Mitchell L. Gaynor M.D.

Your Genetic Destiny

How to Focus Better

After a night of poor sleep, do you find it harder to concentrate?

Posted Aug 17, 2015

Mitchell Gaynor, M.D.
Source: Mitchell Gaynor, M.D.

After a night of poor sleep, do you find it harder to concentrate? Maybe you ask a person a question but can't make your brain pay attention to the answer. Or perhaps you find yourself reading the same paragraph in an email over and over again. Or maybe it takes you a long time to react to a traffic light that's changing to green, and the cars behind you start honking. 

Not getting enough zzz's will do that to you. But there may be more to it than that.

Ask yourself: When you stay up until the wee hours, do you also find yourself getting the midnight munchies? A new study suggests that late-night binging—which usually results in eating 500 extra calories—can make you even foggier the next day. But fasting between dinner and breakfast, on the other hand, can help you think more clearly.

For this small study, which was presented this past June at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Seattle, Washington, 44 adults between the ages of 21 and 50 volunteered to take part.

Participants were given access to an unlimited amount of food and beverages for three days and were allowed to sleep only four hours per night. On the fourth night, half the participants continued chowing down on as much food as they wanted, while the rest had just water between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. (when they went to sleep).

At 2:00 a.m. each night, researchers administered tests to measure memory, thinking skills, sleepiness, stress, and mood. On the fourth night, the people in the study who had fasted had fewer lapses in attention and faster reaction times, compared with those who kept eating late into the night.

The moral of the story: The next time you experience insomnia or need to stay up late to finish something, try not to eat after 10:00 p.m., because snacking is likely to slow down your brain function even more the next day. (It's also likely to make you pack on extra pounds, which can trigger other health issues, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more.)

Part of the problem might be that your dinner isn't filling enough and your blood sugar may be spiking and then crashing. So make sure that your last meal of the day is filled with unsaturated ("good") fats, protein, and fiber (think complex carbs, not refined carbs)—all of which will help keep you satiated until morning. Need some inspiration? Check out the following quick, easy, and nutritious dinner ideas.

Broiled Snapper with Lime

Serves 4


1 lime, peeled and cut into 8 slices

4 snapper fillets, about 1 pound

2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil

1 tablespoon spicy sesame oil


In a flameproof baking dish, arrange 4 groups of 2 lime slices each.

Place one snapper fillet on each pair of lime slices.

Combine pumpkin seed and sesame oils; mix to blend well.

Spread a generous 2 teaspoons over each fish fillet.

Preheat broiler.

Broil fish 4-6 inches from heat, 5 minutes until fish is brown.

Broiled Flounder with Sauteed Red Pepper and Quinoa

Serves 3 to 4


1 cup quinoa

2 red peppers, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 skinless, boneless flounder fillets

2 tablespoons ghee butter

kosher salt and black pepper.


Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse quinoa thoroughly.

Transfer to a sauce pan with 2 cups of water and cover.  

Over high heat bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat a skillet, gently warm olive oil, and sauté peppers, sprinkling with salt and pepper.  Stir into quinoa and set aside.

Preheat broiler at high heat.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over fillets. Heat butter in a saucepan and add over fish. Broil until fillets flake easily with a fork.

Serve the flounder on a bed of quinoa and peppers.

Coconut Curry Chicken

Serves 4


1 10-ounce box (1 1/2 cups) couscous

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 13 1/2 ounce can coconut milk

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon allspice

Olive oil


Cook the couscous following the package instructions.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan.

Add curry powder and stir for 1 minute.

Add coconut milk and cook until liquid is reduced by half the amount.

Cut chicken breasts into thin strips.

In a large, heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the strips, allspice, salt and pepper.

Once chicken is cooked pour the coconut curry sauce and stir.

And don't forget to drink lots of water during dinner, which will keep you hydrated and also help you feel full. "Enhanced" water contains vitamins and minerals, but you're probably already getting them through your diet. Tap water is the best, although installing a reverse osmosis water filter is a good idea if there is concern about your water quality.

Having a small bowl of fruit—which contains a lot of water—is a great option for dessert after dinner that will satisfy your sweet tooth, rather than reaching for something that's full of added sugar and/or saturated fat, such as cookies, cakes, doughnuts, or ice cream.

You'll find even more healthy meal ideas in my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan, which is available to purchase at all major retailers.