When you’re most vulnerable to fatigue and stress, you need a foolproof plan to help you fight it. These eight strategies ensure you will wake up refreshed and recharged, remain alert throughout the day, and wind down just in time for a good night’s sleep.
1. Wake Up
Don’t: Sleep in
Do: Get up at the same time and bath yourself in light
This enables your circadian rhythms, which are governed by your body’s “master clock” in the hypothalamus gland, to stay in synch with the 24-hour day. In the absence of light, your body’s sleep-wake cycle wants to delay by an average of 12 minutes every day and work on a 24.2-hour rhythm.
“That means your body wants to keep pushing your bedtime to later,” says Mariana Figueiro, PhD, program director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center. “But if you let that happen and still have to get up at the same time every day, you’re going to be tired.”
To keep your circadian rhythms in time, aim for 30 minutes of light as early as possible every morning, even on a Saturday, by enjoying a half-hour stroll outdoors or having your breakfast by a sunny window. If your schedule forces you to wake up while it’s still dark outside, crank up the indoor lights – every little bit may help.
Don’t: Load up on carbs
Do: Eat more protein
Although carbs can give you a burst of rapid fuel, they can also be an energy drain if you consume too many. Nutrition experts at the University of Illinois reported in a recent study that people who reduced the amount of carbohydrates in their diets and raised the amount of protein reported feeling more energetic.
Keep your daily intake of healthy carbs below 150 g: five servings of vegetables; two servings of fruit; and three or four servings of starchy (preferably whole grain) carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, and cereal. For instance:
3. Drink Coffee
Don’t: Downing several cups first thing in the morning
Do: Save a cup for later in the day
You don’t just need it in the morning. Caffeine keeps you operating at a high level by blocking the effects of adenosine, a sleep-inducing brain chemical that accumulates as the day wears on. By the time adenosine builds up to the point where you start feeling sleepy—generally, late in the afternoon—the effects of your morning caffeine will have worn off, says James K. Wyatt, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center. “Having 1/2 to 1 cup of coffee or its caffeine equivalent during the late afternoon, when the pressure to sleep is high, will keep you energized,” he says.
4. Time Your Meals