Sleep Calm & Carry On: How to Get More Energy During the Day

Posted by Dr Sophie Bostock - Sleep Expert on 9th Jul 2024

Sleep Calm & Carry On: How to Get More Energy During the Day

There are lots of factors which influence how much energy you have during the day.

In the previous articles I’ve talked about  the importance of getting enough hours of sleepmaking sleep timing as consistent as possible, and unwinding before bed to reduce stress.

Now it’s time to discuss how we can feel more energetic during the daytime. Scroll on to learn why.

How our body clock works

Our internal body clock relies on signals called Zeitgebers - or time givers - to let us know whether it’s day or night. The strongest alerting signal is light, but movement and food also send a wake-up call to your master body clock.

So, if you want more energy during the day, try to get exposure to bright light - especially within the first hour of the day. Light intensity outdoors, in natural light, is hundreds of times greater than in artificial light, even on a dull day. Working next to a window will not only boost mood and alertness, but it could help promote better quality sleep at night.

How diet and exercise impacts energy levels

A man stretching and smiling in bed as he wakes up feeling refreshed and full of energy

Eating a healthy breakfast within the first hour or two of your day can help to kick start your body clocks. In general, a diet rich in natural, whole foods, and high in fibre, seems to be better for our guts, and for our sleep, than ultra-processed, high sugar foods.

Most of us have a natural dip in our energy levels in the early afternoon. If you’re feeling sluggish, getting outside and getting moving will help. Physical activity usually boosts energy immediately afterwards. Being more active also helps to reduce stress and improve sleep quality at night.

If you’re really feeling sleepy during the day, a quick power nap for 15 or 20 minutes in the early afternoon has been shown to boost energy levels and concentration for a few hours afterwards. Even if you can’t nap during the day, taking 15 minutes out for a break, to relax, or to chat with colleagues, can be a gentle way to recover and re-focus the mind.

Caffeine can also reduce sleepiness, but it’s a stimulant that stays in the body for a long time and can interfere with sleep quality. One study suggested that to protect sleep, we need to leave at least 8 hours between our last cup of coffee and getting into bed, so to be on the safe side, I’d say after lunch, you may want to switch to decaf.

In the evening, when you want to wind down, dim the overhead lights. You’ll also want to avoid large meals within the last 2-3 hours before bed. And if you do exercise late in the evenings, allow time for your body temperature to cool before getting into bed.

When should I worry about my energy levels?

If you’ve noticed a dip in your energy levels in recent weeks or months which is getting you down, or you’re sleeping for a lot longer than normal and these suggestions don’t make a difference, please speak to your doctor about how you feel.

You can take your sleep diary with you and discuss some of the things you’ve tried. Your doctor may do some investigations to look for alternative explanations.

One common condition that can make you very tired during the day, despite normal amounts of sleep, is called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is often associated with loud snoring. What happens is that narrowing of the airways while you sleep causes lots of short pauses in breathing, which interfere with deep sleep, so you can’t recharge properly overnight.

The good news is that once you recognise sleep apnoea, there are some very effective treatments, so do check in with your doctor if you have concerns.

Sleep Calm & Carry On: a video recap

Watch the video below to recap the information provided in the article or scroll down to read a super quick recap of how to get more energy:

How to get more energy in the day: our conclusion

OK, so a super quick recap...

For more energy during the day, seek out natural light – especially within the first hour after opening your eyes. This can be harder to find in the depths of winter, so if natural light isn’t an option, look for the next best thing: bright artificial lights! Aside from that, you’ll also want to eat a healthy breakfast, move your body regularly, take breaks from work, and do your best to protect a minimum of 7 hours for sleep at night.

Thanks for reading and sleep well.

authors profile
Dr Sophie Bostock
Sleep Expert
Sophie brings a wealth of expertise to the role having spent the last six years researching and championing the importance of sleep science in NHS and corporate settings. Sophie was responsible for improving access to the award-winning digital sleep improvement programme, Sleepio, as an NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow. She has delivered hundreds of talks, including for TEDx and Talks@Google, and regularly features as a media sleep expert.
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