It is the number one complaint among Americans: “I’m tired”. Getting your 8 hours every night is vital to your health, but it seems as if that sleepy feeling always tends to come at the wrong time. No matter what time of day, no matter how many cups of coffee you drink, it seems almost impossible to dodge your drowsiness.
While you typically blame lack of sleep, busy days or endless responsibilities, your hectic life might not always be to blame for your day to day exhaustion.
Instead, consider whether your food choices are making you feel sluggish. While you eat foods to nourish yourself, certain foods have the ability to slow you down which during the daytime is not desired, but can be preferred in the evening, especially for those who suffer with insomnia.
The following are 6 energy-draining foods that make you tired mid-day, along with 4 foods that are natural sleep aids to jump start your beauty sleep in the evening.
Stop the Snooze
1. Red meat
The reason why these foods give you that tired feeling is because it requires your body to work hard to break them down. Therefore, after you eat a burger or a steak, all of your body’s energy is focused on digesting that food.
Pick yourself back up by choosing poultry or fish that contains omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Research has supported omega 3’s role in brain function and focus, which is definitely something you could use after your lunch break!
This one may surprise you because coffee is what you might turn to for a morning boost. Although coffee does act as a stimulant, it will only give you a short term burst of alertness. Eventually, close to 2 hours after that one cup of coffee, the caffeine wears off and you “crash”.
In order to get the most out of your morning cup of coffee, keep to 200-300 milligrams of caffeine, which translates to a little over an 8 ounce cup. You can also avoid the crash by consuming small frequent amounts, rather than a single large serving in the morning.
Though you may have gotten into the habit of turning to caffeine for your morning “pick-me-up”, the best energy fix to start your day is a wholesome breakfast.
3. White bread
This doesn’t only mean white bread, but all refined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in the form of foods like white bread or white rice have what is known as a high glycemic index.
High glycemic carbohydrates result in a rapid spike in blood sugar and break down quickly. Whole grain breads and brown rice on the other hand are loaded with fiber and will take longer for your body to digest, giving you hours of lasting energy.
Foods high in sugar such as cakes, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream and candy are total energy zappers. Foods like this are loaded with refined sugar and cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar, which signal your cells to release insulin. When insulin is released, the concentration in the blood of many amino acids is reduced, except tryptophan.
The tryptophan is then more easily able to pass into the brain and is converted into serotonin, a hormone that gives you that sleepy feeling. So, you get that “rush” and then that “crash”. Think about making a healthier choice the next time you reach for the doughnut at the coffee shop.
Sweets are especially energy-draining when eaten for breakfast, so look for something with whole grains and lean protein to start your morning.
5. Fried food
Fried food has a similar effect on your body as red meat does. Foods that are fried are loaded with fat and oils, which require a lot of energy to process and digest. Choose foods that are baked, grilled, boiled or steamed so that all of the nutrients in your food aren’t masked with unhealthy fats.
There are two reasons why drinking soda and other sugar sweetened beverages contribute to that sluggish feeling.
For one, the high sugar content combined with the caffeine gives you that rapid burst of energy followed by that “crash” feeling I spoke about earlier.
Second, if you are drinking soda throughout the day, you are likely not drinking water and are possibly dehydrating yourself, especially if the soda is caffeinated. Choosing water over sugary beverages is one of the best choices you can make to better your health.
Bring on the sleep
Research has shown that this sweet tiny fruit works as a natural sleep aid due to its high melatonin content. While a lot of people like to pack cherries as a mid-day snack, try snacking on a portion of cherries in the early evening. They’re sweet, juicy and will help you to relax!
The banana is the perfect late night snack to help relax your body before bedtime. Bananas contain magnesium and potassium which are both muscle relaxants. Also, bananas are abundant in vitamin B6, which helps produce tryptophan in the body.
Tryptophan then gets converted into serotonin, a popular sleep hormone. Get creative with bananas by spreading on some peanut butter and topping with dark chocolate chips to satisfy that late night sweet tooth!
3. Herbal teas
Herbal teas are known to be the perfect bedtime drink. The herbs help to calm you and the warm water and aroma is soothing and relaxing for both your mind and body.
These kinds of teas are commonly used in therapy and medicine as cures for anxiety and insomnia. Brew up a cup of Chamomile or Passion Flower tea the next time you are having difficulty falling asleep.
Not all nuts are created equal. Almonds provide you with tryptophan and magnesium which decrease muscle and nerve function and steady your heartbeat to help calm your body late at night. Just a handful will do the trick!
If any of the first 6 foods show up in your day-to-day food choices, it might be a good idea to remove it from your diet for a few days and see how you feel. If this is a food you love, but it is contributing to your drowsiness you don’t have to forbid yourself from eating it altogether. Instead, eat this food on a more moderate basis and at a later part of the day, when you are home and sleepiness isn’t much of a problem.
However, if you find that you don’t eat any of these foods too frequently, you may want to take a look at the amount of food you are eating at each meal. Eating too much food in one sitting can put you into a so called “food coma”, a feeling we commonly feel after a holiday dinner.
On the other hand, if you are looking to get a better night sleep, cherries, bananas, herbal teas and almonds are all natural sleep aids for you to try!