Published 19th January 2022

How to feel less tired during the day

Going to bed earlier, focusing on what you eat and drink, moving more, and addressing your stress levels can help you sleep better and feel less tired.

It’s normal to occasionally feel sluggish during the day, but if it’s something you experience regularly, it might be time to make some changes.

Many common medical conditions like anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes can cause fatigue. 

Speak to a doctor if your tiredness affects your day-to-day life, takes a toll on your mental health, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms such as sudden weight loss, weight gain, or a loss of appetite.

It can be hard to pinpoint why you’re feeling tired all the time, but if your doctor has ruled out any serious conditions, there are plenty of ways to boost your energy levels and help you feel more focused. 

Read on to learn about nine lifestyle changes you can make to feel less tired.

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1. Go to bed earlier 

A third of adults in the U.S. are sleeping less than the recommended 7 or more hours a night.  

Unpublished research by ZOE scientists and international academic collaborators found that study participants who sleep longer find it easier to wake up in the morning and stay alert during the day. 

What time you go to bed is important, too. A recent ZOE study — the largest nutrition study of its kind — found that people who go to bed earlier have better blood sugar control the next morning. 

Going to bed later is more likely to lead to blood sugar spikes and dips, which can make you feel more tired and less alert later. 

Skip sleeping in and instead bring your bedtime forward if you want to feel less tired during the day. As little as 30 minutes can make a difference.

2. Eat the right kind of breakfast 

Mornings can be hectic for many of us, so finding the time to have a balanced breakfast can be tricky. If your usual morning meal is a sugary drink, that could be the reason you’re low on energy. 

ZOE research found that eating a breakfast high in fat, protein, or complex carbohydrates is better for blood sugar control, particularly if you haven’t had the best night’s sleep.

Reaching for a high sugar breakfast can lead to blood sugar spikes and dips, which can make you feel more tired and crave sugary foods. 

What foods can help you avoid this kind of vicious cycle?

ZOE’s lead nutritional scientist Dr. Sarah Berry, associate professor at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, suggests opting for a breakfast that doesn't have a lot of refined carbohydrates and that includes fat and protein.

She suggests adding fat and protein sources, like avocado or egg, to wholemeal or sourdough toast and adding vegetables, like grilled tomatoes. 

3. Eat the right foods for you 

ZOE’s research has shown that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to nutrition. The foods that cause blood sugar spikes and dips in your body throughout the day will be particular to you. 

Knowing the best foods for your energy levels can help you feel less tired. 

The ZOE at-home test measures your blood sugar and blood fat responses after eating and gives you personalized recommendations for the best foods for your unique biology. 

Unpublished research by ZOE shows that after closely following our gut-friendly, personalized nutrition program, over 80% of participants said they had more energy.

You can take a free quiz to learn more about how ZOE can help you.

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4. Look after your gut health

Growing evidence suggests that gut health can affect sleep

Some research shows that the diversity of your gut microbiome — the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your gut — is linked to better sleep, and that particular types of bacteria are associated with poor sleep. 

This could explain why tiredness is often a common sign of an unhealthy gut. 

In fact, your gut bacteria are involved in the production of many hormones that regulate sleep, like melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

You can help improve your gut health by eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that scientists believe may have health benefits. They’re found in many fermented foods and drinks, including: 

  • live yogurt 

  • kefir 

  • kimchi

  • sauerkraut 

  • kombucha 

  • miso 

  • raw and unpasteurized cheeses like aged cheddar, parmesan, and some Swiss cheeses

Prebiotics are food for your gut bugs. They’re found in high-fiber plants, including legumes like chickpeas and lentils, onions, garlic, mushrooms, asparagus, and whole grains like oats, barley, and rye.

Our research shows that everyone’s gut microbiome and their responses to food are different. 

With the ZOE program, you find out which of the 15 “good” and “bad” gut bugs that we’ve identified live in your gut and what the best foods are for your unique gut health. Eating foods that are good for your gut microbiome can increase your “good” gut bacteria. 

5. Exercise more 

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to naturally boost your energy. 

Research shows that exercise improves sleep quality and relieves stress, which is itself linked to poor sleep.

Unpublished ZOE research also found that people who exercise more have better blood sugar control. 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend hours at the gym every day. Lower intensity exercise can still significantly benefit your energy levels.

A brisk, 10-minute walk in the morning, on your lunch break, or after work can make a real difference. 

6. Manage your stress 

Stress and anxiety can stop you from getting a good night’s sleep and make it harder to focus during the day. 

Frustratingly, sleep loss can make stress and anxiety even worse. And people with anxiety and longer-term stress are more likely to experience insomnia. 

If you’re stressed, you’re also more likely to experience other sleeping issues, like waking up several times during the night.  

Anxiety and stress are both complex conditions and can affect everyone differently. The treatment options include: 

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

  • mindfulness and meditation

  • exercise

Although it’s a new area of research, emerging evidence suggests that improving your gut health could also help with symptoms of anxiety. Some studies even found links between specific strains of bacteria and improved mood, but more research is needed. 

Managing stress is easier said than done, but it’s vital for improving sleep and feeling less tired during the day. 

7. Drink more water

Being dehydrated can make you feel sleepy, fatigued, and irritable. 

Drinking more water, on the other hand, has been linked with reduced fatigue. So increasing your water intake during the day can help you feel less tired. 

To stay hydrated, aim to drink around 2 liters, or 6-8 cups, of water a day.

But keep in mind that these are just guidelines — there are no hard and fast rules because everyone is different. Listen to your body and try to drink water consistently throughout the day, or whenever you feel thirsty.

8. Drink less alcohol

Cutting back on alcohol is a good way to improve your sleep quality. Alcohol can interfere with the quantity and quality of sleep, especially in men. 

A large observational study of over 4,000 people found that even low or moderate alcohol consumption — one or two drinks a day — can have significant negative effects on sleep. 

Some people find that drinking alcohol in the evening helps them to get to sleep. However, research shows that it can lead to you waking up later in the night, leaving you feeling more tired the next day. 

Drinking can also give you a hangover, which can reduce how alert you feel. 

This doesn’t mean you have to quit drinking completely, though. Drinking in moderation could make a difference to how well you sleep and how tired you feel during the day. 

9. Quit smoking

It will come as no surprise that smoking is bad for your health. 

As well as the major health conditions associated with smoking — such as cancer and heart disease — it can also disturb your sleep and make you feel more tired during the day.

According to a review of studies on smoking and sleep, smokers have lower quality sleep and more difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. 

Smoking also increases both the likelihood and severity of sleep apnea — a serious condition where your breathing stops and starts throughout the night.

Due to the effects smoking has on nighttime rest, cigarette smokers are more likely to have difficulty getting up in the morning and to experience daytime sleepiness.

If you currently smoke, speak to a healthcare professional about getting the right support to help you quit. 

Summary

Feeling tired from time to time is normal, but if it’s a regular occurrence, try changing your daily routine to increase your energy. 

Going to bed earlier, keeping your blood sugar levels in check with the right foods for your body, and looking after your gut health can help you feel less tired during the day. 

Taking regular exercise, staying hydrated, managing your stress, and cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes can also boost your energy. 

With the ZOE program, you can find the best foods for your blood sugar, blood fat, and your gut health, backed by the latest science. This can increase your energy and help you to feel less tired. 

Take our free quiz to find out more.

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