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Boost Your Energy

(No Caffeine required!)

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It's three o'clock in the afternoon. You slump at your desk, struggling to keep your eyes open and avoid yawning in front of the boss. But with some simple steps, you can not only feel more energized during the afternoon slump, but also throughout the entire day.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but getting good sleep is essential to feeling energized. According to pulmonologist Dr. Stephen Layne, medical director of East Jefferson General Hospital's Sleep Disorders Program, there are some basic steps you can take to get a more restful night of sleep. "Keep to a sleep schedule," he says. "Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and sex. Keep your bedroom cool, which is more conducive to sleep than a warm room, and sleep in complete darkness, or as close as possible."

If you didn't get enough sleep during the night, take a short nap the next day. You'll be better able to concentrate afterwards and retain more of what you learned before. But don't overdo it. "Don't nap more than 15 minutes or you'll start going into a deeper sleep, making it harder to wake up and to fall asleep that evening," Layne says.

If you don't think your boss will approve of a nap, meditate. Even taking a few minutes to close your eyes, breathe deeply and think about a pleasant image can help you perk up.

'Diet is a major factor in our energy level," says Emily Sturgis, a nutritionist and EJGH Outpatient Clinical Dietitian. "One of the most important things you can do each day is start with a healthy breakfast of carbohydrates, fat and protein. The carbohydrates give you initial energy, the protein keeps your energy up and the fat makes it last." Eat more protein and limit your sugar, opting for whole grains. This keeps your blood sugar, and subsequently your energy, more constant. Some good energy foods to grab for an afternoon snack are citrus fruits, beans, trail mix and dark berry juice, such as grape, pomegranate or cherry.

Too much caffeine is a major culprit in feeling fatigued. Although we initially feel a boost, as with sugar, our energy level quickly drops, or "crashes" after the effect wears off. For more sustained energy, substitute that afternoon cup of coffee with a cup of tea or a low-fat latte. White tea is the best. It contains the highest level of antioxidants and a low level of caffeine. It also has been shown to stimulate brain waves, improving alertness, yet it is calming at the same time. A low-fat latte beats coffee as well. The milk contains energy-boosting protein. Lowering your afternoon caffeine intake also will contribute to a better night's sleep.

'Many people don't realize that dehydration can cause fatigue," Sturgis says. "Stay well hydrated by drinking enough water and cutting back on alcohol, especially in the late evenings, where it can contribute not only to dehydration but also to disrupted sleep."

Another key factor in boosting your energy is exercise. Contrary to how it may seem, exercise actually increases your energy level instead of depleting it.

'If you're feeling sluggish in the afternoon, take a walk," says Mary Ann Dankert, director of the EJGH Wellness Center. "A brisk 10-minute walk will lift your energy level and help keep it up for the next couple of hours. Finish exercise or other stimulating activities an hour to two before bedtime to give yourself time to unwind."

If you are taking these steps and still feel tired on a regular basis, you may have a thyroid problem or anemia and should contact your doctor to perform a blood test to rule out these or more serious conditions.

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