fatigued. We need to be getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night to ensure we are feeling great with enough energy throughout the day.
We often take work home with us, this includes answering emails, finishing reports or working on presentations until late at night. The light from these screens actually interferes with the production of melatonin which is a sleep producing hormone. Try to stop all emails an hour or even turning your your mobile phone before going to bed, this can help with sleep quality.
A poor quality bed
I have noticed a huge difference in my energy levels since sleeping on a Sealy Posturepedic Exquisite bed which is designed to cradle each part of the body and provide deep-down support. It is so important to be sleeping on the right type of mattress that will support and balance your spine. There is evidence to show that the right type of mattress can help with back problems and improve sleep. If you do have back problems and find that you are waking up throughout the night due to feeling uncomfortable, make sure you are happy with the bed you are sleeping on. Sealy has a handy online ‘bed selector’ tool on its website which asks a series of questions and then tells you the right bed for you.
Over the last month I have completely cut coffee out of my diet. After months of trying to cut down on the amount I had each day I decided to stop drinking it cold turkey. I used to have a coffee every morning to boost my energy levels which were followed by an energy slump in the afternoon, leaving me wanting another coffee for a pick me up. Over time, we need to consume more coffee to get the same ‘awake’ feeling that we crave.
Every time we drink coffee, it prompts our adrenal glands to release the stress hormone called cortisol and epinephrine. This is the same kind of response that a stressful situation would trigger. When we become more tolerant to coffee, we need to drink more or have a stronger coffee to feel ‘awake’. Over time our adrenal glands will eventually become unable to respond which causes adrenal fatigue. When we experience adrenal fatigue we have a weakened immune system, have trouble waking up in the morning which is why you need coffee to get going, low blood pressure, low moods and feeling more energised after 6pm (just to name a few).
Now that I no longer drink coffee, I actually wake up with more energy and no longer experience an energy slump in the afternoon. I would recommend someone who finds it hard to get out of the bed in the morning and get going during the day unless they have a cup of coffee to actually cut it out of their diet and switch to herbal tea or dandelion coffee.
It is common for people to have low energy or feel hungry simply because they are dehydrated. Dehydration leaves us feeling tired and often lethargic, so to combat this aim to drink 2-3 litres of water per day. Cutting down on alcohol is also important for energy levels because it leaves us dehydrated when we drink too much and can also interfere with our quality of sleep. Alcohol can result in us feeling tired which makes it easier for us to fall asleep in the evenings but it is common for us to not fall into a deep sleep which is needed every night. This is also going to zap our energy levels. Remember to drink more water if you consume coffee throughout the day and exercise. If you do find it hard to chug down water, iced tea is easy to make and drink especially in the warmer months.
Food gives us energy so eating the right type of food and enough of it, is vital. We need to start off each day with a nutritious breakfast to ensure we regulate our blood sugar levels and kick start our metabolism. Oats with plain yogurt and berries, an omelet with avocado and spinach or a smoothie with almond milk, banana and spinach are healthy breakfast options that are going to leave you feeling full and ready to take on the day. Eating more wholefoods and less processed foods will ensure you are getting vitamins and minerals needed through your diet to ensure you have energy throughout the day. Include foods that are high in protein, these will regulate blood sugar levels so you don’t have a crash of energy after eating. Foods high in protein include nuts and seeds, eggs and chicken and fish. Certain nutrients leave us feeling energized and two important ones are iron and magnesium. Dark leafy greens are rich in both of these minerals so try to include as many of these in your meals each day.
One of the biggest energy zappers is stress, so it’s easy to see why a stressful day or stressful situation can leave us feeling exhausted. Over time, if our stress levels are not taken care of, it can wreck havoc on our health. Taking 20 minutes out of each day to do something for yourself is important. This could be going for a short walk around the block, reading a book, having a bath, doing a deep breathing exercise or simply calling your friend up for a chat when the kids are asleep.
Exercise is one of the best ways to increase energy levels throughout the day. Exercise will cause your body to release endorphins which creates positive effects on your mood leaving you feeling energised and alert. Aim to exercise for 30 minutes per day; this can include a gym workout, yoga, or even a walk on your lunch break. An added bonus is exercising in the sunlight to help boost your vitamin D levels which also increase energy levels.