More than one-third of Americans sleep fewer than seven hours a night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that can mess with your ability to function the next day. In fact, a National Sleep Foundation poll found 45 percent of Americans said a bad night’s sleep got in the way of their daily activities at least once in the past week.
Not logging enough zzzs has negative side effects that go beyond just making you feel sluggish. People who regularly miss out on sleep are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, obesity, hypertension and depression. They also have a decreased quality of life and productivity and increased chances of making errors at work and on the road.
Poor sleep has also been linked to weight gain because sleep deprivation messes with hunger hormones, so you end up hungrier and more likely to reach for fatty and sugary foods, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Of course, there are some days when getting seven-plus hours of sleep just isn’t possible. That’s when you should reach for energy-boosting foods to help you get through the day, starting with these five.
1. Whole grains
B vitamins are key to helping the body convert food into fuel, which translates to more energy for you, Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, founder of BZ Nutrition, told Fox News. Having low levels of B vitamins, a common side effect if you hit happy hour too hard, can also make it tough to concentrate and put you in a bad mood, she said. So where can you find B vitamins? Whole grains. Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, founder of The Well Necessities Nutrition, suggested replacing your go-to cereal breakfast with quinoa porridge for long-lasting energy rather than a quick burst. “Regular cereals are pumped with sugar and contain no protein,” she said. “Quinoa, on the other hand, is a naturally gluten-free grain that is packed with protein for sustained energy.”
Eggs — specifically egg yolks — are also loaded with B vitamins, Hayim said. Plus, they’re packed with protein, which helps keep your energy levels up. “They will help you stay energized and focused for hours,” Zeitlin said. Prepare your eggs however you’d like, and for a double boost, enjoy them on top of a slice of whole wheat toast so you incorporate whole grains, too, Zeitlin suggested.
This is technically not a food, but “when you’re feeling sluggish after a rough night, staying hydrated and well fueled can really help get you through the day,” Zeitlin said. It’s a much better option than sugar-packed soda, lattes and energy drinks. “Those give you a false sense of energy, but ultimately leave you nursing a sugar crash and feeling even more drained and fatigued than before,” Zeitlin said. Shoot for 10 to 12 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and load up on water-packed veggies, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, Hayim said.
4. Almonds (or almond butter)
Zeitlin recommended incorporating raw almonds or almond butter into your afternoon snack. “They are a good source of protein and fiber that will stabilize your blood sugar and keep your energy levels up and steady,” she said. Eat a handful of almonds with an apple or top your apple slices with 2 tablespoons of almond butter.
“Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help elevate your energy, boost your mood, combat anxiety, and improve focus and cognition,” Zeitlin said. That’s exactly what you need if you’re looking to make it through an afternoon that’s jam-packed with meetings. Add salmon to a spinach salad at lunch to tap into the benefits, Zeitlin suggested.