If you haven’t been waking up so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed lately, you might be looking for ways to boost your energy in the morning. And you’re not alone: The Sleep Foundation reports that 50-70 million adults in U.S. have a sleep disorder—and how you sleep impacts how you wake up. “Sleep plays an integral role in health,” says the American Sleep Foundation (ASA). “A good night’s sleep empowers the body to recover and lets you wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.”
The good news? Getting a morning boost could be as easy as popping a pill. Here are seven science-backed supplements that may help provide the extra help you need to get going when you wake up.
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“Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that is known to help stimulate the brain and improve energy levels,” advises Daniel Powers, MS, founder of The Botanical Institute. He describes it as “an ideal supplement to take early in the morning when you need an extra pick-me-up.”
“Studies have shown that rhodiola can be used to reduce stress, combat fatigue, increase mental performance and improve physical and mental fitness and resilience,” Powers says.
People usually think of melatonin when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, but addressing sleep problems can lead to increased energy simply because you’re finally getting the rest you need.
Our bodies produce melatonin on their own, but using a melatonin supplement may effectively address insomnia, which affects an estimated 30 percent of people worldwide, says Healthline. “Chronic insomnia can make you constantly tired and low on energy,” says the site, adding that “for people with chronic fatigue syndrome, melatonin supplements have been shown to improve concentration and energy while reducing fatigue.”
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Bill Glaser, CEO of Outstanding Foods, explains that vitamin B12 helps your body regulate that all-important melatonin. “We can’t naturally produce vitamin B12, but it’s found in many animal products such as clams, beef, and eggs, [and] affects red blood cell formation, supports bone health, and improves mood by metabolizing serotonin,” he says. “With the recommended daily consumption through foods and supplements (when approved by your doctor), vitamin B12 can improve your sleep cycles and help you wake up more energized.”
According to Healthline, “Ashwagandha is one of the most important medicinal herbs in Indian Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems.” The site notes that ashwagandha is thought to boost energy by strengthening your body’s response to both physical and mental stress.
“In one study, people given ashwagandha showed significant improvements in several measures of stress and anxiety, compared to those given a placebo,” Healthline says. “They also had 28 percent lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that increases in response to stress.” The site also reports that research has shown ashwagandha supplements to be “safe [with] a low risk of side effects.”
Java fans, rejoice! “Coffee is far and away the best ‘supplement’ to wake you up in the morning,” says sleep expert and researcher Jeff Kahn, who explains that coffee blocks adenosine receptors in the brain.
“Adenosine is the drowsiness chemical that builds as we’re awake during the day and clears at night, so long as we get sufficient sleep,” he says. “There is lingering adenosine in the morning, especially if you’re sleep deprived. Coffee can temporarily mask this drowsiness.” Just make sure you’re consuming an appropriate amount, and that your caffeine habit is helping and not actually hurting your sleep habits.
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If starting your day with a cup of joe doesn’t appeal to you, there’s always green tea. “For centuries, people have been drinking green tea, not only for the health benefits, but also because it’s an excellent source of caffeine,” says Rachel Scott, Co-Founder and Medical Practitioner of National TASC LLC. “Green tea can boost your alertness immediately, helping you wake up in the morning.”
If you don’t have time to brew up a cup, Scott recommends taking a green tea supplement. “The good thing about green tea’s caffeine is that it is released at a constant and slower pace as compared to coffee, so you won’t experience an energy crash,” she adds.
Natural sunlight is “necessary in the morning to strengthen the circadian alerting signals that are your real source of daily energy,” says Kahn. Barring that, vitamin D supplements are an option. “It’s called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because your skin makes it when you’re exposed to the sun’s UV rays,” explains WebMD, noting that vitamin D can also be found in foods such as fatty fish and egg yolks.
“If you have low levels of vitamin D, it can affect your bone health, increase the risk for certain illnesses, and cause muscle pain and weakness,” says the site, which also warns people to consult with their doctor about any possible vitamin deficiencies, as well as dosage supplements. “Supplements may interact with certain drugs like statins (taken for cholesterol), and steroids,” WebMD warns. “Too much vitamin D can also be toxic for your body.”