6 foods to fight sleep deprivation
A crying baby, a snoring partner or a racing mind; the reason doesn’t matter, at some point we’ve all been the victim of a bad night’s sleep and struggled with sleep deprivation.
But how can diet make a difference? Well, food is your body’s main source of fuel after all! With this in mind, I’m taking a look at 6 of my favourite energy-boosting ingredients that can help you to recover from a night of poor sleep, including:
- Veg and hummus
- Nuts and seeds
- Green tea
I'll take a look at the health benefits of each of these foods and offer advice on how to incorporate them into your diet. Plus, I give my top tips on how to get a better night's sleep and include a handy remedy to help you sleep.
If you wake up feeling groggy, woolly-headed and unable to bear the thought of parting from your pillow then breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day for you. The only thing worse than sleep deprivation is being sleep deprived and having fluctuating blood sugar levels at the same time.
A ‘sugar crash’ is hard enough to deal with at the best of times – hello 3pm afternoon slump! If you’re feeling sleep-deprived, you’re going to be craving sugar to keep your body fuelled. The best antidote to this craving is the right balance of protein and fats, and eggs are the perfect breakfast option in this case.
Not only will the fat and protein ratio in eggs help to keep your blood sugar levels nice and steady, but studies have found that leucine, an amino acid contained in eggs, can help to encourage the metabolism of energy from your food, making you feel more invigorated and awake.1 Next time you have a bad night’s sleep, why not sit down to some poached eggs on toast the next morning?
2. Veg and hummus
Remember that 3pm slump I just mentioned? This often occurs in the afternoon as your blood sugar levels start to dip following your lunch. When this happens, you’ll find the temptation for sugar to be at its worst and you’ll likely find yourself desperate for a biscuit, chocolate bar or packet of crisps.
Veg and hummus can help to counteract this – this might not sound like the most tempting snack but it actually can be pretty effective at curbing cravings. There is some evidence to support the idea that crunchy snacks can actually satisfy you quicker due to the association between sound and taste.2 This might explain why crisps, popcorn and other loud snacks are so popular!
Raw veg with a side of hummus can provide this crunch in addition to plenty of protein and a range of energy-boosting nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, iron and magnesium. Why not check out this delicious recipe for protein-packed chickpea and lentil hummus if you need any more convincing?
3. Nuts and seeds
Speaking of snacks, nuts and seeds are another good option if you’re looking for something to satisfy your hunger pangs without draining your energy levels. Similar to eggs, these offer an excellent balance of healthy fats and protein without the worry of sugar – almonds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds are some of my special favourites.
Of course, chia seeds have an amazing reputation when it comes to maintaining healthy energy levels, being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. Almonds, on the other hand, provide plenty of protein, magnesium and vitamin E, whilst pumpkin seeds are rich in immune-boosting zinc and iron. Of course, eating nuts and seeds on their own isn’t for everyone but thankfully you can easily incorporate them into bakes – just take a look at these delicious, supercharged Cinnamon and Chia Seed Energy Balls.
4. Green tea
Coffee is probably your beverage of choice when you find yourself yawning at your desk but this milky (often sugary!) drink can actually do more damage than good when it comes to your sleep. That’s why I often recommend sticking to a more natural option such as green tea.
Green tea has been the drink of choice in Asia for centuries but more recently the West has finally caught up with its benefits. Not only is green tea incredibly rich in antioxidants, it also contains caffeine.
Yes, the same stuff that’s found in coffee! However, the caffeine contained in green tea is moderated by an amino acid called L-theanine, which actually has a calming effect and aids concentration. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can just go and gulp down all the green tea you want without any repercussions but, overall, it’s a more nourishing alternative.
If you find yourself seeking a sugar hit, why not opt for a natural source instead? Fruit is supposed to be the main source of sugar in our diets, but all too often we’re reaching for refined sources that don’t offer us the same benefits. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries all contain natural sugars but they’re also chockfull of fantastic nutrients too!
It’s these nutrients that can go a long way towards fighting those sleepy symptoms – blueberries, for example, are particularly rich in antioxidant polyphenols; whilst raspberries may help to increase your levels of the satiety hormone, leptin.3 Even strawberries are thought to help balance blood sugar levels!
It also helps that berries are super easy to incorporate into your diet – you can drizzle them on top of your cereal in the morning, work them into salads or even serve with some natural yoghurt!
I started this list with a suggestion for a fatigue-fighting breakfast so it only seems right that I finish this list with one. Porridge is a staple in most health food lists and for good reason – oats are an excellent source of fibre that can help to balance your blood sugar levels and support your digestive functions.
Unlike many breakfast options, porridge also supplies a slow, steady release of energy to keep you going through the day rather than a quick hit that rapidly wears off.
Porridge also offers plenty of B vitamins which can help to give your energy levels a boost, plus a good amount of magnesium, an essential mineral when it comes to supporting your mood, muscles, joints and metabolism! There’s plenty of different ways to make porridge – you can serve it with berries and nuts or even add some cinnamon for a slightly sweeter, spicier flavour.
What can you do if you're struggling to sleep?
So, I've covered my top energy-boosting foods for those days when you've had a poor night's sleep and need some help from your diet.
But, what can you do if you regularly struggle to sleep? Below I've listed some of my top tips for a better night's sleep:
- Avoid looking at phone/tablet/laptop/TV screens for at least an hour before bed. Glaring blue light from these devices can disrupt your production of sleep hormones and make it harder to get a good night's sleep.
- If you've been tossing and turning for more than 20 minutes, get up and move to another room for a few minutes or else you might start to associate your bed with negative emotions like stress.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness. Try listening to a sleep podcast or using an audio platform like Calm.
- Try herbal remedies to calm your mind and help you drift off to sleep. Dormeasan is a herbal sleep remedy made from extracts of freshly harvested Valerian root and Hops.
Originally written on 11th January 2019, updated on 19th February 2020.