How to Feel Less Tired During the Day

The six tricks to feeling more awake and alert.

Woman on a sunny day
Help perk yourself up with a dose of sunshine first thing upon awakening. Tara Moore/Getty Images

It’s normal to have an occasional draggy day, but if you’re staggering through life looking for a bottomless coffee pot, and longing for bed whenever you’re not in it, it’s time to evaluate your habits and change those that are draining your energy.

If your fatigue is new, accompanied by other symptoms, or so severe you can’t function normally, start with a visit to your doctor. If you have a clean bill of health, but still crash into the fatigue wall most days, you don’t need to accept exhaustion as normal, or take to your bed.

Although sometimes life throws more your way than is easily handled, you can still make small changes that will up your energy level.

Watch Your Sleep

It’s obvious that too little sleep will leave you tired. If you often sleep less than seven hours at night, you’re not only likely to be exhausted, you are also risking serious health concerns, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Lowered immunity
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Impaired thinking, memory and mood

While sleeping too little is the most common cause of exhaustion, surprisingly, some studies have shown that routinely sleeping more than nine hours each night also raises the risk for obesity, diabetes, and headaches. So go for the happy medium; most adults do best on seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Another often-overlooked energy-zapper is the snooze button. It’s so tempting to grab those extra nine minutes of shut-eye, but that’s just enough time for you to doze off without reaching restorative sleep.

You’re better off getting up right away when the alarm clock rings.

Sleep is as important to your health as proper eating and exercise, so don’t push it aside to make room for other activities.

Fuel with Protein

If your usual breakfast is a muffin, donut, bowl of refined wheat cereal, or even worse, nothing at all, you’re likely to feel the effect just a few hours into your day.

Loading your belly with a heavy dose of carbs leads to a spike in blood sugar that makes it hard to resist the office vending machine once that sugar high crashes back down. Work protein into every meal, and grab snacks that balance carbs with protein. If you have time, scramble eggs for breakfast. If not, smear peanut butter on a piece of whole-wheat toast, enjoy a bowl of yogurt with fruit, or a protein-enriched bar or smoothie. Instead of an afternoon candy bar from the vending machine, have apple slices with a small piece of cheese. Protein wards off severe fluctuations in blood sugar, leaving you more alert.

Get Off the Couch

It seems counterintuitive, but daily fatigue can be your body’s way of crying out for more activity. Exercise raises your metabolism, stimulates your mood and helps you sleep better at night. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym; even a 20-minute brisk walk around the block will provide benefits.

Water, Water Everywhere

Dehydration leads to fatigue and many people don’t drink enough water throughout the day. Up your intake by keeping a water bottle handy, and drink a full glass of water before each meal. Another quick trick for an instant pick-me-up is taking a brief shower.

If that’s not an option, washing your face, or even washing your hands in cold water, can leave you feeling more awake.

Have Fun

  • A big laugh is one of the best energizers around, and costs you nothing. Watch a funny movie, read a hilarious novel or your favorite comic strip, or call that friend who always cracks you up.
  • Indulge yourself in a favorite activity each day, even if only for a short time. Read, garden or listen to your favorite tunes; whatever makes you feel good.
  • Thrill your partner by looking for more than sleep between the sheets. Sex not only makes you feel good and relieves stress; it also boosts levels of adrenaline and endorphins, which energize you the next day.
  • Try something new. Sign up for a class that interests you, try that new restaurant, learn a new hobby or sport. Even small changes like a new hairstyle or route to work shake up routine and leave you feeling more alert.

    Do Your Mind Good

    Stress, negativity and depression are huge energy-downers. If you are overwhelmed with gloomy thoughts, you might need professional help to shake the clouds. But for everyday stress and blues, try any of the following.

    Volunteer: Helping others is one of the best ways to improve your mood and energy.

    Gratitude journal: Take a minute or two before bed each night to write down something good that happened that day.

    Forgive: Hanging onto anger, grudges, self-pity or resentment saps your energy and spirits. Releasing negative thoughts leaves your mind free to focus on more stimulating topics.

    Meditate: You don’t need to hit the mat for an hour to reap benefits from meditation. Even three minutes of counting your breaths while sitting quietly helps calm your mind and leaves you feeling more aware and alert.

    Spirituality: Whether you are a regular churchgoer or just consider yourself a spiritual person, some sort of communion with a higher power is a great way to relieve your worries, appreciate what you have, and release the tensions and thoughts that lead to fatigue.

    If it seems there just isn’t enough caffeine available to get you through your day, it’s time to set down the coffee cup. Making healthy changes is a far better way to feel good and build up your energy to conquer your busy life.