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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
Lack of concentration
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.
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).
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.
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
Hopefully you have a better understanding of how you can start to deal with insomnia.
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.
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:
“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!”
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.
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.
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?
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.
The Link to Caffeine
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:
Difficulty falling asleep
Increased heart rate
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.
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
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.
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
Hopefully these tips will help you be more productive when you are feeling tired and have a tight deadline.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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