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.
1. Go to bed earlier
Unpublished research by ZOE scientists and international academic collaborators found that study participants who sleep longer find it easier to wake up in the morning and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.
Join our mailing list
Get occasional updates on our latest developments and scientific discoveries. No spam. We promise.
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.
Probiotics are live bacteria that scientists believe may have health benefits. They’re found in many fermented foods and drinks, including:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Acute effect of alcohol intake on cardiovascular autonomic regulation during the first hours of sleep in a large real-world sample of Finnish employees: Observational study. JMIR Mental Health. (2018).
Alcohol hangover and multitasking: Effects on mood, cognitive performance, stress reactivity, and perceived effort. Journal of Clinical Medicine. (2020).
A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. (2008).
Cigarette smoking and sleep disturbance. Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment. (2018).
Effects of changes in water intake on mood of high and low drinkers. PloS One. (2014).
Exercise can improve sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PeerJ. (2018).
Fatigue in older adults. (n.d.).
Gut melatonin in vertebrates: chronobiology and physiology. Frontiers in Endocrinology. (2015).
Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PloS One. (2019).
How much sleep do I need? (n.d.).
Hyperarousal and sleep reactivity in insomnia: current insights. Nature and Science of Sleep. (2018).
Impact of insufficient sleep on dysregulated blood glucose control under standardised meal conditions. Diabetologia. (2021).
Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis. Cell. (2015).
Influence of progressive fluid restriction on mood and physiological markers of dehydration in women. British Journal of Nutrition. (2012).
Investigation of the effects of alcohol on sleep using actigraphy. Alcohol and Alcoholism. (2012).
Moderators and mediators of the relationship between stress and insomnia: stressor chronicity, cognitive intrusion, and coping. Sleep. (2014)
Neurotransmitter modulation by the gut microbiota. Brain Research. (2018)
Psychosocial stress before a nap increases sleep latency and decreases early slow-wave activity. Frontiers in Psychology. (2019).
Sleep and sleep disorders. (n.d.).
Sleep as a target for optimized response to smoking cessation treatment. Nicotine and Tobacco Research. (2019).
Sleep quality in cigarette smokers and nonsmokers: findings from the general population in central China. BMC Public Health. (2019).
Smoking & Tobacco Use — Fast facts and fact sheets. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/index.htm?s_cid=osh-stu-home-spotlight-001
Smoking, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Pneumologia. (2013).
Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep deprived young women. Physiology & Behavior. (2017).
The effect of psychosocial stress on sleep: a review of polysomnographic evidence. Behavioral Sleep Medicine. (2007).
The effects of alcohol on quality of sleep. Korean Journal of Family Medicine. (2015).
The impact of stress on sleep: pathogenic sleep reactivity as a vulnerability to insomnia and circadian disorders. Journal of Sleep Research. (2018).
The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression. Nature Microbiology. (2019).
Water, drinks and your health. (2021).