Feeling less energetic than you would like? Many things can contribute to feeling sluggish or tired. If your lack of energy is keeping you on the sidelines, read on to find out possible culprits and how you can get back in the game.
- Spending too much time sitting
You might think physical activity will make you tired, but usually it has the opposite effect. Exercise can actually be revitalizing because it releases chemicals in your body that boost your mood and energy level. Physical activity can also help you to sleep better. Try listening to upbeat music on headphones while you walk, or invite a friend to join you so that it doesn’t feel like work.
- Feeling bored or lacking a sense of purpose
Spending some of your time doing something meaningful can be a key source of feeling good. Having something to look forward to or plan your day around will help boost your energy and overall well-being. If you don’t do work or activity that is engaging or meaningful, investigate options for involvement in your area, such as social groups, exercise classes, book clubs, or volunteer work. Think about what interests you and look for it in your community.
- Skimping on sleep or sleeping too much
Getting too much sleep or not enough—either one can leave you feeling fatigued. There is no magic number of hours of sleep you need, because the optimal amount of sleep is different for everybody. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep, but it will depend on your individual requirements. Avoid taking long naps during the day that cause you to wake up feeling sluggish. Getting too much sleep can contribute to low energy levels. Sleep experts recommend going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.
- Having undiagnosed sleep apnea
Sleep apnea can interrupt your sleep at night, which can leave you feeling drowsy during the day. If you are overweight, you’ve been told you snore loudly, or if you have trouble sleeping or wake up frequently with a dry, sore throat or headache, you may have sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if you think this might be a problem for you.
- Eating heavy meals or too much of the wrong foods
Overeating can cause a lack of energy and make you want to take a nap. Some tricks for not eating too much include using smaller plates and bowls when eating at home, and ordering a smaller portion or taking part of your food to-go when you are at a restaurant. Also, avoid foods that contain quickly absorbed sugars, such as candy and pastries, and stay away from foods with too many empty calories, such as fried foods. These foods give you a short energy surge and then leave you feeling more tired and sluggish.
- Having high stress
Stress and worry can use up a tremendous amount of energy. If you are feeling more stress than usual, you might find relaxation therapies such as meditation, yoga, or deep-breathing helpful. If you have a big “to do” list or have so much to do that just thinking about it makes you tired, it can help to priortize your list and complete the most important tasks first.
- Being sad or depressed
Sadness or depression can leave some people feeling lethargic. If you are feeling sad or overwhelmed due to financial problems, health concerns, grief from loss, or any other personal issues, consider reaching out for help from family, friends, or a support group. If you’ve lost interest or get no pleasure from doing things you usually like or you have felt down, depressed, or hopeless over the last 2 weeks, talk to a healthcare provider to find out if you have depression that can be treated. Your Rite Aid pharmacist can be a helpful source of information and support for depression.
- Consuming too much caffeine or having it too late in the day
Caffeine affects people differently. Some people can drink coffee right before bed and sleep like a baby. But for many people, having caffeine after lunchtime can wreak havoc on their dreamtime, making it hard to go to sleep or to sleep well through the night. You know about the obvious sources of caffeine—coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks-- but did you know some dark chocolate has almost as much caffeine as a soda? If you drink caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda or tea, limit yourself to 1 - 2 cups per day in the morning and avoid that late afternoon coffee or dark chocolate break.
- Drinking too much alcohol
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation--no more than one drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. Consuming too much alcohol can leave you feeling fatigued and sluggish the next day. Drinking alcohol right before bedtime can sabotage sleep-- it can make you drowsy and help you fall asleep, but as it wears off it can disrupt sleep.
If you try these tips and still are lacking energy, talk to your healthcare provider.
Fatigue: More than Being Tired: National Institute on Aging: http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/fatigue#what. Updated 12/22/2015.
Fatigue, Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003088.htm. Updated 4/30/2015.
Boosting Your Energy, Harvard Medical School: http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HEALTHbeat_060706.htm
Exercise and Depression, Harvard Medical School: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Exercise-and-Depression-report-excerpt.htm
Caffeine Content of Food & Drugs, Center for Science in the Public Interest: http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm. Updated Nov 2014.
Sleep Apnea, Medline Plus: htt://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sleepapnea.html. Updated 6/21/2016.