What would you do if you had more energy? Start that side hustle, play more enthusiastically with your kids, indulge in a hobby after work or socialize with friends, instead of flopping on the sofa? The options are endless. But first, you need to actually get that energy in the first place.
That, of course, is no easy feat. Stress, sleepless nights, and poor diets all contribute to low energy. And the cycle is a hard one to break. When you’re feeling tired, you’re less likely to do the behaviors you need to do to boost your energy.
Below, we’ll dive into how you break this cycle and get more energy, both in the short term to get you through an afternoon slump, and in the long term to improve how you spend your days.
Many things can cause low energy, from underlying medical conditions to sleep disorders, weight loss to burnout. But most of the time, tiredness is caused by high sleep debt and circadian misalignment. We’ve covered why you’re always tired and have no energy in more detail here.
Here’s a quick overview.
Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body measured over the last 14 nights. It’s compared against your sleep need, which is the individual and unique amount of sleep you need each night. Your sleep need is determined by genetics, just like height and eye color, and although the common advice is to get eight hours of shut-eye a night, the perfect amount of sleep is different for everyone.
But many of us don’t know our sleep need — it’s not exactly something they teach at school. So, we go through life never really knowing if we’re getting the right amount of sleep or not. Plus, you can easily adapt to sleep deprivation. You think you’re fine, when really your physical and mental performance is far below what it could be.
To find out your sleep need once and for all, turn to the RISE app. The app uses your phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-based models to work out your unique sleep need.
Next, RISE works out how much sleep debt you have. If you haven’t been meeting your sleep need recently, this number will be high and may well be the reason you’re lacking in energy. We recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours to maximize your energy levels.
Another key thing that tanks your energy levels in circadian misalignment. This happens when your social clock doesn’t match your circadian rhythm, or your internal body clock. This rhythm runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and, amongst other things, it dictates when you feel awake, sleepy, and hungry.
You might be in circadian misalignment if:
Again, aligning our social clock to our body clock isn’t necessarily something the average person knows how to do. RISE predicts your circadian rhythm each day and shows you a visual representation of your energy fluctuations and when your body naturally wants to go to sleep and wake up. This way, you can work to bring your day back in alignment with your biology to maximize your energy levels.
Being in circadian alignment also has huge health benefits. When you’re out of sync, you have a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, mental health problems, heart disease, and cancer.
Heads-up: Seek medical advice if you think a sleep disorder or medical condition could be the reason for your lack of energy.
There are plenty of quick-fix hacks you can do to get a shot of energy immediately (we’ll get onto those soon), but to really improve your energy, you need to play the long game.
Here’s what to do:
Don’t believe you can catch up on sleep? Research shows after a week of only getting about five hours of sleep a night, participants were able to recover with two full night’s of sleep.
To get enough sleep each night, you need to know how much of it you actually need. Turn to RISE to find out your unique sleep need and get a number to aim for each night.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
The good news about sleep debt is that research shows you can pay acute sleep debt back — the kind you’ve built up over the last two weeks — and reverse the damage and boost your energy.
You can pay down sleep debt by:
Sleeping at irregular times not only makes it harder to meet your sleep need, it messes up your circadian rhythm, causing tiredness this way, too.
One study looked at two groups of college students. They got a similar amount of sleep, but one group was told to keep regular sleep and wake times. The results?
“The combination of adequate sleep duration and regular nocturnal sleep schedules was found in the present study to be superior to adequate sleep duration alone in decreasing reported sleepiness and improving sleep efficiency.”
FYI: Sleep efficiency is the measure of how long you spend in bed actually asleep, taking into account how long it takes you to fall asleep (sleep latency) and how often you wake up during the night (sleep fragmentation).
Both groups in the study saw a reduction in daytime sleepiness, but the group with the regular sleep schedule saw greater improvements in their energy levels, and these improvements lasted longer, too.
We’ve covered how to set up a good sleep schedule here. But essentially, you need to think about your sleep need, your chronotype (whether you’re an early bird or night owl), your social clock (what time you have to be up each morning), and add on some extra time in bed to account for sleep efficiency.
You can check RISE to see when your body naturally wants to go to sleep and wake up. If these times don’t fit with your schedule, you can learn how to reset your circadian rhythm here.
This goes hand in hand with a regular sleep schedule, but it’s an important point worth mentioning on its own.
Melatonin is the hormone your body makes to help you sleep, and there’s a window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production will be at its highest. If you go to sleep in this roughly one-hour window you’ll have a much easier time falling and staying asleep.
In the RISE app, we call this your Melatonin Window. With a regular sleep schedule, the timing of it shouldn’t change too much, but you can still check when RISE predicts your Melatonin Window will be and sync up your bedtime to match it.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up a daily Melatonin Window reminder.
Syncing up with your circadian rhythm isn’t just something you do at night. By doing it during the day, you can make the most of the energy you do have.
Our energy levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day. You’ll experience a morning peak, afternoon dip, second-wind smaller peak in the late afternoon/early evening, and then a wind-down period until bedtime.
The less sleep debt you have, the higher the peaks and shallower the dips. But you will still feel that fall in energy in the afternoon. So, beyond keeping sleep debt low to maximize those energy peaks, you can schedule your day to make the most of them.
If you can, schedule demanding tasks — writing, coding, or important meetings — for your peaks and easier tasks — emails, admin, or taking a break or a nap — for your dips.
Check RISE for the timing of these peaks and dips each day. Just like with your Melatonin Window, the more regular your sleep schedule, the more similar these times will be day to day.
Beyond your 24-hour circadian rhythm, you can also think about your 90-minute ultradian rhythms. Your energy rises and falls over roughly 90-minute cycles throughout the day. Be sure to take short breaks to rest and recover between periods of focused work. You can learn more about ultradian rhythms here.
Beyond sleeping at the right times, you should eat at the right times, too. Keep meal times to the daytime to stay in circadian alignment and finish up your last meal two to three hours before bedtime to stop digestive issues keeping you up at night.
Research published in 2022 states diets rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory nutrients and low in saturated fats are best for quality sleep.
Opt for a healthy diet of complex carbs like whole grains and legumes, healthy fats, energy-boosting snacks like peanut butter or nuts, and plenty of veggies.
Avoid simple carbohydrates and sugary snacks as these spike your blood sugar levels, leading to an inevitable sugar crash.
And make sure you’re drinking enough water, even mild dehydration causes fatigue.
When you’re tired, you might be craving an energy drink or more coffee than usual. Don’t consume these too close to bedtime as they can easily impact your sleep, making you more tired the next day.
You can learn more about which foods give you energy here and check RISE to see when your last meal should be each day.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up an Avoid Late Meals reminder.
Sleep hygiene is a set of daily habits you can do to improve your sleep. They’ll help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often, and get the sleep you need to give you the energy you want.
Here’s what to do:
The RISE app can remind you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits at the right time for your circadian rhythm. When you get the timing of these habits right, they’ll be more effective (helping you meet your sleep need) and they’ll keep your circadian rhythm in sync, which also helps boost your energy levels.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.
Need more energy now? Like right now? We’ve covered science-backed ways you can wake yourself up here.
Here are a few energy boosters to help you fight fatigue fast:
Caffeine is a great pick-me-up. It temporarily blocks adenosine receptors in your brain, meaning you won’t feel the sleepiness effect of the compound. But caffeine lasts in your system much longer than you think (it could be up to 12 hours!) so be sure to cut yourself off early enough that it doesn’t keep you up at night.
RISE can tell you the best time to have your final coffee of the day. RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up a reminder to limit caffeine after their cutoff time.
Get your heart rate up with a quick burst of physical activity. For bonus points, head outside to combine exercise with natural light and fresh air. A 10-minute brisk walk has been found to significantly boost energy more than a sugary snack.
Just like with coffee, avoid exercise too close to bedtime to stop it impacting your sleep.
Taking a nap can boost your energy levels that day and reduce your sleep debt to improve them over time, too. And it doesn’t need to be a long nap.
In fact, one study found a 10-minute nap improved fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance, with some of these improvements lasting for more than 2.5 hours. A 30-minute nap, on the other hand, improved performance, but participants felt sleep inertia, or grogginess, when they first woke up.
And naps aren’t just useful if you’ve got high sleep debt: naps can improve alertness, performance, and productivity in well-rested people, too.
You’re probably noticing a pattern here, but just like with exercise and coffee, avoid napping too close to bedtime or it may make falling asleep harder to do later on.
Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and the very act of drinking water can make you feel more alert. What’s more? If you get up often to grab a glass of water, and later use the bathroom, the short burst of exercise will wake you up, too.
Heads-up: Although these short-term energy hacks can help you get through a particularly sleepy afternoon, focus on the things that make a real difference to your energy levels (sleep debt and circadian alignment) to improve your energy levels long term.
For when you do need a quick energy boost, RISE can find the best time in your calendar to do things like nap, workout, or go for a walk.
One thing everyone can agree on is that life is better when you have more energy. Luckily, there are things you can do to get more of it, and they don’t involve turning to yet another cup of coffee.
Lower your sleep debt, improve your sleep hygiene to meet your sleep need each night, and sync up your meal and sleep times with your circadian rhythm. These steps will maximize how much energy you feel each day.
The RISE app can guide you through each of these things. Each day, you can check how much sleep debt you have, see a prediction for your circadian rhythm, and get reminders for when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits. All this leads to better sleep at night, and more energy the next day.
You can boost your energy by lowering your sleep debt with naps, syncing your sleep and meal times with your circadian rhythm, and maintaining good sleep hygiene to meet your sleep need each night.
You can boost your energy fast naturally by drinking coffee, exercising, taking a nap, or drinking a glass of water.
When you’re tired, the best way to get more energy is to pay down your sleep debt. You can do this by taking a nap, going to bed a little earlier, sleeping in a little later, or improving your sleep hygiene to get more sleep each night. Syncing up with your circadian rhythm can also reduce tiredness.
You can increase your energy and motivation by meeting your sleep need each night with good sleep hygiene, paying down sleep debt, and syncing sleep and meal times to your circadian rhythm.
To feel more energetic during the day, keep your sleep debt low and sync up with your circadian rhythm. However, energy levels naturally dip in the afternoon. You’ll feel this more if you’ve got a lot of sleep debt. Lower sleep debt through naps, sleeping for a little longer at night, or by improving your sleep hygiene to get more sleep overall each night.
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