Feeling tired all the time? Here's how you can give your energy levels a boost
Fatigue is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the GP. Lorraine Courtney talks with the experts to get their tips for boosting energy levels
Hands up if you struggle to get out of bed in the mornings, feel like you're always yawning and only get through the day because of your intense caffeine habit.
Tired all the time - doctors call it TATT - is one of the most common health problems seen in general practice. A new survey by GPs in the UK found that one in five people who call for a consultation complain about being fatigued, and other figures show that a worrying 90% of us feel tired daily.
GP Dr Tim Hinchey says that a significant proportion of his appointments are people coming to see him looking for ways to tackle their tiredness.
"It's probably one of the most common complaints we see in general practice and while many of us feel tired and in need of an energy boost, it's usually not a sign of anything serious," says Dr Hinchey.
"There are lots of ways to increase energy levels - our old friends diet and exercise might be the simple solution you didn't really consider. However, some medical conditions can cause tiredness so if your lack of energy is affecting your daily life or isn't solved by dietary or exercise changes, you should talk to your GP."
Porridge to feel full
Oats are a high-fibre carb and are guaranteed to make you feel fuller for longer. "They have a low GI and so release their energy slowly helping to boost your energy levels for longer throughout the day," says consultant dietitian Kevina Cardiff of Pure Nutrition. "Try oats as a porridge made with your choice of milk; add your favourite topping such as honey, fruit and seeds. Alternatively try preparing some overnight oats including some yoghurt and fruit such as berries."
Anti-inflammatory omega 3 keeps the brain alert. "Aim to eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings and trout twice a week or at least once per week," says Cardiff. "These fish are the best source of essential omega 3 fatty acids which protect heart health, joint health and are known to help reduce anxiety levels. The anti-inflammatory effects of omega 3 reduce risk of many diseases, including heart disease and cancer, making you feel better, boosting your mood and energy."
3. Vitamin D
Increase your energy
"Many people attending my clinic are deficient in vitamin D," says Cardiff. Symptoms include tiredness and low energy levels. "Evidence is emerging that there is widespread low levels of vitamin D in the general population because of our northerly latitude, spending daytime hours indoors and using sunscreen. It is difficult to get sufficient vitamin D from diet - food sources are eggs and oily fish - get your level checked and discuss supplementation with your GP or a dietitian."
Mind your gut health
This is the year that we all need to start listening to our guts and the probiotic in live yoghurt helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome. "Much research is now looking at the link between the gut and brain," says Cardiff. "The health of the gut can affect our sleep patterns and mood, so caring for your gut by enjoying a daily source of probiotic helps you maintain your health and energy levels. Enjoy a serving of yoghurt with your choice of toppings such as seeds, nuts and fruit as a breakfast or a post-workout snack."
5. Get moving
Exercise is key
You might feel that exercise is the last thing on your mind but, in fact, regular exercise will make you feel less tired in the long run, so you'll have more energy. It causes your body to release epinephrine and norepinephrine, stress hormones that in modest amounts can make you feel energised. "Find an exercise you like doing and can see yourself committing to long-term," says Gillian O'Sullivan, personal trainer and former Olympic athlete. "You will always feel better after exercise as there is a release of feel-good hormones. If you're lacking motivation, remember you will always feel better after 30 minutes of exercise."
6. Get a routine
Do clean sleeping
"If you have trouble falling asleep, a regular routine will help you wind down and get ready for bed," says Dr Hinchey.
"Keep regular sleeping hours as this programmes your brain to a set schedule. Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day, and aim for eight undisturbed hours of sleep per night. Don't be tempted to lie in at weekends. Winding down is vital, whether that's with a warm bath or by listening to a podcast you enjoy. Your bedroom should be sleep-friendly. That means thick curtains, quietness and a temperature of between 18 and 24°C. Keeping a sleep diary is a good way to spot patterns and can help your GP better diagnose ongoing sleep problems."
7. Regular activities
Create a new habit
A brisk lunchtime walk every day can boost energy, reduce blood pressure and lift mood. "Be consistent with your exercise," says O'Sullivan. "Commit to three times a week and pick times and days that you can see working most of the time. It's the only way to really feel the benefits long-term."
8. Quit smoking
Better health all round
"Quitting smoking is the single best thing you'll ever do for your health," says Dr Hinchey. "In the first weeks after stopping smoking, your blood circulation improves. This makes all of your physical activity, including walking and running, much easier. You'll also get a boost to your immune system, making it easier to fight off colds and infections. The increase in oxygen in the body will reduce tiredness and have you feeling so much better than before. There are lots of aids available to help you quit. Talk to your GP who will guide you through them."
9. Ditch the booze
Drink less, sleep better
While Irish millennials are drinking less than their parents' generation, we are still one of the world's top alcohol consumers and it can impact our energy levels.
The next day you'll be tired, even if you sleep a full eight hours. "Many of us think that having a small nightcap will help us drift off to sleep faster but while alcohol's sedative effects will make you drowsy, they also have other negative effects that interfere with the quality of your sleep later in the night," says Dr Hinchey. "Alcohol raises the level of epinephrine, a stress hormone that increases the heart rate and generally stimulates the body, and this can make you wake up again. Also, having an alcoholic drink increases the need to urinate during the night - just another way in which it can disrupt your sleep. Try to have several alcohol-free days every week."
10. Chill out
"In our modern world, lots of us live in a permanent state of stress," says Dr Hinchey.
"But being busy shouldn't be a badge of honour and it can seriously damage our health and wellbeing. Take time to do activities that naturally reduce cortisol - the stress hormone - like laughing, playing with your children, meeting up with friends or just taking some guilt free time every evening to relax and do nothing at all."