We all know the feeling – we wake up refreshed and full of hope for the new day, just to have all our energy and will to live drained by lunchtime. Although perfectly normal, fluctuating energy levels can be very disheartening. According to Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, CEO of Circadian Technologies in Massachusetts, our energy levels fluctuate thanks to the biological clocks situated in our brains that are governed by a daily cycle of light and darkness. As exasperating as changing levels of energy may be, they can be stabilized by first understanding why they occur and secondly what measures to take to combat them as best as possible.
The first half of your day
Sleep inertia takes place during the first 30 minutes after you wake up, when your general reaction times are considerably impaired. Your cortisol levels are slowly increase during this period and will cause your grogginess and mind fog to disappear. Your morning hustle follows on the period of sleep inertia and generally lasts for the period between breakfast and lunch. According to Dr. Chris Fahey, a physician at the Rhythms and Sleep Research Lab at Northwestern University, this is when your alertness for the day peaks due to increased norepinephrine, dopamine and glutamate levels. This is a good time to confront the tasks that require you to be clear of mind and capable of critical thinking while saving more mundane tasks such as responding to emails and filing for your afternoon slump.
The second half of your day
At some point during the afternoon, you will experience a significant slump that can last anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. It is due to this very post-lunch slump that the Spanish invented their popular siesta. After your mid-day slump, you can look forward to your sunset spike which will undoubtedly provide an energy boost bigger than you've experienced since morning. Most people experience a significant gush of unexplained energy as evening approaches which can come in handy if you have house chores to complete or engage in an exercise routine such as visiting a gym or going for a jog after work. The last phase of the day is the transition phase which generally takes place between around 8 pm and 6 am. You may find yourself experiencing a few energy surges just before bed as your melatonin production slowly increases, preparing you for sleep.
A few basic guidelines will help you to regulate your energy levels, increasing productivity and ensuring better sleep at night.
Don’t consume too much caffeine
Coffee and caffeine, in general, are often touted for their energy-boosting properties which are understandable considering that they will provide you with a short energy boost. Consuming coffee (and other sources of caffeine such as energy drinks) in moderate amounts equating to approximately 250 mg per day is considered safe by the National Institutes of Health. Once you exceed this amount, you will find yourself prone to significant energy crashes later in the day. It is best to consume your caffeine early in the day and spaced over a couple of hours.
Don’t starve yourself during the day
Unless you are purposely partaking in intermittent fasting for health reasons, you need to eat at regular intervals to keep your body supplied with a steady stream of calories and nutrients. Eating at regular intervals will also prevent your blood sugar from dropping too much which can make you feel extremely sluggish. Start your day with a healthy breakfast and then have a small meal every 3 hours to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
Have a power nap if you can
Many of us still underestimate the immense benefit of power naps. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a short nap of between 20 and 30 minutes can help to improve alertness, mood, and productivity. When you have a nap during the day, however, make sure it is not too long as it can cause you to wake up feeling groggy which can negatively affect your mood for the duration of the day.
Fluctuating energy levels can be very discouraging, especially in terms of productivity, but they can be stabilized so to not interfere with your daily life as much. While the above tips will help you stabilize your fluctuating energy levels, it is suggested to seek professional medical advice if your symptoms are severe or persistent as they may be indicative of an underlying condition.