June 17, 2024

While diet and exercise are often the focus when making healthy changes, the importance of sleep should not be underestimated. Not only is catching enough shut-eye important for feeling energized and focused, but it’s also crucial for healthy immunity, heart health, glowing skin and weight stabilization.

If you find that you consistently don’t get enough sleep, it’s important to evaluate your sleep habits. Do you have a bedtime routine? Are you sleeping in total darkness? Are you making sure you’re leaving enough time between eating and sleeping? Persistent fatigue warrants a visit to your healthcare practitioner.

But for the occasional bad night’s sleep, there are foods and drinks that can help give you a boost until you’re able to get the rest you need. Here are the dietitian-recommended foods to eat and drink when you don’t get enough sleep and need to power through your day.


Water is far and away the most important drink when you’re short on sleep. Dehydration can lead to not-so-pleasant side effects like overeating, moodiness and headaches, which can be especially draining if you’re lacking sleep. Staying hydrated will help you feel energized in the short and long term. It is also important for your brain, skin, heart and more. Carry a water bottle with you to make it easy to sip throughout the day.

Coffee and Tea

Even though drinking enough water is super important, there is nothing wrong with having a moderate amount of caffeine—and it might help you focus better when you’re sleep deprived. According to a 2020 review in Neuropsychopharmacology, sleep deprivation negatively affects what’s called vigilant attention—the ability to maintain focus over time. But a 2021 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition suggests that caffeine can improve vigilant attention—which important for work, studying, driving and more.

There are also some impressive health benefits from drinking coffee and tea. Beyond boosting mood and increasing alertness, compounds in coffee may even improve heart health, brain health, diabetes and more. Tea contains compounds that, when regularly consumed, may decrease stroke and cancer risk and also, when un-caffeinated, can improve sleep in the long term. Whether it’s a caffeinated tea or coffee to give you a boost midday, or a decaffeinated herbal tea to wind down at night, these drinks can help you get through tired days.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great option for sustained energy when you hit an afternoon lull. They are packed with healthy fats, protein and fiber to help you feel satisfied and full for longer. Not only that but nuts, like walnuts, and seeds, like chia seeds and flaxseeds, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids—in particular the omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid or ALA. A 2022 study in Frontiers in Public Health suggests that ALA may help regulate sleep.

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Fiber-Rich Foods

There are several reasons why fiber is great for sleep. Fiber helps keep blood sugar steady for longer periods of time, so you can avoid the spikes and crashes that send energy levels on a roller coaster. Eating enough fiber may also improve the quality of sleep, per a 2023 study in Annals of Medicine, so it might help you make up for a previous not-so-restful night. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are packed with healthy fiber, as are seeds.

See More: 15 High-Fiber Meals You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less


Eggs are a great food to help keep you energized on sleepy days. The protein in eggs helps stabilize blood sugar, which means it won’t spike and crash, leaving you “hangry” and more tired. Combining protein with carbs—say, eggs with whole grain toast and fruit—help provide steady energy.

Eggs are also a great source of vitamin B12, which helps our cells metabolize energy and function at their best. Protein is especially important on days you don’t get enough sleep, so having our Easy Loaded Baked Omelet Muffins for breakfast or Shakshuka for dinner can help you keep fatigue at bay.

Calcium-Rich Foods

Foods like dairy, soybeans, sardines and leafy greens are worthwhile additions to your plate for when you need an energy boost. Not only are they high in protein to keep you feeling fueled, but they are also packed with calcium. Research suggests that not having enough calcium in your day-to-day can make it challenging to get quality sleep. For example, a 2023 review in Advances in Nutrition notes that dairy foods contain tryptophan, which is needed for your body to make serotonin and melatonin, two necessary chemicals for falling asleep and staying asleep.

Coenzyme Q10-Rich Foods

Not getting enough iron can lead to general fatigue and even anemia in the long term. Iron is the main nutrient that delivers oxygen throughout our bodies. If you don’t have enough iron in your blood, oxygen might not be able to get where it needs to go, resulting in a lack of energy. To help you feel energized on a regular basis, make sure to include iron-rich foods like spinach, kale, red meat and clams in your meals and snacks.

For fatigue due to a sleepless night, clams in particular are also rich in energy-boosting nutrients like vitamin B12 and coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 or coQ10, has been shown to reduce fatigue, according to a 2022 review in Frontiers in Pharmacology. You’ll also find coQ10 in foods such as meat and organ meat, fatty fish—like mackerel, trout and sardines—soybeans and vegetables. Broccoli is among the higher coQ10-containing veggies. Fatty fish also contain the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which also help promote restful sleep, per a 2022 study in Sleep Health.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is super important for short and long-term health and wellness. And while you can’t eat or drink your way out of not getting enough sleep, there are foods that can help you stay energized and focused on the days following sleepless nights—and help set you up for more restful sleep the next time your head hits the pillow.


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