Published by Bupa’s Health Information Team, November 2011.
Everyone gets tired at times – maybe you’ve had too many late nights or been busy at work. Although for most people this usually passes after some relaxation and a good night’s sleep, it’s possible for tiredness to become a long-term problem that can severely affect your work and quality of life.
You may have trouble concentrating, have less energy than usual, find it difficult to make decisions, or feel less motivated and sleepy during the day – all of which can affect your productivity at work.
Good lifestyle habits, such as eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly, usually help combat tiredness. However, if your tiredness persists, you may decide to see your GP. Anxiety, depression and sleep problems are just some of the many conditions that may cause tiredness.
Although caffeine can give you a quick boost, it can make you feel more tired in the long term and affect your sleep. Try not to drink caffeine close to bedtime and aim for no more than three to four cups a day. Remember caffeine is also in some teas and soft drinks.
It can be hard to fight the temptation of drinking lots of tea and coffee at work. Try replacing caffeinated drinks with water or bring in your own caffeine-free tea bags or a bottle of cordial to drink instead.
Mild dehydration can also cause tiredness so keep a glass of water on your desk and carry a bottle of water with you as you travel to and from work.
Alcohol can also affect your sleep making you feel more tired than usual. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two to three units for women and three to four units for men each day.
It may sound simple but eating a healthy, balanced diet can help maintain your energy levels and prevent you from feeling tired at work.
Try to have regular meals throughout the day as skipping meals, especially breakfast, can lead to low blood sugar and tiredness. Have some fruit or nuts to nibble on at your desk as and bring these foods to meetings instead of biscuits. Sugary foods can give you an immediate boost of energy, but this wears off quickly leaving you feeling tired and low. Instead try foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrain cereals that release energy slowly throughout the day.
Instead of bringing in cakes and sweets for colleagues’ birthdays and leaving gestures, bring in healthier options such as carrot sticks, crackers and low-fat dips. Make your own lunches and bring them into work so you’re not tempted by unhealthy options in the cafeteria. It’s also worthwhile checking food labels to make sure you’re choosing the healthier options.
How much, or how little, activity you do can also affect how tired you feel. Aim to do some physical activity every day. It’s recommended that adults do 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Exercise produces chemicals in your brain called endorphins that make you feel good – this can improve your mood and make you feel less tired.
Get yourself a pedometer and aim to achieve 10,000 steps each day. Make the most of your lunch break – get out of the office and power walk to the beat of a good song. Take the stairs instead of the lift and walk over to speak to a colleague instead of emailing. If you use public transport, get off a few stops earlier and walk into work or back home. Why not try some exercise classes, go swimming or play tennis or badminton with a colleague or friend.
Poor sleep can be a common cause of tiredness. Try to go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Make sure your bedroom is quiet and a comfortable temperature. A good mattress and a regular bedtime routine – giving yourself plenty of time to relax and wind down – can also help. Don’t nap during the day and try not to exercise too close to bedtime as it can make you feel invigorated and more awake.
Plan your day and week so you don’t have really busy, tiring days. Try breaking up your workload and household chores into small bits to do each day. Aim to fit in some exercise and plan your meals to make sure you’re eating healthily. Try to fit in some time for yourself to relax and wind down – enjoy a warm bath, go for a walk or read a book.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the About our Health Information page.
Publication date: November 2011