Are you tired?
Perhaps you feel in need of an energy boost?
Maybe you’re considering an extra shot of espresso in your mid-morning cappuccino just to see you through the day?
We’ve all been there.
A usual approach to upping energy levels is to increase stimulation, whether through increased caffeine intake or simply by keeping busy to distract from how tired you really are.
Yet one way to quickly send your energy levels soaring is actually more simple than you might expect: sleep.
Put simply, you can increase your energy by getting more – or better quality – sleep.
Now this might seem obvious to some – to others, it might seem somewhat paradoxical.
Get more sleep?
Doesn’t too much sleep make you more tired?
Well, yes, getting far more sleep than your body needs can sometimes result in further sleepiness – but ensuring we get the right amount and right quality of sleep is as fundamental to our well-being as food and water.
Sleep is something basic that we all do as humans, but without it we quickly struggle to function.
Ask any new mother, anyone who regularly works a night shift, or anyone who has ever suffered from insomnia – all will confirm that lack of quality sleep is no fun at all.
Inadequate snoozing has a detrimental impact on our overall well-being.
It results in a deep sense of fatigue and causes the body to produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol; this in turn affects the way that we physically and mentally operate.
Our judgement suffers, we may get more clumsy, and most of us will become pretty darn irritable if insufficient sleep continues over any period of time.
Without proper shut-eye, we’re more prone to illness, less able to cope with everyday tasks, and on the whole more likely to feel royally rubbish.
Sleep, it appears, is essential. So what can you do if you’re not getting enough?
First thing’s first: it’s important to identify what might be getting in the way of you and your dream time.
There are a handful of key factors that could be affecting your sleep – everything from too many stimulants during the day to inadequate wind-down time in the evening.
Do you drink lots of coffee or energy drinks to get you through a busy schedule?
Do you enjoy a late night computer game or a frantic round of Angry Birds on your phone before falling into bed?
Perhaps you can’t turn in without dunking a couple of chocolate digestives into a cup of tea?
Whatever might be preventing you from getting quality sleep, there are steps you can take to make a positive difference.
Cut the caffeine
While more coffee might seem the ideal solution to tiredness, it’s only ever a short-term fix.
Without getting too technical, flooding your system with caffeine encourages the production of dopamine which in turn increases alertness. Caffeine also decreases production of a neurochemical called adenosine which helps us to feel sleepy as evening approaches.
Try switching your regular hot drink to decaf from around midday and you’ll likely see a difference in how quickly you drop off at night.
Reduce your screen time
Computers can be great and they play a huge part in most of our lives.
It’s worth remembering though that all electronic devices – from laptops to smartphones to televisions – emit an artificial blue light that stimulates the brain and reduces production of sleep hormone melatonin.
Too much screen time in the hours before bed can make it difficult to get to sleep or to stay asleep (or both).
Why not swap out your evening laptop time for a good long soak in the bath, or perhaps forgo that late night movie to curl up with a book?
Get up and move!
Exercise is good for us in more ways than one.
It might feel like a lot of effort at times, but getting off the sofa and moving around not only helps us to keep us fit but can also improve the quality of our sleep by reducing anxiety and expending extra energy.
Exercise also raises our body temperature which then drops afterward your workout, inducing a sense of sleepiness in some.
Consensus on the prime time to exercise differs, though evidence suggests it should be at least a couple of hours before bed so that the endorphins produced by any exertion don’t interfere with your snoozing.
Create a zen zone
Your sleep environment matters.
If the room in which you’re trying to doze off is too stimulating then both the length and quality of your sleep is likely to suffer.
To ensure your room is optimised for snoozing, create yourself a bit of a zen zone – banish electronics and anything else that might encourage you to associate the space with anything other than sleep.
Block out natural light with good quality curtains or blinds and ensure the room temperature isn’t too high to promote sleepiness naturally.
Limit the treats
Most of us love sugar.
Yet sugar can be just as bad as caffeine for keeping us awake at night.
Excess sugar in your diet – particularly right before bed – can encourage restlessness and thus keep the sleep fairy from landing at your door.
If the evening munchies necessitate a bit of supper then perhaps try swapping out sugary treats for something like porridge or a slice of wholemeal toast.
Be mindful of loading up on too much of the white stuff during daytime hours too as it can take several hours for sugar to leave the body.