Categories
Energy Exercise Productivity Safety

Time to Keep Moving

Keep on Moving, Don’t Stop

Keep Going…

If you work in an office environment, are studying, or driving for a living, the chances are that you spend a lot of time sitting down throughout the day. Although you don’t mean to it’s easily done.

How many times have you been so engrossed in what you are doing that you lose track of time and forget to eat or drink, and before you know it, it’s time to stop for the day?

There have been countless times where I’m just in the flow zone and I feel the need to get everything I need to do done before I lose momentum. During times like these it’s very difficult to take a break and I get annoyed when someone disturbs me.

I’ve found unfortunately, that this mode of working can take its toll on you, especially if you find yourself working like this for long periods of time. Eventually something has to give, and for me it’s either the quality of my work, or my energy levels crash to the point where it’s a struggle to get anything done.

Fortunately there are things that you can do to help you manage these periods and consistently keep the level of your productivity high without compromising its quality and your health.

Get up, stand up
Photo by @jesslharbin via Twenty20

In The Moment

A common complaint that I get about myself when I’m working is that I zone out and get tunnel vision, only focussing on the task that I’m doing at that moment at the cost of shutting everyone out until I’m ready.

I find it funny because apparently in school I was the opposite, always staring out the window or joking about. Perhaps in school my purpose for being there wasn’t so clear, but nowadays I have a clear defined purpose for my life and when I’m doing things that further that purpose my brain tunes in and focuses on the task at hand.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that when you’re in the flow it can be difficult to stop and give yourself a breather, especially when you lose track of time or have the pressure of a heavy workload and a tight deadline.

Work and study loads have progressively increased and many of us feel trapped. On the one hand we want to get the work over and done with, but at the same time wish we didn’t have to do it.

The stress of entertaining these opposing views can lead us to a point where we are doing busy work rather than getting the task at hand done. What’s busy work? Anything that makes us look busy but doesn’t help us in completing our work or study in any meaningful way.

This takes time and energy away from what needs to be done whilst keeping us sitting at our desks and making us feel tired and unmotivated.

Sitting Your Life Away

Sedentary behaviour, as distinct from a lack of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, is an emerging health risk behaviour for the development of chronic diseases. Examples of sedentary behaviour include sitting, watching television, using a computer, and driving a car.
Overall, we identified a compelling case for sitting reduction to be included in clinical preventive advice as a key component of ‘active living,’ where adults and children are encouraged to ‘move more and sit less’ across different settings and locations.

Bauman, A., Chau, J., Ding, D., & Bennie, J. (2013). Too Much Sitting and Cardio-Metabolic Risk: An Update of Epidemiological Evidence. /Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports,/ /7(4),/ 293-298.

Another factor that we also should take into account is that away from our work and study lives, we spend a lot of our recreational and travel time sitting too. People are spending more time than they realise sitting down without realising that they are putting their well being at risk.

I’m very guilty of this. My day job involves me having to be at my desk for most of the working day. On the commute to work I may work on my laptop or read a book, which necessitates that I sit down (most of the time). And then by the time I’ve got home and spent family time (talking, eating, helping with homework – all mostly done whilst sitting), I then finish off any work that I have left over for my personal interests or play a game (again, in front of a screen of some sort, and sitting down).

Although it can feel that we are being productive and making the most of our work/study/life balance, we may overlook the cumulative effects of spending so much time sitting in one place, especially when having to complete work or getting caught up in our down times.

People sit while performing occupational tasks, reading, eating, using technologies such as computers and entertainment devices, and commuting to and from their destinations. Research indicates that daily total sitting and prolonged uninterrupted sitting times are highest among older adolescents, male adults, all adults over age 60, and people who are overweight or obese.
And sedentary behaviour affects the health of people regardless of their race or ethnicity and across various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Eanes, L. (2018). CE: Too Much Sitting: A Newly Recognized Health Risk. /AJN: American Journal of Nursing,/ /118(9),/ 26-34.

What’s concerning is that sedentary behavioural research seems to indicate that by not taking regular breaks and sitting uninterrupted for long periods of time increases the risks of:

  • Type2 diabetes (22%)
  • Metabolic syndrome (39%)
  • Colon cancer (8%)
  • Endometrial cancer (10%)
  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease

And this is regardless of how much exercise you do during the day. The research suggest that if you sit for more than 30 minutes without taking a moving break, or doing some form of exercise for at least 5 minutes, then you still increase the risk of negatively affecting your health!

Standup and Take Action

Thankfully, the solution is pretty straight forward for those of us who sit at desks for most of the day, just stand up for 5 minutes every 20-30 minutes you sit down. If you’re a driver it’s a bit more difficult, but you can reverse some of the ill effects of sitting down if you stand and move around every 60 minutes.

Linda Eanes in the American Journal of Nursing (118.9) 2018, outlined a few suggestions to help us take action immediately:

  • Use a standing desk.
  • Take frequent standing or walking breaks (standing or walking for five minutes for every 30 minutes of sitting, for example).
  • Stand when talking on a cell phone.
  • Reduce total daily television viewing time by standing or walking during commercial breaks.
  • Engage in hobbies that involve some physical activity.
  • Use social networks for self-report and supportive feedback.
  • Use computer software or smartphone apps that offer prompts to take brief physical activity breaks.
  • Wear physical activity monitors.

source: Eanes, L. (2018). CE: Too Much Sitting: A Newly Recognised Health Risk. /AJN: American Journal of Nursing, 118(9), 26-34.

Personally I’ve found my Apple Watch very helpful in this regard. The watch has a built in Activity app that prompts you to stand and do a set amount of exercise (take that as moving about) daily. You can set your goals and away you go. The stand goal only allows you set goals in hours, but its a good place to begin. If you have an Apple Watch, Tim Brookes wrote a very good How-To Geek guide on how to set you Activity goals, which you can find here.

In conjunction with Activity, I also use V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert (our own Apple Watch app). Because V-CAF monitors your tiredness levels and alerts you when you are tired, I use it as my optimal break alerter. Whenever I get a notification that my alertness levels are dropping, I get up and go for a walk or a stretch. That way I know that I’m not just powering through to get things done, and I keep the quality of my work high and my health on point.

Review

Most of us know that we shouldn’t be so sedentary, but our modern lifestyles tend to promote and reward sitting down, (especially for long periods of time).

  • Most of us sit too much and need to move around more both at home and whilst working.
  • After sitting for 30 minutes take a 5 minute break where you stand up, walk around or do some other form of physical activity.
  • Have hobbies that involve physical activity.
  • Track you activity levels by using wearable gadgets or your smartphone.

So don’t forget, as Soul II Soul said “Keep On Moving’”

Soul II Soul – Keep On Movin’ (Official Video)

Afterword

When you have decided that a thing ought to be done, and are doing it, never avoid being seen doing it, though the many shall form an unfavourable opinion about it. For if it is not right to do it, avoid doing the thing; but if it is right, why are you afraid of those who shall find fault wrongly?

Epictetus, The Enchiridion v35
Categories
Caffeine Safety Side Effects

Caffeine, Studies and Your Skin

Experts & Your Choices

Your Life, Your Choices…

Where I live daylight hours are starting to get longer, but most days seem to be overcast, dull and cold, (not the most optimal conditions to be trying to give up caffeine).

During a break I read an article on the pros and cons of drinking coffee, and the question came up if coffee was bad for your skin and concluded that it depends on how you consume it.

Now, given that it’s cloudy, cold and dark around here, and knowing that at least a couple of people have decided to give up coffee and caffeine, I wondered how many people would use an article like this to justify continuing to over consume caffeine in it’s various forms.

Later I read a few studies around this topic and decided to write a brief post on the importance of choosing what’s best for you.

Caffeine, Studies and Your Skin - Choices
Photo by Burst @burst on Unsplash, Lost in the Maze

Which One?

Life seems to be all about choices; the ones we’ve made in the past, our present, and the future. Some are good, some not so much. Either way whatever we choose have consequences, and it’s thoughts about these consequences that can grind us down or help us to make impulse decisions.

Which is why so many of us find it easy to default to what the experts say on what is right or wrong, good or bad. The thing is, that many of the experts can’t agree on anything. One group of experts says one thing is good, only to be contradicted by another group. Which expert is right? (Yet another choice).

Bias and Objectivity

In this scientific age of reason, it is easy to assume that once we have all the facts (or as much of them as we can handle) in front of us, that by using reason and logic we can make a reasonably objective and informed judgement on what is right and what is wrong.

“Well, the science tends to suggest that this is correct”, which is true in a very specific environment, but may not be so in another. Researchers and academics no matter how noble their intentions and rigorous their methodologies are not immune to their biases, which is why they have peer review boards and associations to cross check their findings. Even I admit that I may have a few biases 😉

Knowing this helps us to understand why there can be contradictions in studies that apparently test the same thing.

A Few Pointers

Let’s go back to the article that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. By the time we get to the end of it we have a list of facts that explain away the contradictions regarding caffeine and its effects on your skin:

  • Caffeine may help prevent skin cancer, but drink no more than one to two cups per day of black coffee with no sugar (eating chocolate and drinking sodas don’t help either).
  • Drink high quality coffee and not decaf.
  • You don’t have to drink coffee to get the skin cancer fighting benefits. Apply coffee/caffeine directly to your skin.

So drinking a moderate amount of black coffee a day can help prevent skin cancer (and other cancers). Drinking six plus cups of sweetened or milky coffee can have adverse effects on your health.

If you are trying to give up caffeine, but want the benefits (for your skin at least), rub coffee or caffeine into your skin, you don’t have to eat or drink it!

A Brief Recap

So, truth is in the eye of the beholder. Experts are subject to their own biases just as much as the rest of us.

Understanding this should lead us to cross check and find counter arguments against a particular point of view so that we can try to get a better insight of the topic.

What’s Best for You

Goals are good, they help to motivate us to do better, but I think that there’s a better way to improve that is sustainable and will take us beyond our goals.

Implement systems or processes into our life that will make us improve every day if we so desire. As an example, instead of saying “No more coffee or caffeine for me ever again” how about trying to see how many days you can go without caffeine and give yourself rewards at set milestones to help encourage you to keep going?

Categories
Alert Driving Fatigue Focus Productivity Safety Staying Awake Tiredness

How To Stay Awake While Driving

Stay Awake, Stay Alert

V-CAF, The App, Can Help

Most of us have to commute to work daily. In America, 76% of us drive to work. Worldwide, commute times are getting longer:

Commute_full_list
Infogram

In a study of UK drivers in 1997, 29% of drivers who took part in the study admitted to almost falling asleep at the wheel.
Maycock, G. “Sleepiness and driving: The experience of U.K. car drivers.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 29.4 (1997): 453-462.

Whilst a later study by the National Sleep Foundation found that more than 37% of American drivers admitted to the same thing.
National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America

With average commute times getting longer what can concerned drivers do to stay awake whilst driving?

How To Stay Awake While Driving
Photo by Zeus @zeus1007 on Unsplash

Why Are We Driving Tired?

We have never been as free as we are now to do so much. Computers and new work processes have made us increase productivity, but this has come at a cost.

Being more efficient has raised the bar on what is expected of us and to make up the shortfall we work harder than ever.

In the UK drivers’ study, when asked what caused them to fall asleep at the wheel, the most common reason was a “Long working day or physical or mental exhaustion”.

Another cited reason and contributing factor are the rise in people reporting sleep disorders and people going to bed late and waking up early. Lack of sleep increases the risk that drivers will fall asleep at the wheel.

A Danger to Ourselves and Others

Not only does drowsy driving put yourself, passengers and other road users at risk, fatigued related driving costs society approximately $109 billion a year.

The exact number of accidents caused by drowsy driving is difficult to calculate as it depends on drivers admitting they fell asleep to police. It is estimated that more than 6,400 fatal crashes happen every year and that 21% of fatal crashes are caused by tired drivers.           

How To Stay Awake While Driving

Having good sleep hygiene habits in general are the best way to reduce your general tiredness and will help you to reduce tiredness whilst you drive.

  • Regular good quality sleep
    Get to bed between 9pm and 10pm when melatonin starts to be released by your body, and get between 7 to 8 hours sleep (especially on the days when you have a long commute).

  • Don’t drive if you’ve had a long day
    If you’ve been awake for more than 16 hours or are feeling especially fatigued, avoid driving. This is difficult so it might be best to either car share and plan that on your busiest days you don’t drive, or make arrangements for someone to pick you up.

  • Take breaks when you feel tired 
    If you find yourself repeatedly yawning and find it difficult to keep your eyes open (or continuous blinking), stop and take a 20 minute snooze. The problem is that most people don’t realize that they are tired until way after the fact. Tiredness alarms such as V-CAF notify you when your body says that you are tired so that you can take the necessary actions to avoid falling asleep.
  • Avoid driving if you have drunk alcohol or taken medication
    These can increase the likelihood of you falling asleep at the wheel, and make your drive harder.

Review

If you are feeling tired, it’s best not to try to drive. Drinking caffeine, opening your window and listening to loud music can only go so far.

If you must drive:

  • On the days that you have to drive, try to get at least 7 hours sleep before driving.
  • Make sure you haven’t been awake for more than 16 hours before you drive.
  • Use V-CAF to tell you when you are tired so that you can take breaks whilst driving.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take medications before driving.

Conclusion

Driving whilst you are tired is not a good idea and should be avoided. This calls for action on your part to prioritize your sleep.

Lifestyle changes are never easy but with persistence and focus you can do it. By taking small steps everyday towards this goal by using our suggestions will not only help you with tiredness whilst driving, but with your productivity in general.

Categories
Driving Safety Staying Awake Tiredness

Are You Driving Tired?

We Never Drive Tired!

Okay, Maybe Sometimes…

Long commutes and heavy workloads are putting a strain on our daily lives. For a lot of people that I know driving to work saves time and allows them to work longer hours.

I know few of them have the time to think about whether they are putting their lives at risk just to work a few hours more. 

The Nation Safety Council report that upwards of 6,400 people die in car accidents that can be attributed to tiredness each year.

In this article we’ll take a look into driving whilst being tired.

The long drive home after work
Photo by Xan Griffin @xangriffin on Unsplash California, United States, Highway Cruising

The Need for Speed

In these challenging economic times there is a lot of pressure to stay ahead of the crowd. Working or studying for long hours is the default tactic for appearing to be productive, or even just to keep your job.

If the public transport system in your city just doesn’t cut it, driving may be your only option. At least you can quickly get home when you’re ready after a long day.

The problem is that you are more likely to be tired after a long day and driving home late, raising the probability that you could be involved in an accident on the way home.

Would You Drive Drunk?

I believe that if you are reading this article that the likelihood of you drinking and driving are very low.

Unfortunately, many people unknowingly do just that when they drive whilst being tired. 

  • A recent report found that reducing your sleep by two hours has a similar affect to drinking three beers. 
  • A person that sleeps for 4-5 hours a day has the same crash risk as a person with 0.08% blood alcohol level.
    Tefft, B. C. (2016). Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement. Washington, DC: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
  • After being awake for 17 hours, a person’s impairment level is similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. And after 24 hours it matches 0.10% – too drunk to drive.
    Waclawski, E., and P. Noone. “Are aviation industry fatigue risk management strategies needed in healthcare?.” Anaesthesia 72.11 (2017): 1417-1419.

Precautions and Tips

By reading this article you have already taken a major step in reducing the risk of being in an accident caused by driving whilst tired.

Whilst being a good first step, positive action is needed on your part. The following suggestions will help even further, but nothing beats getting enough rest before you start to drive.

  • Get enough sleep. 
    Change your sleeping routine to get at least seven hours of sleep every day, especially when you plan to drive.
  • Plan rest stops.
    After driving for two hours, make sure you stop and rest.
  • Opening your car window and playing loud music will not be enough to keep you awake if you are tired.
    You may even feel awake, but misjudge how tired you really are.  Use V-CAF an Apple Watch app that monitors your tiredness levels and notifies you so that you can take the appropriate action to get some rest and wake your self up.
  • Drink lots of water.
    Water helps keep your brain alert by increasing oxygen and nutrients via blood flow to your brain.

Review

Dozing off behind the wheel is a real and present danger. In a recent report 30% of participants admitted falling asleep whilst driving.

Stay informed and make positive changes to your sleep routine if you rely on driving as your daily commute.

Use these tips to help you beat tiredness whilst driving:

  • When driving, make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep beforehand.
  • Stop and take a break after at least two hours of continuous driving.
  • Know how tired you are by using tiredness monitors like V-CAF .
  • Keep your brain alert by drinking lots of water.

Conclusion

We are in a tiredness epidemic and people aren’t aware of the dangers that we face daily due to tiredness.

I have shared this information with my friends and work associates and would appreciate it if you would share this post with anyone you think may benefit from this information.

Thank you. 

“If you find yourself on the road and feeling tired, pull over to a safe location and park. Take a 20-minute nap or make other arrangements to get to your destination. Caffeine can help promote alertness but may only help for a short period of time, so it’s best not to rely on caffeine.”

National Safety Council, Drowsy Driving is Impaired Driving, https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/fatigued-driving

Categories
Caffeine Focus Productivity Safety Side Effects Study Studying

Caffeine Pills for Energy?

Do Caffeine Pills Give You Energy?

I want to know…

I have had a mixed relationship with caffeine pills. I used them quite a bit whilst studying, and although they worked, I was shocked at the effect they had on me.

Since then I haven’t touched them, but continued to use caffeinated drinks until fairly recently. My issue at the time was with understanding what I was risking by consuming more than the recommended amount of caffeine in one day over a relatively long period of time.

In this article I’ll highlight how easy it is to over consume caffeine and look at strategies that can help us to stay within the safe zone.

Energy in a pill
Photo by Dmitry Bayer @dmitrybayer on Unsplash

Unaware of the Limits

A lot of people, like me whilst I was studying, don’t keep tabs on how much caffeine they ingest.

Going over 400mg per day of caffeine is easily done. Two cans of an energy drink, or four cups of coffee is not that much. Especially when you are focused on completing a work assignment or studying.

Even more so if you enjoy eating chocolate, or have to take a headache pill, both of which contain caffeine.

Caffeine is even in chewing gum and candy.

Potential Dangers

Taking caffeine supplements further increase the risk of over consumption. Many dietary supplements and caffeine tablets contain higher levels of caffeine than food or drinks.

Typical side effects of normal caffeine consumption can be:

  • Increased alertness
  • Irritability
  • Higher body temperature
  • Dehydration
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate

Beware of these signs if you think you have gone over the limit:

  • Irregular heart beat
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion

Alternatives and Reduction Strategies

Where possible, for the sake of your long term health and wellbeing reduce, or completely stop your ingestion of stimulants that trick your body into releasing chemicals to keep you awake.

Here are some guidelines that colleagues have suggested to me in the past and have worked:

  • When taking caffeine pills, don’t drink beverages that contain caffeine, and stick to the recommended dosage on the side of the bottle.
  • Drink water to rehydrate. It will help your mind focus better and help get more oxygen and blood circulating around your brain.
  • Know when you are feeling tired by using an alarm. V-CAF was and still is a game changer for me. It’s an Apple Watch app that notifies you when you are most likely to be tired or nodding off. I use it to let me know when I’m tired or have reduced focus so that I can take measures that wake me up, whilst avoiding caffeine.
  • Get up and take a walk. Very simple, but it works every time.

Review

Caffeine pills don’t so much give you energy but rather trick your brain and body into thinking that you must have energy.

Whilst the effects of taking them can be immediate, the long-term effects on your body leave a lot to be desired.

Try these action points to help reduce or even stop your dependency on caffeine to help you stay awake and focused:

  • Reduce the amount of caffeine you ingest when taking caffeine pills
  • Drink more water.
  • Know when you are tired, and take the appropriate actions.
    (Use V-CAF to help alert you to when you are tired).
  • Move about, get up and walk.

Now You Know

Hopefully you now are more aware of how easy it is to over consume caffeine.

Stay focused, stay alert and stay safe.