Lack of sleep isn’t the only thing sapping your energy. Little things you do (and don’t do) can exhaust you both mentally and physically, which can make getting through your day a chore. Here are a few common bad habits (and lifestyle tips) that will put the pep back into your step.
1) You skip breakfast
Similar to how your car runs on petrol, the food you eat literally fuels your body. So, when you wake up, you need to refuel your system with breakfast. Skip it, and you’ll feel sluggish.
The more I research, the more I feel we have gotten our meals back to front. Most of us have very little (or no breakfast), medium lunch and big dinner. This makes no sense! Our biggest and most nutritious meal should be at the beginning, to ensure we have enough fuel and energy to power though a busy day, not right before we go to bed.
In case you don’t have time to be cooking roasts at 5am in the morning, here are some examples of more traditional, nutritious breakfasts.
Oatmeal with protein powder and a dab of peanut butter; a smoothie made with fruit, protein powder, Greek yogurt, and almond butter/milk; or eggs with slices of salmon or avocado.
2) You rely on caffeine to get through the day
Don’t be a slave to coffee! If you are finding that coffee no longer gives you a boost, but just a feeling of ‘normal’ or if you find yourself thinking; “Argh I really need coffee”. Chances are, your body is addicted to caffeine and can no longer functional normally without it. While some studies have shown that up to three daily cups of coffee may actually be good for you, it is important to appreciate coffee instead of being co-dependent.
Using caffeine improperly can seriously disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that consuming caffeine even 6 hours prior to bedtime affects sleep, so cut yourself off by mid-afternoon and watch out for those surprising sources of caffeine.
3) You have a glass of wine (or three) before bed
A nightcap sounds like a good way to unwind before falling asleep but ultimately, it sabotages sleep maintenance. Alcohol initially depresses the central nervous system, producing a sedative effect, which people can find helpful for falling asleep. However, alcohol creates a rebound effect as it is metabolised, creating an abrupt surge of adrenaline in the system. This is why, after you have been drinking, you are more likely to have a restless sleep (tossing and turning) or to wake up in the middle of the night.
4) You check e-mails at bedtime
The glaring light of a tablet, smartphone, or your computer’s backlit screen can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.
Sensitivity to the digital glow of tech toys can vary from person to person, but in general it’s a good idea to avoid all technology for one to two hours before bedtime. Can’t avoid checking your device before your head hits the pillow? Then hold it at least 14 inches away from your face to reduce the risk of sleep interference.
5) You skip exercise when you’re tired OR you don’t exercise because you’re tired all the time
Many patients will tell me; “I don’t have time to exercise”. Yet they have time to binge watch a couple episodes of their favourite show (#GameofThrones). What they are really saying, is; ‘they don’t have the energy.’ As previously mentioned, breakfast is a vital component to ensuring you have enough fuel to get through your day. Skipping your workout to save energy (or not working out at all!) can actually work against you.
It has been found that sedentary but otherwise healthy adults who began exercising lightly three days a week for as little as 20 minutes at a time reported feeling less fatigued and more energised after 6 weeks. Regular exercise also boosts strength and endurance, helps make your cardiovascular system run more efficiently and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
6) You have a messy Office / Car / Bedroom
A cluttered space mentally exhausts you by restricting your ability to focus and limits your brain’s ability to process information. If your office or living space needs major reorganising, avoid becoming totally overwhelmed by taking it one step at a time. Start by tidying what you can see, then move through your desk, cabinets and drawers etc. At the end of each day, make sure your work and personal items are organised and put away.
7) You’re not consuming enough iron
An iron deficiency can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, weak and unable to focus. It makes you tired because less oxygen travels to the muscles and cells. You can boost your iron levels naturally by loading up on lean beef, kidney beans, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and peanut butter. Pair them with foods high in vitamin C, as vitamin C improves iron absorption when eaten together.
Note: An iron deficiency may be due to an underlying health problem, so if you’re experiencing fatigue which you think may be due to a deficiency in iron, make sure you visit your local doctor.