Categories
Focus Productivity Staying Awake Tiredness

Are You Microsleeping Away Your Productivity?

Are You Microsleeping Away Your Productivity Levels?

Make micropayments back to yourself…

For a long period of my life I felt that I wasn’t performing at my best. Things that should have taken a relatively short amount of time were regularly taking me double the time I’d planned for them.

I started putting more effort into better planning and getting things done, but although at first it seemed to be working, my gains would soon stall and I’d be back to struggling to complete my tasks on time.

The answer finally came to me when I was being told by my boss that I needed to stop nodding off and pull myself together.

I had read about microsleep a few years prior and now realized that it was a big component in my lack of productivity.

Sleepy cat
Photo by Wes Hicks @sickhews on Unsplash

What Is Microsleep?

Microsleep as the name suggests, is a short burst of sleep, usually lasting from between a fraction of a second and 30 seconds.

Just like normal sleep, you will be unaware of what is going on around you, and consciousness can shift in waves between being awake and unawake.

Tell tail signs of microsleep are head nodding, drooping eyelids and slow eyelid-closures.

Microsleep is usually the result of sleep deprivation or participating in monotonous tasks.

The Effects of Microsleep

It is a well-established fact that sleep restriction and deprivation decrease performance. Lack of sleep makes you feel sleepy.

This can cause sudden bursts of sleep, and even if you can manage to stay awake, reduce cognitive performance.

Reduced cognitive performance affects your productivity by:

  • Reducing your ability to pay continuous, sustained attention.
  • Slows down your reaction time and increases the amount of errors you make.
  • Decreases your ability to learn and form memories.
  • And significantly affects your ability to plan and coordinate your actions effectively.

Overcoming Microsleep

Once I realized that this was my problem it made it easier to adjust and take positive steps to correcting behaviors that were making my productivity problem worse.

  • I planned my days and weeks around my sleep and not the other way around. 

    At first this meant not staying late at work, and getting more sleep. As things progressed for the better I changed to going to sleep in tune with my body’s circadian rhythm whenever I could. 

    This allowed for me to stay late at work, but not so late as to make me miss my sleeping schedule. Research showed that it would be best to get to bed between 9pm and 10pm, and wake up around 7am.
  • I limited the amount of time I spent in “hectic, heavy workload” mode. 

    As work or study life is not so straight forward, I made room for heavy workload periods and tried to limit them to 2-3 week sprints. 

    During those sprints I would sleep longer during a Saturday evening – Sunday morning to catch up on sleep that I may have missed and also to recover and prepare for the next week ahead. 

    At the end of the sprint I would catch up on sleep and relaxation for a few days.
  • Whilst working, I monitored myself for signs of tiredness and took short breaks or naps when I could.

    When I first tried this I had to watch my thoughts and see if my mind was wandering. This let me know that I may be about to fall asleep. But sometimes I felt my head nodding, or actually felt like I was asleep!

    A more accurate way to see if I was tired or about to fall asleep was to use a tiredness monitor called V-CAF. It’s an Apple Watch app that vibrates both your iPhone and Apple Watch when you are tired or about to fall asleep.

    The iPhone part of the app sounds an alarm and flashes when you are tired. I use that when I’m working by myself. 

    When I’m in the office I switch the app to discreet mode and put the iPhone in my pocket. Now when I’m alerted both the iPhone and Apple watch vibrate without anyone else needing to know that I’m tired.

    This naturally alerts me to take a break so that I can have a nap or do something to wake myself up, before getting back to work.

Review

I still use this approach and my productivity has never been higher. I’ve been able to hold down my job as well as write for this blog and help develop V-CAF, which only a relatively short time ago seemed impossible.

You are you however, and it is almost a certainty that you will have to pick and choose, and modify these suggestions for your unique circumstance.

This was a fairly long article; so here are the main points in short form:

  • Plan your work around your sleep.
  • When that is not possible, limit the longer hours but shorter sleep to 2-3 weeks and catch up on sleep at the weekend.
  • When you feel yourself getting tired whilst working, stop and take a break to wake yourself up. Better yet use V-CAF to accurately tell you when you are tired.

Conclusion

Making a few simple thought adjustments and lifestyle changes can positively influence the level of your productivity.

It can be difficult to start, but once you do and start seeing the results you’ll thank yourself for doing so.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Energy Exercise Side Effects Staying Awake Tiredness

How to Stay Awake Without Caffeine

Five Tips to Staying Awake Without Caffeine

Five steps to greatness…

Need to stay awake but don’t want to use caffeine? 

In this post I’ll share 5 tips with you that will beat that tiredness slump.

Where's my coffee?
Photo by Dominik QN @dominik_qn on Unsplash

Caffeine and Staying Awake

It is tempting to just use caffeine and be done with it. It works. It keeps us awake and makes us feel more alert and focused. Plus it’s easy and widely available and everybody uses it.

Which is true up to a certain point. Caffeine doesn’t technically boost our energy and make us feel more awake. It masks our tiredness from us, giving us a temporary boost, which makes us feel less tired.

For short term fixes it’s not too bad, but it is easy to become over dependent on the effects that caffeine has on our nervous system to get us through those tired patches.

Side Effects

Drinking five or more cups of coffee daily can create a caffeine dependency. This doesn’t include sodas and foods that contain caffeine. Most people are unaware of how much caffeine they consume every day, and with caffeine finding its way into more foods, beverages, supplements and medicines, the dangers of accidental overdose are increasing.

Compounding this issue is the fact that the more caffeine you are exposed to, the greater your tolerance of it’s effects, which then leads to more caffeine having to be consumed to get the same or similar effects.

Increased caffeine consumption can cause the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate

How to Stay Awake

This list of five techniques will help you stay awake for the short term. For more long-term tips read my article on staying awake.

  1. Do something fun.
    Boredom or uninteresting tasks bring on the yawns and make you feel more tired than you need to be. Take a break, watch something funny or play a game. This will stimulate you and help reduce the feeling of tiredness.
  2. Get out in the sun or work in a bright environment. 
    Being in dark environments not only makes you feel more tired, but can make you feel depressed. If you find yourself in this situation, going out in the sun or having bright lights on inside will help reduce the production of melatonin, and keep you awake a bit longer. 
  3. Take regular breaks. 
    People are usually pretty bad at working out how tired they are. Long work stretches without breaks decrease performance as you become more tired. Using a tiredness monitor such as V-CAF will help notify you when you are tired so that you can take a natural break without your productivity decreasing.
  4. Plan your most difficult tasks to start around 10am. 
    Assuming that you get to bed by 10pm and wake up at 7am, your peak concentration time will be around 10am. This due to your body’s melatonin production naturally reducing.
  5. Eat and drink well. 
    Fueling your body with non processed whole foods and drinking lots of water will enable you to concentrate better due to your blood sugar levels being kept even without high and low spikes throughout the day.

Review

Some long-term caffeine users find it difficult to believe that anyone can make it through the day without caffeine.

I think the real reason is that when faced with the choice between withdrawal or quick fix, the fix wins.

Anyways, here are my short-term tips to staying awake without caffeine:

  • Do something fun
  • Go outdoors into the sun or be somewhere bright.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Eat and drink well.

Last Point

I left out one more tip, but I think it’s central to all the others. 

Be motivated. Without motivation it becomes difficult to succeed using any of the tips that I presented above.

If you really want to stay awake without caffeine, be motivated in the steps you choose to make that your reality.

Categories
Alert Driving Staying Awake

How Can I Stay Awake During A Long Drive?

The Long Drive and Staying Awake

It’s a long slow road…

Not too long ago I had to travel between two countries fairly regularly and the cheaper, quicker option was to drive.

It was a four-hour drive door to door. It was also winter which meant that after work on Friday, I was driving in the dark with ice on the road more often than not.

Driving whilst tired, in the dark on icy roads is not my idea of fun, but whilst I did it, I would do it in the best way. Here are some tips that helped me.

Travelling North on the Ring Road
Photo by Tim Foster @timberfoster on Unsplash Travelling North on the Ring Road, Iceland

Driving And Staying Awake

You need to get from A to B and you need to go now. Never mind that you didn’t have much sleep or had a hard day at work.

Tiredness happens to all of us, it’s natural, but the demands of modern living encourage us to shoe horn our body’s natural rhythms into our busy schedules.

We do not always have control over when we feel tired, and it could well be that we don’t feel tired when we start our journey, but it creeps up on us, and that is where the danger lies.

Tiredness and Driving Can Be Fatal

Tiredness reduces our ability to judge a situation accurately. Apart from slowing down our reaction times, and increasing the chances of us missing exits or road signs, tiredness clouds our judgment about how tired we really are.

This makes it easier for us to miss the tell tale signs that we are too tired to drive; signs such as:

  • Drifting across lanes
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Constant yawning

The main issue here is that if we are tired, our brains cannot react as fast and accurately as they would if we were fully awake, and increases the chances of us being involved in an accident.

Three Strategies To Staying Awake On Long Drives

Better than any strategy or quick fix is to get enough sleep before your journey. Being fully rested reduces the likelihood that you will be involved in an accident.

That said I didn’t have that luxury on a Friday evening at the start of my journey. So I had to resort to the following:

  • Take short naps before and during the journey
    I lost count at the amount of times that I found a gas station and just parked up and had a 20 – 40 minute snooze along the way. I woke up feeling better than I did before the nap and more confidant that I wouldn’t have any issues to my destination.

  • Use an alarm to remind you to take a break
    Watch or phone alarms are good, but I used an app called V-CAF. It’s an Apple Watch app that gives you an alert if you are tired, reminding you to take a break when you need to most.

  • Dink Caffeine
    I did do this sometimes, but I didn’t like the inevitable crash back down to tiredness after the caffeine wore off. I also found that I needed higher dosages of caffeine to get its full effect.

Review

So in summary, don’t drive whilst tired. Sleep!

If you must then try:

  • Taking short naps before and during the journey (pull over first)
  • Use an alarm like V-CAF that alerts you when you are tired
  • Drink Caffeine

Your Safety

I hope that you don’t have to drive too often whilst feeling tired.

If you do though, stay awake, stay focused, and stay safe.

Categories
Caffeine Side Effects Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

Would You Pay For Worse Sleep?

Would You Pay For Worse Sleep?

A good night’s sleep is priceless

We humans like the effects that caffeine has on us. It is one of the worlds most consumed stimulants and can be found in a variety of food, drink, and medical supplements.

However, there is a growing body of evidence that points to caffeine being responsible for interfering with our sleep and may be responsible for daytime sleepiness. 

Customer experience
Photo by Toa Heftiba @heftiba on Unsplash Customer experience, Camber Coffee, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

I’m Tired, Where’s The Coffee

It’s common for us to associate coffee and caffeine with alertness. So much so that we have hundreds of coffee phrases such as “Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it’s hard to go back to sleep” and  “I don’t have a problem with caffeine. I have a problem without it.”

For many people a coffee first thing in the morning helps wake them up and sets them straight for the day, but by the time they get to work they need another, then another.

What most don’t realize is that it might be the caffeine that is making them feel tired in the first place!

Increased Tiredness

Various population-based studies suggest that ingesting more than the recommended daily limit for caffeine can be linked to daytime sleepiness. 
Ohayon MM, Malijai C, Pierre P. Guilleminault C, Priest RG. How sleep and mental disorders are related to complaints of daytime sleepiness. Arch Intern Med 1997;157(22):2645-52.

A Sleep Habits and Caffeine Use study of workers for the French National Gas and Electricity Company found a link between an increase of consumption of caffeine and the decrease of time spent in bed. The association suggests that caffeine is shortening sleep.
Sanchez-Ortuno M, Moore N, Taillard J, Valtat C, Leger D, Bioulac B, et al. Sleep duration and caffeine consumption in a French middle-aged working population. Sleep Med 2005;6:247-51.

Daily moderate to low usage of caffeine can interfere with your sleep and contribute to some people’s insomnia complaints; but stopping caffeine consumption can cause people to experience excessive sleepiness.

Decrease Tiredness

If you don’t consume a lot of caffeine then cycling your caffeine intake will keep you balanced without affecting your energy too much. That is, enjoy your caffeine product as usual but take a couple of days a week where you don’t have any. 

If you do consume a lot of caffeine then it may be best to gradually wean yourself off over several weeks. If you suffer from withdrawal, use the following:

  • Keep yourself occupied.
    By keeping busy you will have less time to think about your cravings.
  • Exercise.
    It helps lift your mood and helps you to have better quality sleep.
  • Have a sleep routine.
    Choose a time to go to bed and to wake up and stick to it. Be mindful of falling asleep during the day, and use a tiredness monitor like V-CAF. V-CAF will notify you when you are most likely to fall asleep, helping you to stay awake during the day.
  • Eat nutrient rich foods and drink plenty of water.
    Fuelling your body with the right foods and drinking water helps raise your energy over time.

Review

Over reliance on caffeine is causing us to deplete our energy levels. Reducing our caffeine intake or cutting it out completely can help reverse this trend but may initially make us feel even more tired.

Withdrawal tips:

  • Keep busy
  • Exercise
  • Stick to your sleep routine. 
  • Use a tiredness monitor, like V-CAF to keep you awake during the day.
  • Eat whole foods and drink plenty of water.

Conclusion

Your body deserves the best treatment that you can provide. Using caffeine ultimately takes from you and gives very little back.

Spend your time and energy on the things that will help enhance your life, not on things that cost you money and give you suffering.

Start giving back by following the advise in this post and making the right lifestyle changes.

You deserve it.