Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Energy Fatigue Focus Productivity Sleepiness Staying Awake Studying Tiredness

How to Optimise Your Breaks

Feel Better, Get Better Results

Work to your strengths…

Lately I’ve been researching techniques that would help boost my productivity levels but found that I was doing most of the things that the experts recommended.

Now I’m not saying that my productivity levels are low or that they are extremely high, but I wanted to see if there were any efficiencies that I was overlooking that would give me an above average boost compared to the cost of implementing the said efficiency.

And it turns out there was and I was using it already whilst doing this research! So as usual, I’ll outline what it is and how I managed to get that extra boost whilst incorporating it in my existing processes.

Optimize Your Breaks
Photo by @daphneemarie via Twenty20

Hit and Miss

Putting a lot more effort into what you are doing, focussing more, working long hours, these are the usual approaches that many take when trying to improve their performance and increase their output.

Caffeine pills, coffee and energy drinks for others are the “common sense” performance enhancers that have ben used for centuries and people swear by them.

Then there are the many productivity methodologies that essentially get you to plan the work that you are going to do and then systematically work through the list.

But with all these approaches after the initial jump in performance things can start to peter out and productivity can be even worse than before.

Diminishing Returns

All of the above mentioned approaches work, but all have the problem of diminishing results after a period of time, some earlier than others. So let’s identify the problems with each approach, which will then point us in the right direction towards a possible solution.

  • More Effort
    Putting in more effort in the short term can work well, like sprinting towards the finish line in the last few meters of a race. The problem with this approach is that its usually unsustainable. Continuously pushing yourself to your limits inevitably leads to you hitting a wall and becoming burnt out.
  • Stimulants
    For a quick no frills boost then caffeine is the legal stimulant champion. But like all drugs, your tolerance levels increase leading you to need higher levels of caffeine just to get to similar results of alertness as you did when you started using caffeine (and for some people I know, just to feel normal, which is due to the withdrawal symptoms, but that’s for another blog post).
  • Productivity Systems
    Work very well, but people tend to get caught up in the process rather than the actual work that needs to be done. But because you can show a list of tasks and objectives that are met for the day/week/month or cycle you can unconsciously delude yourself into thinking that you are very productive when in fact your productivity is actually based on gaming the system.

Optimisation

So now we have identified the problem, what’s the solution? It’s quite simply to take breaks at the right time. And when you take breaks at the right time whilst using the aforementioned approaches, you’ll find that suddenly things are not such a drag anymore.

Here are the same approaches modified with a few examples of using them whilst taking well timed breaks.

  • More Effort
    By taking well timed breaks throughout the day you give yourself a chance to rest and recoup a little before going back at it.
  • Stimulants
    If you find it too difficult to break the caffeine habit or want an alternative, start by not drinking any caffeine after lunch and as you feel tired throughout the day take a few more 10 min breaks. If you can get a quick nap in (no more than 20 mins), and aim to get to bed by 10pm latest (at least until your current workload isn’t so heavy).
  • Productivity Systems
    The Pomodoro technique mandates that a break should be taken every 20 to 25 minutes throughout your planned day. The problem I’ve found is that more often than not, once I start working I get into the flow and then my focus get’s broken. So I find myself ignoring the timer and continuing to work. But with a flexible timing method things get easier.

And here’s the thing, recently whilst doing some research on this very topic, I found that I when I took breaks (with 10 – 20 minute naps, where possible) when I needed them, as compared to not taking breaks or having set times for breaks, I was able to complete my work faster, with less mistakes and not feeling so drained.

Recap

But, there’s one thing I left out. I cheated. Most people don’t realise when they are tired and because of this many of us work until we become over tired, and that’s the time when people reach for a coffee, feeling miserable and fatigued.

But I however had the advantage of knowing about and using our app V-CAF to alert me when my alertness levels started dropping. I have a vested interest to say this, but it’s true, it worked!

The more I use the app the more I appreciate how my colleague and I felt when we decided to start this blog and build the app, first of all to help us with a need that we had, and then to help other people avoid some of the issues that we’d experienced around caffeine, tiredness and a lack of productivity.

Afterword

“The challenge is to continue the spread of information regarding the wealth of benefits of napping to combat the numerous physical, mental, and financial consequences of fatigue”

Alger, S., Brager, A., Capaldi, V., & , (2019). Challenging the stigma of workplace napping. /SLEEP,/ /42(8),/
Categories
Addiction Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Productivity Relapse

Doubt and Caffeine Addiction

Be Bold & Have Faith In Yourself

Believe in yourself…

Soon after finally accepting I had a caffeine addiction and knowing that I had to do something to change the situation, I began to realise just how much hard work it would take me to not only give up drinking caffeine, but even to reduce the amount that I consumed.

Up until then, I thought that caffeine had been a beneficial aid that helped me to get things done and help me to achieve many of my academic and professional goals, so it was hard to accept that I would have to give up the “little cup of miracles” without it impacting my productivity in some shape or fashion.

Doubt and Caffeine Addiction
Photo by Kay Isabedra @kee_says

Dependency

Change is hard at the best of times. Multiply that by 100 when you have a dependency on a substance or behaviour.

Over the years, without fail, when resolving to give up caffeine I’m full of enthusiasm and resolve, but being honest, there’s always a niggling doubt that I won’t be able to do it!

As time goes by, that doubt begins to grow and eventually I give in to temptation, finding ways to justify it to myself 🙁

Robbing You of Confidence

Unfortunately the more you give in the stronger that doubt grows until it potentially stops you from even trying.

Doubt has the power to reduce the levels of your self confidence to a point where you have low self esteem and appear weak and unsure to yourself and others.

Looking back at the times around my attempts to give up caffeine, I also remember that these were some of the most stressful times in my life both professionally and personally.

My lack of trust in myself was causing me and others to second guess my decisions. In fact, I remember a discussion I had with one of my managers at the time who said “If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will”!

Faith

Later on, remembering that discussion, I made the decision to try quitting again, but this time I would try something different. I would learn from my past failed attempts and figure out what I could do differently.

Instead of making it an all or nothing affair, I resolved to take smaller steps over shorter timespans. For example, instead of never having caffeine again, I would go for no caffeine days once or twice a week, and then increase from there until I could do seven days.

Also, if I found myself unintentionally consuming caffeine in any form, as soon as I noticed, I would stop there and then, and continue my abstinence for the day. No getting upset with myself, or judging myself in a negative way, but actually rewarding myself for noticing that I was slipping and continuing anyway.

Steps like these not only helped me to eventually overcome the cravings, but had an unexpected side effect, my faith in myself and abilities began to increase for the first time in years.

Key Points

To me doubt is closely related to fear. In his book, Dune, Frank Herbert addresses overcoming fear through the Litany Against Fear, as recited by the main character Paul Atreides:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

If there is any field of endeavour that will improve you that’s difficult to overcome, and you have doubt in your abilities:

  • Jump In
    The act of starting to try to overcome can lead you to immediately make progress. The longer you dither about whether you should or shouldn’t do something, the greater risk that any doubt you have will grow and affect the outcome of the endeavour negatively.
  • Take Small Steps
    Give yourself small achievable targets at first. It is easier to adjust your approach to an issue when they are manageable. Plus, by having quick wins earlier, you help build confidence and momentum to tackle the inevitable obstacles later on.
  • Don’t Judge
    If you find yourself falling don’t be tough on yourself but rather be thankful for being able to recognise that you did fall and that it’s okay. This will help you to not give up and even give you the motivation to continue trying.

Final Thoughts

Nowadays I can drink a coffee, tea or cola and not feel guilty at all. I no longer have caffeine pangs and I can go for weeks without realising that I haven’t had a coffee. I have confidence that I am in control of my wants.

Don’t let doubt rob you of the confidence to be yourself.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Focus Productivity Relapse Staying Awake Study Studying Tiredness

How Caffeine Changed My Life For The Better

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Just don’t get too wet…

As far back as my student days when trying to pass exams to get into university, caffeine and I have had a love hate relationship.

Caffeine has helped me get through difficult exams, work pressure and setting up home. Each time I’ve used it I’ve said to myself, “Just this last time”.

However, whenever the next “difficult patch” came up, I found myself binging on caffeine in a desperate attempt to stay focused.

How Caffeine Changed My Life For The Better
Photo by Richard Harris, Streets of London

Caffeine the God Send

From when I was around 7 years old I can remember loving drinking cola. I would get overly excited both before and after drinking it and remember the adults getting annoyed at my friends and I as we just couldn’t stop running up and down.

I also remember the adults drinking coffee and someone saying that it was like cola for adults to help them stay awake and get things done. I used to think that there must be something magical about it, however as I got older and had more assignments and exams to pass, I grew to found out what that magic was.

Something Ain’t Right in Paradise

As the work that I had to complete gradually became more challenging, I found myself staying up later just to be able to have enough time to finish my assignments and complete my studies.

Finding it difficult to stay focused on all the work that needed to be done I turned to coffee, colas and eventually caffeine pills. These worked, but what seemed to me like only a few days, I found myself consuming an increasing amount of caffeine in different forms just to be able to feel normal.

Even though some of my close buddies tried to warn me, I eventually got to a point where my hands started shaking uncontrollably. Luckily it wasn’t like a bad case of Parkinson’s disease, but it was enough to scare me into giving up caffeine.

The Turning Point

Years later I was on a job that was very demanding of my time and energy. Over the course of two years consistently working long days and nights as well as having to travel every few weeks between two countries, my body decided enough was enough.

I began feeling sluggish and unmotivated. I even started drinking a zero cola very regularly without thinking about what I was actually doing. But eventually I’d kicked the can as far as I could and found that I was starting to fall asleep at work.

My work colleagues tried to give me hints but eventually our boss took me aside and told me to get myself together. Angry and frustrated at myself I looked for quick fixes to help me save my job. However, what I found was far more valuable and actually helped me to overcome the tiredness to the point where I can now recognise what is going on and take the necessary steps to recover quickly.

Looking Back

Caffeine was the catalyst for my transformation. It helped me to recognise that it wasn’t the caffeine, but rather my approach to work and life that needed to change.

By seeking ways to help me out of a difficult situation, I actually helped myself by finding out what the cause of my tiredness was and reduce its negative effects on my life.

Moving Forward

From that point on I’ve resolved to try to help others who may be going through a similar rough patch in their lives. This blog and our app, V-CAF, are the culmination of our experiences and research into overcoming tiredness without the need for caffeine.

Please help us by sharing and commenting on our blog posts, letting people know about our app and hopefully finding that our efforts are of use to you too.

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
Caffeine Insomnia Sleep Tiredness

Coffee, Does It Cause Insomnia?

Insomnia & Coffee, Not A Good Mix

Coffee fuels my insomnia!

Insomnia and sleep disorders in general are on the rise. Whilst many news outlets tend to focus on blaming the obesity epidemic, social media and stress, few if any fail to mention that stimulants may have a role in increasing this trend.

Insomnia is a complicated disease, so I won’t be giving a “do x to solve y” type of article!

The aim is to highlight the facts about Insomnia and practical steps you can take to avoid or reduce its effects on your health.

Insomnia Mixed With Coffee
Photo by Jon Tyson @jontyson on Unsplash

Insomnia

If you seek the advice of a qualified health professional they would typically proceed to ask questions about how long you have been suffering, ask about your lifestyle and daily habits as well as questions related to stress and anything that might have an emotional impact on you recently.

This is done to attempt to diagnose the type of insomnia that you may have. Although there are many sources that can cause insomnia, medical professionals classify insomnia in two categories.

Transient insomnias, also known as short term or acute insomnias, last between a few days and a few weeks. A lot of people suffer short term insomnia whilst experiencing stress such as a personal crisis or the death of a loved one.

Chronic insomnias last for longer periods and are often linked to other medical conditions such as:

  • Cardiovascular, pulmonary, gastrointestinal and other disorders
  • Psychiatric conditions, such as depression and anxiety

Sufferers of insomnia usually experience a combination or all of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Waking up in the morning lacking the energy and motivation to get through the day

Coffee Consumption

Of all of the caffeinated drinks, coffee is the most consumed worldwide. A growing body of research suggests that coffee and caffeine consumption can disrupt both human and animal circadian rhythms in negative ways.

Coffee harms sleep by:

  • Increasing the time it takes to fall asleep
  • Reducing total sleep time and quality
  • Lowering the production of melatonin by blocking adenosine receptors, which may worsen sleep quality in later life.

Jeongbin, Park, Ji HanWon, Ju LeeRi, ByunSeonjeong, Seung SuhWan, KimTae, In YoonYoung, and Ki KimWoong. “Lifetime coffee consumption, pineal gland volume, and sleep quality in late life.” SLEEP 41.10 (2018).

Practical Steps

First and foremost, if you suspect that you have insomnia it is important that you consult your medical advisor.

Thankfully, there are measures that you can take to help reduce the effects of (and even help you avoid) insomnia.

  • Go to bed and wake up at specific regular times.
    By doing this your body will soon be accustomed to a regular sleep pattern which will help you fall asleep more efficiently.

  • Regularly exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
    The benefits of exercise are too numerous to list here, but one of the major benefits is that it helps you have better quality sleep and this benefit can be felt almost immediately.

  • No caffeine (coffee, tea or sodas) after midday.
    The effects of caffeine can still affect your body several hours after consuming it. By limiting the times that you consume caffeine to before midday, you increase the chance that its effect on your nervous system and body will have worn off.

  • Don’t drink alcohol during the evening.
    Alcohol, like caffeine and tobacco, can interrupt your circadian rhythm. Unlike caffeine, alcohol increases the production of adenosine which helps you to fall asleep quickly. The problem is that as the alcohol effects wear off, production of adenosine also slows down which can trigger your body to wake up.

  • Avoid doing unpleasant tasks in the evening.
    Unpleasant tasks are stressful, and stress effects the quality of your sleep. Where possible save those tasks for the morning.

  • No daytime naps.
    Sleeping during the day takes away from your sleep at night. If this is happening regularly, then you risk upsetting your sleep pattern (see the first point). The difficulty comes in the form of being tired because you didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before. Feeling tired throughout the day is no fun, especially if you are avoiding coffee and naps. That’s where V-CAF can help. This Apple Watch app monitors your tiredness and subtly alerts you when you are most likely to fall asleep or are too tired to concentrate.

  • Go to bed with the purpose to sleep, and not to do activities.
    By training yourself to think of your bed as the place to sleep, you are more likely to sleep when you go to bed. Stick with it, it takes time but in the long run will help you sleep better.

Review

Nobody knows you like you. If you are currently experiencing a lot of stress due to work, family or life in general, and you’ve been finding it difficult to sleep or get a good night’s sleep, then know that it’s one of those phases in life that will pass as quickly as it came.

However, if you’ve been suffering for more than a few weeks, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible to make sure that a serious medical ailment is source of your lack of quality sleep.

In any case, I’ve found it impowering in the past to take positive steps to help address an issue, as I feel that I’m doing something to help myself. Try any of these practical steps to help combat insomnia:

  • Go to bed and wake up at specific regular times.
  • Regularly exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
  • No caffeine (coffee, tea or sodas) after midday.
  • Don’t drink alcohol during the evening.
  • Avoid doing unpleasant tasks in the evening.
  • No daytime naps. Use V-CAF to help keep you awake during the day.
  • Go to bed with the purpose to sleep, and not to do activities.

Conclusion

Insomnia and coffee don’t mix. If you are having trouble sleeping, avoid caffeine at all costs.

By choosing to take the steps to help you beat insomnia, you make the battle a little easier.

All you have to do is decide to take action and start immediately.

Good luck.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Focus

How To Stay Focused Without Caffeine

Staying Focused Without Caffeine

Stay focused…

Many of us have times when it is really difficult to focus, whether it is at work, whilst studying or even when having fun.

In an effort to wake up, some instinctively reach for caffeine, because it works. But short-term fixes can end up having long-term effects on our health and wellbeing.

The recent epidemics in both tiredness and insomnia point to the need to find healthy alternatives that can help us focus without having detrimental effects on our sleep.

In this article we’ll look at how to focus without using stimulants.

Focus on me
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson @gabriellehender on Unsplash Shoot with @yungkweendee

Dependency on Stimulants to Focus

The thing is, drinking coffee or an energy drink is so easy and they work that we rarely think about it.

And therein lies the problem. For many, tiredness equals “I haven’t had enough coffee”, or “I need to have an energy drink”.

Each time we do this we are reinforcing an unnatural habit that if not checked will keep us in a perpetual loop of tiredness followed by increasing amounts of caffeine.

Lack of Self Control

By inadvertently linking tiredness and caffeine in our daily habits, we make it harder to break the habit whilst at the same time potentially exposing ourselves to harmful side effects.

For example, the effects of caffeine that most of us want, (alertness and focus), are in fact the results of caffeine withdrawal. Your body craves the caffeine that is no longer in your system, and like any addictive stimulant, makes you feel lousy.

But get that caffeine fix in and your body soon starts to feel better and your mind clearer. Unfortunately it’s not that caffeine made you more alert, but due to you feeling so bad before you had your fix, your body just returns to normal levels of alertness and focus.

To make matters worse, as your body acclimates to your current level of caffeine consumption, you will soon need higher levels of caffeine to get the same feelings of alertness and focus.

Consuming more than 400mg of caffeine daily can eventually increase the likelihood of you being exposed to:

  • Mental disorders such as altered consciousness, anxiety and depression.
  • Increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
  • Dehydration and decreased potassium.

Exercises for Your Will

To stay focused without using caffeine is something that is well within your reach. Just by exercising a little willpower each day you can eventually build momentum and your focusing powers.

Here are some tips that will help you:

  • Stop consuming caffeine. 
    It can be very difficult, but you must try. Start abstaining from caffeine when you have time off work or at the weekends so that you are not around people that are drinking coffee or sodas. 
  • Do short bursts of focused work. 
    If you have a task to complete, break it down into 5 to 10 minute manageable chunks. Once the time limit is up, take a 5-minute break, and then repeat the process. As your focus becomes stronger over time, gradually increase your focus periods to 25 to 30 minute sessions.
  • Don’t work when you are tired.
    Tiredness is the enemy of a focused mind. Where possible work when you are well rested. That means getting more quality sleep during the night. But what if you are unable to sleep? What can you do? I would recommend a tiredness alarm for the Apple Watch called V-CAF. V-CAF subtly notifies you when you are most likely to be tired. Once you are alerted you can take the appropriate action to wake yourself up.
  • Stay hydrated.
    If you’re feeling tired, drink lots of water. Water helps more blood and oxygen get to your brain; which will help you focus better.

Review

You don’t need caffeine to be able to focus effectively. In fact caffeine can work against you. Try these tips to help you focus better without caffeine:

  • Don’t consume caffeine
  • Do short bursts of focused work (when starting 5 – 10 mins.)
  • Don’t work when you are tired. Use a tiredness alarm like V-CAF to alert you when you are most likely to be tired.
  • Do drink more water.

Be Strong, Stay Focused

Don’t weaken your resolve to stay focused naturally by drinking a coffee or energy drink. If you feel yourself craving them, try to hold out.

The longer you hold out the stronger you will be the next time the cravings come back.

There are no quick fixes, but by taking things slowly, day by day, you will improve your focus.

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
Focus Productivity Sleep Staying Awake Study Studying Tiredness

Beat Tiredness, Study Better

Beat Tiredness, Study Better

Or, how to pass your exams without messing with your health…

Do you have a test coming up soon? Need to learn a new procedure or technique quickly for a deadline? 

If so and you are feeling tired then this article is for you. Having to study or learn something new whilst tired is a sure fire way to kill the enjoyment of what you are learning.

The team and I have come up with some tips to help you deal with the tiredness part and get you ready and primed to study more efficiently and productively.

Beat tiredness, study better
Photo by Andrew Neil @andrewtneel on Unsplash Green Joe’s Coffee Company, Greensboro, United States, There is no substitute for hard work. ― Thomas A. Edison

Tired of Studying

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to study especially if you have a heavy workload. The tendency for many is to delay until the last possible moment and then do the best we can with the time left.

For some students the pressure of having to pass an exam can contribute to feeling overwhelmed and burnt out before you really get a chance to study in depth.

Then add to the fact that the simple act of studying can make you feel tired no matter what you do, and you can end up feeling down and deflated at best, at worst depressed and stressed.

Working Harder Doesn’t Mean Working Better

Knuckling down and getting on with the work can help but grinding the work out doesn’t guarantee that you will get the most out of your time spent studying.

Tiredness not only affects your mood in negative ways but can also be detrimental to the effectiveness of your study.

Tiredness decreases your ability to:

  • Perform basic mental activities 
  • Focus
  • Be diligent
  • Alertness
  • Memory recall

All of which are essential for successful study.

Tiredness Hacks

Once you know that you have a test start to plan immediately. Start to make changes to your daily routines that take into account your sleep and study schedule.

Incorporate the following tips into your routine:

  • Try getting to sleep by 10pm.
    Your body naturally gets ready to sleep by releasing melatonin between 9pm and 10pm.

  • Wake up around 7am.
    Melatonin stops being released at around 7am, which allows your body to be at peak alertness at 10am.

  • Most people don’t realize that tiredness is likely affecting their brain long before they notice.
    Humans are notorious for being unable to assess their true tiredness levels. 
    Pilcher, J. J., and Huffcutt, A. I. (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine, 19(4), 318.

    Using apps like V-CAF alert you to when you are most likely to be tired so that you can take the appropriate actions needed to wake up, be alert and re-focus.
  • Avoid doing your most difficult studying between 12pm and 2pm, which is typically when most people have their mid afternoon crash. 

  • Break your study periods into shorter time spans.
    For example use tools like The Pomodoro Technique or Forest to help focus on the task at hand. The default time span is 20-25 minutes.

  • Use caffeine sparingly.
    The more you consume caffeine the greater your tolerance to its effects, so the more you need to consume. Plus caffeine interferes with your sleep cycle, so beware.

Review

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the role that sleep plays in the effectiveness of your study strategies.

Sleep is a major component of your ability to study effectively, which will enhance whatever other methods you use to do your actual study.

Once again, our sleep strategies:

  • Get to bed by 10pm.
  • Wake up around 7am.
  • Know when you’re tired and adjust accordingly using apps such as V-CAF .
  • Avoid doing difficult work between 12pm and 2pm.
  • Break up your study periods using tools like The Pomodoro Technique or Forest .
  • Use caffeine sparingly.

Conclusion

Tiredness like any obstacle on the road to success, is there to be overcome and make you stronger and smarter.

Regularly use these techniques to help you study and learn better, but also to increase the quality of your life and moods.

Categories
Caffeine Alternative Energy Fatigue Productivity Tiredness

How To Boost Your Energy

Energy Boosters

Lift off…

Feeling tired, fatigued or burnt out? You’re not alone. According to the National Safety Council more than 43% of workers are sleep-deprived.
Fatigue – You’re More Than Just Tired, NSC

The fact that tiredness is on the rise may account for the global demand for energy-boosting products being at an all time high. Caffeine consumption is on the rise and producers are capitalizing on the trend by providing more products that contain caffeine.

With all these products being put out in the market, it may make it easier to exceed recommended caffeine limits. 

So what are the alternatives to consuming caffeine to boost our energy levels?

Boost
Photo by dan carlson @dan_carl5on on Unsplash Full focus at a coffee shop

Why Are We So Tired?

Our modern lifestyles tend to encourage behaviors that as a whole can lead us to feeling tired. Demanding jobs, long shifts, long weeks, sleep loss, no rest breaks and long commutes are just a few of the ways that we may be contributing to our tired state of affairs.

Compounding the issue is our willingness to use stimulants such as caffeine to give us a boost of energy to get us through the day.

Does Caffeine Really Boost Our Energy Levels

Caffeine tricks our minds into releasing dopamine, which makes us feel alert, motivated and good about ourselves. This makes us feel as though we have more energy than we actually have.

Eventually, you’ll need ever increasing amounts of caffeine to achieve the same energy boosting effects. This can happen as soon as a week to 12 days.

When trying to give up caffeine, withdrawal symptoms can begin as fast as between 12 to 24 hours, explaining why some people need a coffee in the morning to feel as though they are awake.

Withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Alternative Boosters

Companies such as Bayer AG, PepsiCo, Boehringe Ingelheim GmbH and Sanofi are investigating using herbal and/or traditional medicines as alternatives to using caffeine.

As an individual you can use the following techniques and tips right away to help boost your energy:

  • Number one is to get more sleep.
    Although everyone is different, studies show that most people are most alert when they regularly get between 7 to 8 hours sleep.
  • If you are working on a tedious task, take regular breaks.
    Performance tends to decrease after 90 mins of continuously working.
  • Be alerted to when you are tired by using a tiredness alarm like V-CAF.
    V-CAF is an Apple Watch app that works by subtly notifying you when you are most likely to be drowsy and not focused on your current activity.
  • Eat whole foods and avoid foods containing processed sugar.
    This will help keep your energy levels balanced throughout the day.

Review

The best way to boost your energy is to make better lifestyle choices and avoid stimulants that trick your body into thinking it has more energy than it does.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Get more sleep
  • Whilst working or doing something that you need to focus on, take lots of breaks
  • Use tiredness alarms such as V-CAF
  • Eat whole foods, avoid processed foods

Conclusion

Tiredness is our body’s way telling us to slow down and take care of ourselves.

By trying to short circuit our body’s defense systems, we put ourselves and others at risk.

A few simple lifestyle changes can really improve our quality of life.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Sleep Tiredness

Caffeine and the Herd

Are You A Herd Follower?

Break free, be you…

Currently I am on a course learning about how to understand current market conditions and how to maneuver through them in these challenging times.

Everyone in the course seems very intelligent and if not at the top of their game, very near it. They all strike me as being independent thinkers and more suited to be leaders rather than followers.

The course instructor is intelligent and quick-witted and keeps everyone engaged. However, I couldn’t help but notice that he made a point of telling us the times of the coffee breaks, where the coffee was located and how much it costs.

At the break times more than half of the attendees would have a cup of coffee or at least debate having one. No big deal. A few of them in conversation told me that they needed their coffee in the morning to wake up, others said they drink out of habit.

This got me thinking about a study I read that suggested that a lot of people start drinking coffee or caffeine drinks because of social or work etiquette. The study went on to say that those who do have a caffeine dependency tended to develop them whilst working or studying.

So, in this article I’ll be looking into the role of peer pressure plays in peoples caffeine dependency.

break out from the herd
Photo by Theo Leconte @theoo on Unsplash A cow

Caffeine is the most commonly used legal stimulant. The majority of us get our fix via coffee, tea and soda.

It is noted in Wikipedia as a “Notable Stimulant” and is stated as being the world’s most widely used psychoactive drug.
Stimulant, Wikipedia 

Yet most don’t see it as a drug and rarely think about the effects that overdosing may have on their physiology. Caffeine is seen as normal and is entrenched in our culture. The following quote from Scientific American indicates how caffeine consumption has become part of our daily experience:

“Morning commuters seem to fall into one of two categories: the Caffeinated and the Un-caffeinated…

The Caffeinated are bright-eyed and engaged with the day’s events already—they’re reading their morning papers, or checking email, or reading for pleasure…

This is not the case for the Un-Caffeinated. This group sleeps through the AM commute both on the commuter trains and the subway. They’re bleary eyed.

The line that runs out the door of the Starbucks across from my job never seems to shrink. Are the ranks of the Caffeinated growing?

The culture of coffee has been carefully cultivated to ensure maximum reach.”

Krystal D’Costa August 11, 2011, Scientific American 

Pressure

In 2018 the global caffeine market was valued at $340 million, of which North America was the largest consumer (12,572 metric tons), 36% of global consumption.

Caffeine production is dominated by 11 companies, which account for 89% of global production. China is the largest global producer with a 54% share in the market. India is the second largest producer. The biggest companies are:

  • CSPC 
  • BASF 
  • Shandong Xinhua 
  • Kudos Chemie Limited 
  • Aarti Healthcare 
  • Zhongan Pharmaceutical 
  • Jilin Shulan 
  • Youhua Pharmaceutical 
  • Spectrum Chemical

MarketWatch

The market is expected to grow to $610 million by 2025. This translates to a projected increase in demand of 179.41%. Where do you think that demand is going to come from?

The global coffee industry is worth over $100 billion, and is currently experiencing compound annual growth rate of 5.5%.

“the coffee market is currently experiencing considerable growth in economies around the world, with the rise in urbanization and the demand for quick, quality product fueling the expansion.  The market is expected to continue to inflate in the next five years, leaving ample room for returns and profit.”

Andrew Menke, The Global Coffee Industry, Global Edge 

Manufactured demand for caffeine products is well underway now. Maybe it’s time to start asking questions about why you consume caffeinated products. 

Is it really your choice, or is something/someone else at work here?

Uniquely You

And now we can look at the bigger picture a bit clearer. Cultural norms can be created to get us to act in predetermined ways. Whilst good for companies, they are not necessarily always for our benefit.

I have outlined some of the effects of the overconsumption of caffeine in other articles in an attempt to bring awareness to this issue.

I believe that the best way to deal with the effects of over consuming caffeine is to take positive actions that will help us to reclaim control over our lives and ourselves.

This blog and our app, V-CAF, is an attempt by us to try to make a difference by being the difference we want to see in the world.

The following tips are things that I found useful to help me overcome my tiredness and lack of motivation:

  • Exercise – raises energy the old fashioned way by increasing our  body’s capability to deal with stress, and expands endurance. The benefits are too numerous to list here but, it just works.
  • Sleep – exercise helps us to have better quality deeper sleep. Sometimes the amount of sleep is not enough, but deep quality sleep is what we should be striving for.
  • Tiredness – feeling tired led to the development of V-CAF an Apple Watch app that subtlety informs you when you are most likely to fall asleep. By knowing that you are tired you can take measures to help bring your alertness and focus back to where you need it more efficiently.
  • Eat well – good quality whole foods will give your body the fuel it needs to get through the day. Also by eating healthily you can increase your energy and raise your mood.
  • Drink Water – keeping your brain hydrated will do wonders for your focus and alertness whilst helping your body to cleanse itself.

Review

Don’t follow the herd and take control of yourself. There is nothing wrong with drinking coffee or consuming caffeinated products in moderation. However, if you find yourself doing anything because of habit, ask yourself why?

Here are the takeaways:

  • Do Exercise
  • Get Deep Sleep
  • Use tools like V-CAF to help keep you notified of when you feel tired.
  • Eat Good Quality Whole Foods
  • Drink Water

Conclusion

If you don’t take control of your own life, someone else will.

Each one of us is unique and responds differently to stimuli.

Remember this and reclaim your most valuable asset, you.