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Sleep

Want Better Sleep?

Quick steps to better sleep

Quickly, let’s start…

Staring at the ceiling will happen to most of us from time to time. Perhaps you are thinking on a presentation that looms, tax returns, issues with the children in school, the multitude of thoughts that can swirl around your head at night is endless. It is good to know that it is not only your mind that needs to relax but your body too. We mostly live our lives at a frenetic pace will goals and task on a never ending to-do list, so just how do you keep things in balance for a better nights sleep?  

Happy, laying in the grass
Photo by Yingchou Han @hyingchou on Unsplash Enjoying the nature.

Keep it Simple

Many of us are experts at learning to live around clutter and all too often our bedrooms – out of view to unsuspecting visitors – becomes our sleep and storage area. Try to keep the bedroom, clutter-free. Open windows to refresh the room each day and regulate the temperature to the season. These simple steps will help to make your bedroom a relaxing space to gently lull you into a good sleep.

Let it Go

Sleep is essential to our well-being but stress can sometimes jeopardize our best intentions. Keeping a journal or blog can be one of the steps to reviewing the day and setting down thoughts that might otherwise keep us awake. It can be as detailed as you like, or perhaps you use it as a space to jot ideas, quotes and quick doodles. Just go ahead and let it go!

Silence Please!

Our homes may be bursting with claimed to be necessary mod cons such as the dishwasher. With a growing majority of the population living in apartments, our kitchens are closer to the bedroom than ever. By paying attention to our breathing, we can learn to not focus on the ding of background noise and help our mind & body relax in preparation for sleep.  A few deep breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth can be the beginning of a good nights sleep.

So when we take a few moments from our busy lives to tidy up, review the day and make time for mindful breathing, it will be time well spent for better sleep.

Categories
Parenting Staying Awake Tiredness

Is Your Lifestyle Prepared For New Parenting?

Lifestyle changes for new parents

Baby steps…

Becoming parents for the first time is a blissful and exhilarating experience. Yet no amount of planning can stop the inevitable confusion that comes with your new bundle of joy. The days of choosing names, cots and prams and amassing miniature dungarees are now a memory. 

New parents expecting a baby
Photo by Wes Hicks @sickhews on Unsplash Baby Shoes

The Rest of Your Life

After the visits and flowers & balloons, there is no denying that you are in virgin territory – for want of a better term! This parenting thing has been done forever, so how hard can it be? Well the key word from the prior sentence is ‘forever’. 

I’m Too Tired

As much as you are in love with the new heart beat in your house, there will be moments where you slump on the sofa or almost fall asleep in the shower; and ask yourself – can I do this? Of course you can because you are already doing it!

New Possibilities

Fortunately we have a wealth of information that was not so readily available to our parents.  Grip water really isn’t the answer to everything before a child can speak to say ‘No thank you’. Instead you will find yourself on Mumsnet to see what others have to say and within hours you will have a number of tabs open that discuss clenched fists and sneezing.  

With the rapid developments & weekly milestones of your little one, life at home can seem anything but normal but this isthe new new. To adapt to the myriad of changes; physically, emotionally and mentally, make time for naps when your baby asleep.

This is not a competition of any kind and besides there are no finish lines for parents. Each step towards balance does not have to tip into chaos with acceptance that life with a new baby can be organized but doesn’t have to be controlled. Extending this view to you & your partner will take the pressure of expectation off both of you. The baby isn’t the only newbie and besides no two parenting experiences will ever be the alike. 

Help

There is a pick ‘n’ mix of information and no doubt an app for most concerns but you need to be wide awake to find them. Aside from grabbing quick naps, V-CAF is a nifty app to keep track of your most productive time of the day and give you alerts when you genuinely need to take a guilt-free break. 

In the long-term taking care of yourself is the best way to beginning the intriguing journey of being Mum & Dad.

Categories
Insomnia Staying Awake Tiredness

Insomnia – How Do I Get To Sleep?

Insomnia and Staying Awake

I want to sleep…

Like tiredness, insomnia is on the rise. An increasing number of people are getting less than six hours of sleep per night.

In America, approximately 30% of adults suffer from symptoms related to insomnia and roughly 10% of adults have insomnia that causes them distress during the day.

Whether you are suffering from short term or chronic insomnia, there are some common things that you can do to improve your quality and quantity of sleep.

Insomnia - Why can't I sleep
Photo by Ben Blennerhassett @benblenner on Unsplash

Do I Have Insomnia

Part of taking the appropriate action to combat insomnia is to be able to identify if you suffer from it.

Some of the symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep
  • Waking up frequently when you do get to sleep
  • It is rare that you get deep quality sleep and wake up still feeling tired
  • Waking up early and not being able to get back to sleep

Degrading Quality of Life

Although people suffering from insomnia can function as “normal” throughout the day even though they feel tired, they may suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduced energy
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Some people, whilst trying to stay awake resort to consuming caffeine to stay alert and awake, not realizing that it may be compounding their lack of being able to sleep.

Small Steps

Just as there is rarely any-one cause of insomnia, there is no one cure-all to fix it. However, using a more holistic approach can yield great benefits for the sufferer.

These tips are just some of the strategies that you can use to help you overcome insomnia:

  • Avoid stimulants.
    Caffeine’s key effect is to keep us awake. Depending on our weight, age, gender and fitness it can stay in our bodies from between 3 to 8 hours. Avoid caffeine as much as possible.
  • Set a daily sleep routine. 
    Go to bed and wake up at the same times daily to train yourself that these are times for sleeping.
  • Avoid sleeping during the day.
    Easier said than done when you haven’t had a good nights sleep, especially if you are trying to avoid caffeine. V-CAF is an Apple Watch app that alerts you subtly when you are most likely to fall asleep, helping you avoid needing to drink caffeine.
  • Exercise
    Regular exercise will help you to have deeper sleep. Just don’t exercise close to the times that you set for going to bed (don’t exercise less than four hours before you go to bed).

Review

First changing your mindset and then changing your lifestyle can help you overcome insomnia in many cases.

Use the tips in this article together with any advice from your medical advisor to help structure a plan that will help you succeed.

Once again:

  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine.
  • Set a daily sleeping routine.
  • Don’t nod off during the day; use a tool like V-CAF 
  • Do regular exercise

Conclusion

Hopefully you have a better understanding of how you can start to deal with insomnia.

Stay strong and stay focused.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Productivity Side Effects Sleep

Caffeine-Free Productivity?

Caffeine-Free Productivity?

Yeah, right!

Sometimes when I’m in a work or semi social environment and I say “Thanks, but no thanks” to coffee, an inquisitive soul asks what’s wrong with coffee. 

I usually say nothing much, but sometimes I tell them about coffee and caffeine’s affects on the body and mind, whilst reassuring them that moderate consumption is ok.

Most leave it at that, but there are still the few that say something like “I don’t know how you function without it?”

From now on I’ll point them to this article.

Working man behind a mug
Photo by Javier Molina @javier1997mo on Unsplash Working man behind a mug

Caffeine For Productivity

Caffeine can work wonders when you settle down to work through a task, helping you to get the job done.

Feeling a bit groggy? Can’t think straight? Struggling to stay awake? Then have a cup of mud and you’re good to go; but are you really?

1,3,7 trimethylxanthine, or caffeine is a member of the methylated xanthines chemical family, which are toxic to the human body. In low doses they do little harm, but people have died taking higher doses.

Fake Energy

The energy you have available to you at any given time is the energy you have available. It is common for people to believe that coffee and caffeine gives them energy, but not think about where that energy comes from.

Adenosine is a brain chemical that is widely known for causing drowsiness. It is produced in our brains as a by-product of ATP, the source of energy for all cells in the body.

As we go through the day, adenosine levels in the brain build up latching onto adenosine receptors within our neurons which then produce a concoction of proteins that suppress nerve cell activity and make us feel sleepy.

Caffeine does it’s magic by binding to the adenosine receptors in our brains without stimulating the release of the chemicals that suppress neuron activity, masking the fact that we are tired.

Scientists suggest that a little caffeine is not harmful, but too much can have negative side effects such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations

“In fact, over a three-year period, the Illinois Poison Center in Chicago counted more than 250 cases of medical complications that involved caffeine, 12% of which ended in hospitalization. The average age of the patients was 21, suggesting that young people are particularly prone to overindulging in caffeine. So be careful not to overdo it!”

Kristin Harper, So Tired in the Morning… The Science of Sleep, December 2014/January 2015, American Chemical Society

Real Productivity Hacks

Now to answer the, “how do you function without it?” part.

It depends. I personally have found that the many lifestyle changes that I’ve made over the years have helped tremendously. If your situation is due to an illness or deficiency seek qualified medical assistance.

As everyone is different I have listed the more general things that have worked for me, but the key here is to realize that there is no one cure for fatigue or tiredness and that you will have to find what combination works best for you.

  • Get more in tune with your body’s circadian rhythm, or body clock, and go to bed between 9pm and 10pm daily. Your body starts releasing melatonin around 9pm and if you are in bed around this time your deepest sleep should occur naturally around 2am.
  • Do more daily exercise.
    It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous and could be an extra 25 to 30 minute walk every day. Exercise helps you to achieve deeper sleep, and the effects on your energy are almost immediate.
  • Take short breaks when working before you start to feel tired.
    Most people don’t realize how tired they are until their productivity starts to fall off. V-CAF is an Apple Watch app that subtly notifies you when you are tired so that you can take the necessary measures to get back on track.
  • Avoid caffeine and drink lots of water.
    The most direct of all the tips listed here. As I’ve outlined, caffeine hides your tiredness from you. Tiredness is natural and by knowing when you are tired you can take measures to take back control of your life. 

Review

So that’s how I do it. By reducing my caffeine intake (I still eat chocolate from time to time), and being more active, as well as going to bed at a set time most days, I’m actually doing better than when I was drinking coffee to get through the day.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Listen to your body clock. Get to bed between 9pm and 10pm.
  • Go for more long walks (25 to 30 minutes every day should help).
  • Give yourself micro breaks when working and feeling tired (use V-CAF to notify you when you are tired).
  • Reduce, or even better, cut out caffeine from your diet.

Final Thoughts

It is possible to be very productive without the use of caffeine. 

Most people find it hard to believe, but it is possible. Maybe their caffeine dependency is clouding their perception of reality and they don’t realize it yet.

Why not try giving up caffeine for a while? What have you got to loose?

Categories
Anxiety Caffeine Side Effects

Caffeine And Anxiety

Caffeine And Anxiety

Not a good mix

In my not too distant past I tried to help someone who was panicking because of a stressful situation.Instinctively I told them to breathe deeply whilst I got them a cup of tea.

However, it didn’t seem to help much and knowing what I know now part of the problem may have been the tea I gave them to drink!

Today I’ll share with you what I’ve found out about the relationship between caffeine and anxiety.

Anxiety alone
Photo by David Tran @trandavid on Unsplash Every time I travel, I always tend to find something with emotion. At this time, my camera was out of batteries so I whipped out my iPhone and managed to capture something so emotional. The picture speaks for itself.

Anxiety

The American Psychological Association gives the following definition of anxiety, which they adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology as:

“…An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. ”

American Psychological Association

They then go on to explain that sufferers:

“…May also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat. ”

American Psychological Association

Anxiety is part of being human. It is a normal response to danger, whether perceived or real, and allows our bodies and minds to be prepared to flee or escape the cause of the danger.

Unfortunately there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that caffeine can trigger the same sort of response in some people.

Whilst there are many factors that may affect when and how anxiety is triggered, drinking caffeine and even trying to give up caffeine can increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety.

Caffeine has been known to induce anxiety in people for so long that it even has its own disorder classification: Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.

Also, take into account that many of the effects that caffeine has on your body are similar if not the same as consuming too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawal symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability 
  • Uncontrollable worry
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Increased heart rate

Helpful Strategies

If you are prone to anxiety attacks then the best advice seems to be to remove caffeine from your diet.

If you feel that you need caffeine to help you be alert, stay awake or help you manage your anxiety, try these tips:

  • Breath deeper, learn relaxation techniques and/or yoga and meditation.
  • Exercise can help lift your mood and over the longer-term increase your energy, helping you to feel more positive.
  • Tiredness can make you feel down and irritable (which doesn’t help if you’re trying to keep away from caffeine). Use a tiredness alarm such as V-CAF to let you know when you are most likely to be tired so that you can take action to wake yourself up.
  • Use a support network and talk with your medical advisor to gain insights into how to manage your anxiety.

Review

When consumed in moderation, caffeine for many is a beneficial stimulant, but for an ever-growing amount of people it can trigger anxiety attacks, and it may be best, in my opinion, to stop using it.

To manage your anxiety whilst withdrawing from caffeine consumption:

  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Exercise to lift your mood
  • Be aware of when you are tired using tools such as V-CAF so that you can act appropriately to avoid feeling down.
  • Speak to your medical advisor

Conclusion

You can guess knowing what I know now, I won’t be offering tea to someone who needs to calm down!

If you suffer from anxiety, knowing that you could be making things harder for yourself by consuming caffeine can be liberating. Take action and stop drinking caffeine today.

Categories
Focus Productivity Study Studying

How to Beat Tiredness, Stay Awake, Stay Productive

Beating Tiredness, Staying Awake, Staying Productive

That’s what we do…

Recently I’ve been working long hours and not getting enough rest. Even though I know better, I’ve just pushed through.

My deadlines were tight and something had to give. Unfortunately it’s been my sleep. 

As sleep wasn’t an option I had to find quick fixes that worked for the short term without being too harmful to my long-term health goals.

Let me share them with you.

Trying to beat tiredness, trying to stay awake and trying to stay productive
Photo by Tim Gouw @punttim on Unsplash Full focus at a coffee shop

When Sleep Is Not An Option

There are times when getting any qualitative sleep is just not possible. Whatever the cause the reduced amount of sleep that we get eventually makes us feel tired.

The best option is to get more sleep. But when we can’t what should we do? 

The Problems With Not Getting Enough Sleep

Not getting enough sleep is a sure fire way to kill your productivity! 

Sleep loss equals loss of productivity:

And it seems that more people are willing to concede that tiredness is affecting their productivity at work:

Tiredness and fatigue epidemic is affecting employee work productivity

Quick Stay Awake Fixes

Okay, so what can one do? I found the following tips helpful, but the number one fix is to get more quality sleep and schedule your work priorities appropriately!

  • Take a break every 20 – 25 minutes
    Step away from your desk, go for a walk or talk to a colleague.
  • Work standing up
    if you have a desk that can raise then great. If not, work leaning on a cabinet or raised coffee bar
  • Use a gadget
    Set the alarm on your smart phone to alert you every so often, or if you have an Apple Watch use an app like V-CAF . It senses when you’re likely to fall asleep and alerts you automatically
  • Drink coffee or an energy drink
    Just be careful you don’t have too many and stay under the 400mg limit (or 3 to 4 cups of coffee per day)
  • Drink water
    By keeping your brain hydrated you help reduce the effects of tiredness and increase your ability to focus

Review

Hopefully these tips will help you be more productive when you are feeling tired and have a tight deadline.

Don’t forget:

  • Make sure you have a short break every 20-25 minutes
  • Work standing up
  • Use gadgets and apps like V-CAF to alert you when you’re most likely to fall asleep.
  • Don’t drink too much coffee, but have some non the less
  • Drink water to help you focus 

Be More Productive

Thank you for reading this article.

But what’s more important is that you take the steps to prioritize organizing your sleep patterns so that you get more qualitative sleep.

In the meantime I hope that you find my suggestions useful.