I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Five "Energy Boosters" That Aren't

Last week, I posted about quick energy boosters for times when you’re superbusy, skimping on sleep, and running low on energy. When your energy starts sinking, it can be tough to right the ship. One big reason: lots of energy boosters are actually energy drains in disguise.

Sugary Snacks

Sugar seems like the fastest route to an energy boost—but like many supposed energy-boosters, it’s actually an energy drain. In a well-known study, California State University-Long Beach professor Robert Thayer, Ph.D. had 18 people either eat a candy bar or take a brisk 10-minute walk. He found that a brisk walk boosted energy for two hours, while the sweet treat left participants feeling more tired an hour later. For energy that lasts, try swapping sugary snacks for nuts, dried fruit, or yogurt.


If you start the day with a big cup of java, beware: the added energy it gives you isn’t free. The National Sleep Foundation reports that overdoing caffeine can lead to an energy crash when its stimulating effects start to wear off 6-8 hours later. So a 6 a.m. jolt of caffeine could contribute to the dreaded 2 p.m. mega-slump. Go halfsies in caffeine by requsting a "half decaf" latte, or drink tea instead.


When you’re overwhelmed with work or family commitments, a night out with friends (or ANYthing out of the house) sounds like a great energy boost. But it might leave you more stressed and distracted, especially if you tend to absorb the energy and social cues of everyone around you and get overinvolved in draining conversations. I don’t advocate closing yourself off from the world, because a well-chosen social engagement can boost your energy. But other commitments can leave you drained and distracted, so when your energy is running low, don’t feel obligated to be a social butterfly. Cut social commitments that don’t bring you joy, and watch your energy swell. (Here’s a great post by Sophia Dembling at PsychologyToday.com on “Plugging Energy Drains” by saying no social pressure.) 

Social Media

Social media is many things—fun, engaging, expansive—but when you’re scraping the bottom of the energy barrel, it’s not the best place to be. Social media are every bit as draining as in-person social interactions, times 100: In a single page view, you have dozens of people complaining, asking for help, requesting your opinion, gloating about their own accomplishments, and generally fighting for your eyeballs. How can that not be draining? If it’s an energy boost you’re after, try directing your browser elsewhere—a 5-minute inbox sweep or a quick peek at a news website or blog gives you a feeling of connectedness with the outside world, without the eye-popping energy suck.

Ignoring the Mess

When energy and time are scarce, it’s easy to let clutter build up and chaos reign in order to devote precious minutes elsewhere. But clutter saps your energy and sours your mood. If a whole-house scrubdown is out of the question right now, aim to conquer one corner of your space each day. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and blast through it—you’ll get a mini-buzz of accomplishment to fuel the rest of your day.

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