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May 2, 2012

Get More Sleep & Energy

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PART 2: BOOST ENERGY

Maybe those eight hours just didn't happen. Or maybe it's 3 p.m., you've hit a wall, and your brain is being lulled by an infusion of melatonin, the sleeping hormone naturally released in small amounts in the afternoon (and in large amounts at night). Whatever the case may be, these fast fixes will cure your afternoon energy crisis.

Smell the coffee and wake up. Literally. A Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia, study reports that subjects exposed to the scent of coffee scored better on mental alertness tests than those exposed to no scent. It could be that a small amount of the volatile substance enters the bloodstream, or that the expectation of what coffee does for us primes the brain to act more awake. Sniffing a box of chocolates also makes us snap to attention. Subjects who sniffed it while working out ran faster, did more reps, and generally felt less tired, says the study.

Get some fresh air. According to a University of Rochester, New York, study, being in nature boosts energy levels. "Nature is fuel for the soul," says author and psychology professor Richard Ryan, Ph.D. Even seeing nature in pictures gave subjects a surge.

Breathe aggressively. Deep, meditative breaths will calm, but if it's a quick boost you're looking for, try what Kundalini yogis call "breath of fire": Sit with arms stretched upward and mouth closed, inhale through your nose as your navel moves outward, then exhale through your nose as you pull your navel inward. Repeat quickly and vigorously, keeping your body still, except for your navel, for one minute. While it's unclear why the exercise is so stimulating, scientists believe it could be that it works out the respiratory muscles.

Eat complex carbs. Any carbohydrate will break into glucose and provide energy to the brain, but high-fiber choices like whole-grain crackers or fruit will provide a sustained energy source without the crash you get from junk food. Even better: Add almonds, which contain a high level of blood-flow-enhancing arginine.

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