Do you ever have those days when you wake up feeling exhausted even though you had a long, peaceful sleep? It turns out that there are a lot of other factors that could be affecting your energy, including poor food choices and even candles. And if you're fed up of feeling sluggish, why not consider these options?
1. Say yes to selenium.
This trace element is important for a healthy thyroid and immune system, and aids cognitive function. Common symptoms of a selenium deficiency are tiredness, mental fog, and hair loss.
Selenium-rich foods include seafood, eggs, and Brazil nuts. Nutrition Australia says just two Brazil nuts a day provides 100 percent of an adult's recommended daily intake for selenium. But don't overdo it: Too much selenium can be harmful, so you should consider selenium supplements only if your doctor recommends it.
2. Eat less salt.
The theory goes that when you eat salt, you drink more, thus getting rid of the excess mineral. Unfortunately, our bodies have grown used to an increased amount of salt, so we no longer feel as thirsty as we should. The acid/base balance gets out of sync, making us lethargic. So, limit your salt intake to 1/3 teaspoon to half a teaspoon a day.
3. Think zinc.
According to an article in the journal Scientific Reports, around 1.1 billion people are thought to be deficient in zinc worldwide. Zinc is involved in many metabolic processes, and a lack of it leaves us feeling exhausted. To meet your daily intake, seek out foods high in zinc, such as meat, wheat germ, dairy (milk and cheese), and legumes.
4. Watch the pounds.
Being even slightly overweight can make us tired, says physician Erika Schwartz, MD, who has researched the causes of exhaustion. "The heart comes under greater strain and that tires us," says Dr. Schwartz. If you're watching what you eat, make sure you're still getting your daily quota of vitamins and minerals.
5. Watch the sugar intake.
Who doesn't love a sweet treat, especially when we're feeling low on energy? But the conversion of sugar into energy creates acids in our cells that need to be neutralized by an enzyme containing vitamin B1.
If you eat too much sugar, you'll eventually end up deficient in vitamin B, reducing the ability to function. Research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine also found a greater sugar intake was associated with more shifts between deeper and lighter sleep stages.
6. Get tidying.
A tidy space makes us feel good, and now science can explain why. Neuroscientists at Princeton University have discovered that to manage the daily flow of information, our brain needs to constantly sort information into subconscious mental categories, which is tiring. For our brain to restore itself, it helps if our surroundings are uncluttered.
7. Open a window.
Fresh air contains just 0.04 percent carbon dioxide. If, however, we're sitting with 10 other people in a small room, the ratio changes after just an hour.
Why does this matter? "From readings of about one percent onwards, CO₂ has a narcotic-like effect on the central nervous system," German researchers say. We don't yet understand the mechanism for this, but we know that a rise in CO₂ reduces blood pressure, resulting in our hemoglobin binding less oxygen, which makes us tired. So open a window and let air into your rooms in five-minute blasts!
8. Don't slouch.
Do you tend to slouch when you walk? It may be time to pull those shoulders back. Researchers from San Francisco State University found that people who constantly walk around with sagging shoulders end up getting tired. "An upright posture increases energy," says study director Professor Erik Peper.
9. Forego the fries.
Fast food — food high in salt, saturated fatty acids, and sugar — may give us a burst of energy initially, but eating unhealthily can affect your energy levels in as little as one week.
A study from the University of Cambridge found that within nine days of adopting a high-fat diet, rats were only able to run half as fast on a treadmill as rats fed a more balanced diet.
10. Balance the protein.
Our immune system needs protein. If its stores are empty, it starts tapping into the muscles. In doing so, the body also uses up the amino acids we need for metabolism, making us lethargic.
Regular exercise helps combat tiredness, per a study by the University of Georgia. Researchers looked at adults with sedentary jobs who started doing light exercise — like bike-riding or brisk walking — for 20 minutes three times a week. After six weeks, the participants felt less tired. However, avoid exercise just before you go to sleep as it stimulates circulation and wakes you up.
12. Don't overdo it!
Excessive exercise not only makes you tired, but it can even cause burnout and lead to injuries. So even if you have your sights set on a goal — whether it be a competition or weight loss — never train to your maximum limits. The body also needs recovery phases after every exertion.
13. Do stop the music.
Music is great for the soul, but it can also be a stressor. Researchers from Lehman College at the City University of New York have found that our cardiovascular system has a clear and extreme reaction to noise. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises, and adrenaline is released. These are all the same reactions that occur with stress, and stress drains and tires us. So Spotify away, by all means, but enjoy some silence in between.
14. Eat only one banana.
Bananas are good for us, but more than two acts almost like a sleeping tablet. This is because the fruit contains the amino acid tryptophan, which our brain uses to produce the happy hormone, serotonin. But in high doses this can also make us sleepy — incidentally, the same also applies with hot chocolate.
15. Drink up.
A fluid deficiency of just two percent of our body weight is enough to make us lethargic, so it's important to ensure you drink enough. Across the day you should aim to drink about eight cups of water. But as the gut absorbs water quickly, it's better to have one large glass an hour to help keep you awake.
16. Choose your candles carefully.
We tend to associate candles with relaxation, but many are made from paraffin, and as they burn, they release substances such as benzene and toluene into the environment. Not only do these worsen air quality, they also make us tired. If you want to inject a little ambience in your living space, opt for beeswax candles instead.
17. Up your vitamin D.
Our body is able to produce its own vitamin D, and the main way is through being out in the sun (although foods like oily fish, eggs, and dairy also contain the vitamin, and some foods are fortified with vitamin D, too).
During summer, being outside for around 10 minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon should be enough to meet your vitamin D needs, though it's still wise to practice good sun protection.
This article was originally written by Now to Love editors. For more, check out our sister site, Now to Love.