There’s a classic image of dads we all have in our collective mind—passed out, taking a midday snooze in a comfy recliner with absolutely no regard for company or surroundings. And for a long time, we’ve probably just accepted sleepiness as a natural part of aging. Maybe TV and movies have propagated this “recliner dad” stereotype throughout the years, but there’s also some truth to it.
It’s not that we need more sleep as we get older, it’s that sleep can becomemore difficult as we age. This leads to feeling more tired during the day, which of course can lead to an impromptu nap on your favorite chair/subway/park bench/movie theater/child’s dance recital.
Naps by themselves aren’t a bad thing, by the way. Naps are amazing. Aquick power nap(10-20 minutes) can help you feel more alert, reduce mistakes, improve overall performance (physically and mentally) and help reduce stress. Anyone who’s drifted off on the couch on a cold, dreary day while a fire’s burning in the fireplace knows how satisfying that kind of recharge can be. Plus, if you’re life is settled enough to enjoy a 15-20 minute nap in the middle of the day, that’s a great sign that you’re doing something right.
But what about when you feel like you need a nap all the time, or feel sleepy during inopportune times? I’m sure some of you reading this could really go for a nap right now. Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint the reason you’re feeling tired: stayed up too late, drank 30 ounces of coffee when you got home, binge-watched three seasons of “The Great British Baking Show,” etc. But sometimes it’s hard to narrow down the specific reason for sleepiness.
When we feel tired, sometimes the tendency is to throw around terms like “fatigue” or “exhaustion.” Medically speaking, these are different things, and in some cases the distinction is pretty important. Being sleepy can cause a lot of the same symptoms of fatigue. But these symptoms are generally short-termand alleviated by sleep.
Real fatigue can make it hard to sleep, make you anxious, make you sensitive to light and present other issues. Fatigue isn’t generally resolved by a good night’s sleep; it can be persistent and problematic. Chronic fatigue could be the result of a lot of underlying issues, so if you’re concerned about fatigue talk with your doctor.
It’s not just your imagination. Winter months and less daylight can reallymess with our circadian rhythms. When it gets dark earlier, we instinctively want to go to bed earlier. But most of us have regular jobs and a schedule that doesn’t bow to the whims of the earth’s tilted axis. So even though our melatonin kicks in as it starts to get dark, we can’t go into hibernation like our body (some days, desperately) wants to.
Using caffeine and other stimulants to stay awake through our body’s natural winter lethargy also interferes with our ability to sleep well, which makes us feel more tired the next day. The further north you live, the shorter the days, and the more out-of-whack your natural cycles can get.
Of course there’s always the argument that our desire to stay in bed under warm blankets increases just because it’s dark, cold and snowy outside.
Yeah it’s real thing. Did you have a beer with lunch? Then you already know why you’re feeling sleepy at 3 p.m But if you didn’t imbibe any afternoon ales or midday martinis, you might wonder where the dreadedafternoon slump comes from.
Eating a carb-heavy lunch, being dehydrated, and normal circadian-rhythm-induced drops in body temperature can all cause afternoon sleepiness. If your workplace is big on leaving sugary morning sweets laying around in the breakroom, a 2-4 p.m. sugar crash is almost definitely in the cards.
But the good news is there are lots of ways to improve your energy year-round.
You probably already know what’s coming in this section...drink enough water, get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, try and exercise more, etc. There’s a reason virtually every doctor on the planet recommends all of these things: they’re important aspects of health and they work. Maybe you’re a beast at the gym or just ran your 10th marathon. Or, maybe you’d rather listen to a cat chewing on a pair of balled-up wool socks for 10 hours over working out for 30 minutes. But wherever you stand on exercise, there are some universally effective ways to boost energy in winter, summer and any other season.
In the winter, even when we’re outside in the sun, we may not be getting enough vitamin D. Even though we’re in direct sunlight, the angle that the sun hits the earth doesn’t allow for enough UV light to get to us. But it’s still helpful to get as much sun as possible, and there are alternative light therapy options available to help ward off the winter blues.
It’s so tempting in the winter to forget about light, summery foods like salads and fruits. We want pasta, bread, holiday cookies and sweets. But those heavy, high-carb meals can lead to sugar crashes and weight gain, which can lead to low energy and bad sleep.
You can still eat healthy and feel like you’re eating “wintery” food by making soups and stews that are thick, hearty and full of lean meats and vegetables. Also, avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. to help ensure your sleep cycle isn’t interrupted.
In the winter time, exercise can feel a bit harder since the weather isn’t very conducive to walking or jogging. If you don’t have a gym membership, your options become more limited when you can’t be outside. But finding ways to get active at work or home—even in small increments—can have a significant impact on your energy level and overall health. It’s recommended that you try and get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. That sounds like a lot, but it really breaks down to about 20 minutes a day.
Exercise, diet and sleep in general are all important to your everyday health. But sometimes you need a little help, whether it’s with getting natural,restful sleep, or supplementing your diet with energy-boosting supplements.
Magnesium supplements can be useful in promoting energy levels by preventingmagnesium deficiency. The right magnesium (one not used for digestive issues) that is able to be absorbed easily by your body can help avoid symptoms of fatigue.
Supplements with fat-burning components to them like Capsimaxcan help boost energy in the way that it affects the body’s metabolism. Supplements with high bioavailability (the body’s ability to absorb) can help boost metabolism and convert food into energy much more quickly than normal, which gives a boost of energy for exercise, or just general day-to-day activity.
Whether you’re having a case of the Mondays or a 12-pack of the Winter Blues, low energy is something we all deal with from time to time. But chronic fatigue is something that you should check with your doctor about.
There are plenty of ways to boost your energy levels during winter, summer or any other time of year, and most of them are really simple to incorporate into your daily routine. Eating well, getting rest, avoiding caffeine, exercising and taking an energy-boosting supplement can give you a much-needed lift to help you feel better, be happier, perform better and live a healthier life every day.
Seth Garland - Content Writer, Physician's Choice