Tired of feeling tired? You’re not alone. Many of us go through life feeling fatigued. And whether that’s a chronic problem or just sleepiness that hits you every now and again, feeling tired never feels great. When you’re lacking in energy, everything in life — from work to family life to exercise — feels hard.
But, there are science-backed ways you can fight fatigue and boost your energy levels. Instead of quick-fix hacks and questionable amounts of caffeine, we’ll share the two things that make the biggest difference to your energy levels: sleep debt and your circadian rhythm.
Below, we’ll explain exactly what these things are and how you can use them to finally stop feeling tired all the time.
Before we dive into the actionable steps you can take to boost your energy levels, it’s important to know why you’re feeling so tired in the first place. There are many causes of fatigue, but here are the main culprits:
Sleep debt is the running total of how much sleep you owe your body. It’s measured over the last 14 nights and compared against your sleep need, which is the genetically determined amount of sleep you need.
One study pegs the average sleep need at 8 hours 40 minutes or so, plus or minus 10 minutes, but 13.5% of us may actually need 9 hours or more sleep a night.
If you haven’t been meeting your sleep need, you’ll have been building up sleep debt, which not only makes you feel tired, it impacts your mood, productivity, and overall well-being.
There are two ways you can work out your own sleep need. First, you can try the analog method of waking up without an alarm clock for at least a week and keeping a sleep log. It is tricky to accurately work out your sleep need this way, however, and most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to not set an alarm.
A more accurate way to find out your sleep need is by using a tool like the RISE app. RISE uses your phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-backed models to calculate your sleep need down to the minute.
The app can also work out how much sleep debt you’re carrying. We recommend keeping your sleep debt below five hours to feel and function your best each day. If you’ve got more than this, sleep debt is probably the reason you’re feeling tired.
You can learn more about how much sleep you need here.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal biological clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and dictates things like when you feel awake and sleepy.
If your lifestyle doesn’t match your internal clock — perhaps you sleep at odd times — this itself will drain you of energy, even if you meet your sleep need.
You might be out of sync with your circadian rhythm if:
As well as your sleep times not matching your circadian rhythm, if your meal times don’t match — perhaps you eat meals at very different times each day or eat during the night — this too will disrupt your circadian rhythm and cause fatigue.
And beyond tiredness, living out of sync with your circadian rhythm decreases your attention and mental performance, and increases your risk of health issues like weight gain, heart disease, and cancer.
How exactly do you know if you’re not aligned with your circadian rhythm? The RISE app can help. The app predicts your circadian rhythm each day based on things like your sleep times and inferred light exposure. You can then see a visual representation of it — including how your energy levels will fluctuate throughout the day and when the best time to go to sleep and wake up is.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their upcoming energy peaks and dips on the Energy screen.
Sleep debt and circadian misalignment are the common reasons people feel tired. But fatigue can also be caused by a few other things.
Common causes of low energy include:
If you think a sleep disorder or an underlying health condition could be causing your tiredness, speak to a healthcare professional to get it checked out.
We’ve covered why you’re always tired and have no energy in more detail here.
Now you know the potential causes behind your tiredness, it’s time to do something about them. Luckily, you can take steps to lower your sleep debt and live in sync with your circadian rhythm. You can learn more about how to get more energy here, including short-term boosts.
It’s not as hard as it sounds — with a few lifestyle changes, you can be on your way to feeling less tired each day. Here’s what to do.
Before you do anything, you need to find out what your sleep need is. It may be much higher than you think — our brains can trick us into feeling like we’ve had enough sleep when really our mental and physical performance is much lower than it could be.
Use RISE to take the guesswork out of it and get a number to start aiming for each night.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
If you’ve got high sleep debt, this lack of sleep is most likely the reason you’re feeling tired.
Researchers still aren’t sure if you can pay back chronic sleep debt — the kind that’s been building up for years — but studies show you can pay back acute sleep debt, the kind you’ve built up over the last 14 nights.
You can pay back sleep debt by:
Aim to get your sleep debt below five hours. Depending on how much sleep debt you have, this may take a few nights to pay down.
Now you know your body clock is ticking away no matter what you do, it’s time to sync your daily life up with it to boost energy levels.
You can do this by:
The good news is syncing up with your circadian rhythm will help to keep your sleep debt low. You’ll start feeling tired at your desired bedtime and be able to fall asleep easier, so you’ll be much more likely to meet your sleep need each night.
Trying to live in sync with your circadian rhythm, but finding it doesn’t match your lifestyle? Perhaps your body would prefer to sleep in later, but you’ve got to be up early for work or to take care of the kids. If so, you can learn how to reset your circadian rhythm here.
Sleep hygiene is the set of behaviors you can do to help you sleep at night. They’ll help you fall asleep faster and reduce how often you wake up during the night, making it much easier to keep your sleep debt low and stay in sync with your circadian rhythm (as you’ll feel sleepy at the right times).
Here’s what to do:
It sounds like a lot to keep on top of, but RISE can remind you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits at the ideal time of day for your body. Doing these sleep hygiene behaviors at the right time will make them more effective (so you’ll be more likely to meet your sleep need) and keep you aligned with circadian rhythm — a win-win!
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.
As well as keeping your meal times consistent, healthy eating can help fight fatigue.
That doesn’t mean adding an energy drink to your lunch, though. Despite the name, energy drinks can actually make you feel more tired.
Here’s what to eat and drink to stop you feeling tired:
The right diet could even help to improve your sleep. A 2022 study found diets higher in complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats were associated with better quality sleep. And drinking enough water could help, too. Research found dehydration was linked to short sleep duration.
You can enjoy a cup of coffee or two, but be sure to avoid caffeine too close to bedtime. Check RISE for the exact time you should cut yourself off, depending on your circadian rhythm. RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their limit caffeine reminder.
You can learn more about the foods that give you and drain you of energy here.
Bonus tip: Aim to be finished with your final meal of the day about two to three hours before bed. Digestive issues can easily disrupt your sleep.
As much as having boundless energy all day long would be amazing, that’s simply not how our bodies work. Your circadian rhythm has natural peaks and dips in energy. It looks something like this:
Keeping your sleep debt low can make these energy peaks higher and energy dips shallower, but the dips will still be there — it’s your natural biology. You can, however, learn how to make the most of these dips in energy. Here’s how.
Recognize that you’re not going to jump out of bed feeling wide awake the moment you wake up. Natural light, exercise, and a cup of coffee can reduce how much sleep inertia you feel, though.
You can also check RISE each morning for a prediction of when this grogginess will lift, so you know when you can expect your energy levels to start picking up.
Use this time in the morning to plan your to-dos for the day, take a walk (combining light exposure and exercise), or do easy tasks like household chores or a morning routine.
You can learn more about how to have more energy in the morning here.
When your afternoon dip in energy rolls around, you’ll be hit with tiredness and your performance will take a hit. Instead of fighting this, work with it. Use this time to work on easier tasks, like emails and admin, or simply take a break.
Now’s the best time to take a nap. This will help you pay down sleep debt if you have it, and even if you don’t, a nap can boost your mood, alertness, and mental performance.
Your afternoon dip may also be the best time to work on a task that requires creative thinking.
Check RISE to see when this afternoon dip in energy will be. This will help you plan your day so you can get the most important tasks done while you’re high in energy, and save easier tasks for the dip.
You can learn more about how to stay productive through your afternoon dip here.
Once your second energy peak of the day is over, your body will start winding down for bed.
Avoid exercise, large meals, alcohol, and caffeine at this time. And start lowering the lights and slowing down mentally and physically. Use this time for relaxing activities, like reading, doing yoga, or watching TV.
You can learn more about the best ways to spend your wind-down time here.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to schedule their ideal evening routine.
If you’re feeling tired all the time, sleep debt and not living in sync with your circadian rhythm are most likely to blame. The RISE app can help you get on top of both of these things.
Find out your individual sleep need and pay down any extra sleep debt you have, then keep track of it to keep it low. Plus, use the app to sync up your sleep and meal times with your circadian rhythm to boost your energy levels even further.
RISE can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene behaviors to help you both keep sleep debt low and stay in sync with your circadian rhythm, so you can start enjoying more energy day after day.
Get rid of tiredness fast by drinking a cup of coffee (as long as it’s not too close to bedtime – caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours), taking a cold shower, or doing some exercise. Keeping sleep debt low and living in sync with your circadian rhythm will get rid of tiredness long term.
You can get your energy back by focusing on lowering your sleep debt and getting back in sync with your body clock. Sleep hygiene can help with both of these things. Improving your diet can also boost your energy levels.
You may be always tired and have no energy if you have sleep debt or if you’re living out of sync with your circadian rhythm. Illness, stress, and your diet may also be to blame. You can learn more about why you’re always tired and have no energy here.
It’s natural to feel tired in the morning, even when you’ve had enough sleep. This is called sleep inertia and it should go away within 60 to 90 minutes. You can shorten how long sleep inertia lasts for by getting natural light exposure, exercising, and drinking a cup of coffee.
If you feel tired in the afternoon, your circadian rhythm is probably to blame. This is natural and keeping sleep down low will make this afternoon dip in energy more manageable. If you’re feeling tired all day, lowering sleep debt and living in sync with your circadian rhythm will help boost your energy levels.
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