Categories
Anxiety Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Energy Fatigue Focus Productivity Sleep Staying Awake Tiredness

Struggling to Stay Awake During a Long Day?

Listen To What Your Body Is Telling You

If you don’t hear, you will feel

“What!? Another unrealistic deadline? When am I supposed to rest and recover? And what about the quality of the work you’re asking us to produce?” I yelled at my team lead.

I had got to my breaking point and lost control for a brief moment. As I gathered myself together I thought of what had lead up to this point. The past month had been like being in bootcamp.

The mountain of work didn’t seem to be reducing, in fact it felt like there was more added every day. The stressful days and nights spent at my desk seemed to blur into one long day.

Now, with this last deadline, it was too much to take, I could go on no more.

Long Day, Head down on a table
Photo by @Igor_Kostyuk via Twenty20

The Long Day

The stress had taken it’s toll. I was finding it difficult to sleep at night and when I did eventually nod off, when I woke, it felt as though I hadn’t slept. This had the effect of making me feel very irritable and lethargic and made it almost impossible to concentrate whilst working.

My fellow team mates would complain about the same thing. Each of us shared with the other members of the group the strategies that they were using, but the common consensus was that coffee or caffeine was the way to go.

To some people’s amusement and surprise I said no to coffee. “Here’s the martyr!” one guy would mock. It irked me, but I carried on and tried to ignore the taunts.

They drank coffee and some took caffeine pills, whilst I drank water and took regular walking breaks (with the odd nap when I could find a quiet place to snooze, like the local library down the road).

 

Struggling to Make it Through the Day

At the start of our work marathon, those that were inclined to drink coffee seemed to be pulling away. They appeared more alert during our daily meetings and ready to do whatever our bosses told them without question.

But things started to change. I noticed that we were having a lot more discussions about why the work that had been done wasn’t good enough. At first I thought I was lucky because it wasn’t my work, but the drop in quality impacted the whole team.

Those that seemed to be doing well at first and were full of enthusiasm for the unrelenting workloads, started to complain and blame others for their work not been up to par.

Had I not had my own bad experiences of caffeine crashes over a period of time I would of put this all down to stress. But I couldn’t help but notice that some of my colleagues were displaying the symptoms of consuming too much caffeine, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • and Depression

Others complained of not being able to sleep (although this may be due to the stress of worrying about making our deadline). Unfortunately for some of them, they found themselves falling asleep at their desks (which management didn’t find very impressive). And as we got closer to the deadline, things became worse.

It was as though a good portion of our team had become possessed, and we couldn’t do anything about it!

Some Useful Options

It wasn’t long before some of our team noticed that I seemed to be unfazed by it all and they began asking questions, indirectly of course. “So why don’t you drink coffee? Is it a religious thing?”, “How do you cope? I couldn’t start the day without coffee!”

I found that I would be answering with the same points over and over again. So I printed them out and put them on my desk. When people asked or brought it up, I would point to it:

  • Avoid Caffeine
    If you find it difficult, start slowly and try reducing the amount you consume. When you feel the withdrawal, although it doesn’t feel like it, know that you are making progress and stick with it. At the end of it all you’ll feel like a completely different person.
  • Eat Healthily
    Eat more iron and magnesium rich foods as a deficiency in either one can make you feel drained. For iron eat spinach and beans; for magnesium, nuts such as cashews and almonds. Eggs are good for protein and are a good source of B vitamins that help turn your food into energy. Eat fruits that are high in vitamin C, like oranges, strawberries, pineapples and kiwis, as they help body fat to be used as energy.
  • Stay Hydrated
    Drink lot’s of water. Dehydration makes it difficult for us to focus and concentrate. Being hydrated helps reduce drowsiness.
  • Know When You Are Tired And Act Accordingly
    Probably the most important point of all. Most of us don’t realise when we are tired and get frustrated when we can’t do more. Coffee (caffeine) only masks the tiredness. And it does so at the expense of your body’s ability to sleep and recover, eventually leading to you become dependent on caffeine to stay awake and then wondering why you can’t sleep when you go to bed at night; all whilst during the day thinking that something is wrong with you when you feel tired.

This is why I lost it with my team lead. There was no consideration for the long term health of our team. I knew that I was tired and couldn’t allow anyone to risk my health over an arbitrary deadline which could have been handled better with proper planning.

In Summary

Although it was a stressful time, I’m glad that we went through it. It showed me that by being consistent I was able to handle a difficult situation without having to resort to a substance to make me feel that I could make it through.

I even helped some people to at least abstain from caffeine for a while and a few said that they felt better and had better sleep then they’ve had in a long time.

And the ace in the hole was that my team lead now considers how we are coping with our current workloads, and although they are still heavy, we now plan how we can spread the load to get things done.

If you’re thinking about giving up caffeine (or want to reduce the amount you consume) then print out the following points to help remind you of what to do when the withdrawal symptoms kick in:

  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Eat Healthily
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Know when you are tired
  • Get better quality sleep

Afterword

Since that period at work, the team has their ups and downs but generally we work better together, or perhaps we have more patience and understanding when dealing with each other.

During these difficult times, I think it would be best if we each showed more patience and understanding towards other people.

A kind word or even a smile goes a long way these days.

Categories
Caffeine Side Effects

How the Media Gets It Wrong About Coffee

How the Media Gets It Wrong About Coffee

The Media and Uncommon Sense

I watched a short documentary about coffee the other day (17 September, 2019 https://www.bbc.com/reel/video/p07nkgsb/how-the-world-came-to-run-on-coffee ) which I thought would be in a similar line of thought as an article that I wrote a few months ago, What The Top Coffee Bean Producers Don’t Want You To Know.

Unfortunately it turned it to be a puff piece, celebrating the rise in coffee’s popularity across the world, especially in Asia. Although I have nothing against coffee itself, what struck me was the constant reinforcement of the idea that coffee fuels your brain to get things done.

Frustrated at the blatant misrepresentation of the effects that coffee has on our bodies, I decided to do my bit, however small, to redress the balance.

How the Media Gets It Wrong About Coffee
Photo by Fernando Hernandez @_ferh97 on Unsplash, Baja California, Ensenada, Mexico, flat screen television on top of desk

The Coffee and Productivity Myth

Conventional wisdom states that if you have to stay awake and be alert, few things work better than coffee.

People’s own experience with coffee seems to prove this to be the case, as an ever growing amount of people turn to coffee to get them going in the morning.

In fact many people feel that they can’t function at their peak performance levels without having their daily coffee fix. For example, it’s rare these days for me to attend a meeting where nobody is sipping a coffee.

Socially acceptable, and as the documentary shows, growing in popularity, the coffee industry’s profits are set to head for the stars.

“In terms of liquid beverage equivalents, coffee belongs among the most-drunk beverages worldwide with roughly 42.6 litres per person and year (12.6 litres of Roast Coffee and 30 litres of Instant Coffee).

Another trend is the redefinition of coffee from commodified caffeination to sensual experience which has driven premiumization.“

Statista – Coffee, Worldwide

The big coffee companies are trying to increase the demand for their products with the aim of boosting their incomes and profits. What’s often overlooked and even dismissed by some is the effect of coffee on the health of consumers.

The Cost to Your Health

For adults, coffee is the most consumed caffeinated beverage. A lot of people see coffee as the go to pick me up without giving a second thought to what it might be doing to their bodily system.

The FDA recommends a daily intake of two to three cups of coffee per day, but many have at least four cups or more.

The long term habitual consumption of coffee can have detrimental effects to your health.

Some of the more common side effects of too much coffee include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sleeping issues
  • Anxiousness
  • Depression

Redressing the Balance

To avoid the risks associated with long term coffee consumption reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume per day.

Also:

  • Take the time to observe your daily habits.
    For example write down the times of day that you find yourself craving a coffee as well as where, with whom and what you were doing. If your aim is to reduce the amount of coffee you drink, choose a time that you regularly have a cup and replace the coffee with a glass of water or other beverage (as long as it doesn’t contain caffeine).
  • Eat healthy.
    Just eating healthy alone will not boost your energy; that comes from taking more informed lifestyle choices. That said, cutting down on the amount of sugar you eat, eating more wholegrain or wholemeal starchy carbohydrates (which will give you a slower more sustained release of energy), and getting enough iron (from eating beans, nuts, liver, dried fruit and dark green leafy vegetables), can go some way to helping you feel more energised over time.
  • Get enough sleep.
    As stated earlier, drinking coffee doesn’t boost your energy, it blocks your brains adenosine receptors, tricking your body into thinking that it is not tired. By reducing (or eliminating) coffee and caffeine from your diet, you can get back in line with your body’s circadian rhythm and optimise your sleep, which in turn will make you feel less tired during your waking hours.
  • Exercise more.
    Exercise has been proven to boost your mind’s focus and concentration, as well as increasing your fitness levels. What is sometimes missed is that it also helps you have better, deeper sleep sessions. And as an extra benefit the quality of your sleep is increased immediately.

Media Influence

Media corporations put out a lot of information everyday on many topics from across the world.

It is difficult to get points across without having to resort to cultural shortcuts to get a point of view across. As a result, sometimes, unwittingly these corporations can overlook the implications of what they broadcast.

Which is why informed individuals should speak up when they notice something that may mislead or confuse.

Conclusion

Reading this, the chances are that you already know what has been stated in this post and I thank you for your time.

If there is anyone you feel would benefit from this article please share.

Categories
Insomnia Staying Awake Tiredness

Insomnia – How Do I Get To Sleep?

Insomnia and Staying Awake

I want to sleep…

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

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

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

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

Do I Have Insomnia

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

Some of the symptoms of insomnia include:

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

Degrading Quality of Life

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

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

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

Small Steps

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

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

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

Review

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

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

Once again:

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

Conclusion

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

Stay strong and stay focused.

Categories
Caffeine Side Effects Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

Would You Pay For Worse Sleep?

Would You Pay For Worse Sleep?

A good night’s sleep is priceless

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

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

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

I’m Tired, Where’s The Coffee

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

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

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

Increased Tiredness

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

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

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

Decrease Tiredness

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

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

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

Review

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

Withdrawal tips:

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

You deserve it.

Categories
Addiction Caffeine Caffeine Addiction

How to Build a Plan Against Caffeine Addiction

How to Build a Battle Plan Against Caffeine Addiction

Win the war against addiction

You’ve finally done it. You’ve decided to give up caffeine once and for all. That’s great, and well done; but where to start? What’s needed to succeed?

In this article we’ll walk through the process of creating a plan that will help you to conquer your caffeine addiction! 

Planning
Photo by oxana v @arttravelling on Unsplash my work space. I’m the founder of the company Arttravelling ( travel for artist)

Wanting to Quit

We all know that addictions are difficult to overcome. Many addicts want to give up their addiction but find it too difficult to let go of the temporary satisfaction that giving into their addiction brings.

Unfortunately when someone is under the influence of an addiction it becomes difficult to think logically, which in turn leads them to act irrationally and continue to depend on a substance that they know is doing harm to themselves.

It’s Difficult to Stay the Course

Caffeine addiction is so effective because it tricks the brain into releasing dopamine and serotonin.

Dopamine activates the pleasure or reward centers of the brain. When an activity releases dopamine, the brain makes an association between the action and pleasure, which if abused can lead to addiction.

Serotonin acts as a mood regulator, and is known for inducing good moods and happiness. The body needs tryptophan (an essential amino acid) to produce it. Sources of tryptophan include eggs, salmon and nuts. Because caffeine is known to increase the production of serotonin, natural levels of serotonin will feel less than adequate. 

The fact that these two chemicals are affected by caffeine may explain why when people try giving it up they feel some if not all of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Low energy

Your Plan

Many people that are trying to quit caffeine fail, and feel bad about it. Some feel so bad that they flat out wont try to quit again, believing that they are just more naturally addicted to caffeine.

However, everyone has the potential to beat a caffeine addiction, it’s just that they underestimate how difficult it can be.

There is no one thing that can beat an addiction, rather it takes planning and numerous strategies to overcome it, some of which are outlined below.

  • If you are in a work environment, try starting your caffeine abstinence on a weekend.
    That way you can go through some of the withdrawal without the temptation of watching others drinking coffee or energy drinks.
  • Share your struggles with others.
    Join a social media group dedicated to fellow caffeine addicts to get nonjudgmental encouragement and support. They are also often a goldmine of info and resources that can help make the withdrawal easier.
  • Be aware of your tiredness.
    When you are tired it is easier to relapse back into old habits. For me I replaced waking up in the morning and reaching for a coffee, with reaching for water to drink. I also use a tiredness Apple Watch app called V-CAF . It alerts me when I’m most likely to be tired so I can take preventative measures.
  • Seek professional help – councilors and doctors can help with advice and in extreme cases medication.
  • Take it a day at a time.
    Track your progression using a chart or journal so that you can see the progress you are making. The charts and journal can also help you on your weak days to remind you that you’ve done it before and can do it again.

Review

Addictions are very complex. There are no known magic bullets that can slay the beast. However, there are positive steps that you can take to battle and win.

  • Choose to take action and commit, and then plan.
  • If you are starting your abstinence, start on a weekend.
  • Join a social media caffeine addicts support group.
  • Be aware of your tiredness and use a tool like V-CAF.
  • Seek professional help.
  • Keep a journal or chart your progress.

Conclusion

Taking charge of your response to caffeine addiction goes a long way in helping you to overcome it.

Use the techniques in this article as a starting point, but to get the best results make it personal to you.

You can do it 🙂

Categories
Caffeine Side Effects

What Coffee Bean Producers Wont Tell You

What The Top Coffee Bean Producers Don’t Want You To Know

What you don’t know can’t hurt you…

I enjoy drinking coffee. I like the taste and it’s become a valuable tool that I use to help me focus and stay alert.

What I failed to take into consideration was that like all stimulants, there is a danger in the amounts that you consume.

No big deal, I only drink a couple of cups a day! Unfortunately caffeine is finding its way into more of the foods and drinks that we consume daily. 

What annoyed me was the lack of info regarding the cumulative effects of coffee and caffeine consumption; so I decided to write this article to help fill that void.

Fresh Coffee Beans
Photo by Alex@worthyofelegance on Unsplash

The Rising Consumption of Caffeine

Back in June 1 2013, the Washington Post published an article by Brady Dennis that brought attention to the rising amount of food and beverages that contained caffeine.
Slew of caffeinated food products has FDA jittery

Since then there are even more products on the market that contain caffeine.

  • Chocolates
  • Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurts
  • Puddings
  • Breakfast Cereals
  • Headache Pills
  • Various Medications
  • And surprisingly to me Decaffeinated Coffee (although at a reduced level – 12mg compared to 84mg in regular coffee)

I speculate that the increased use of caffeine in products that we ingest is not so much for the health benefits, but rather for its addictive traits (like sugar).

The Effects of Increased Caffeine Consumption on Your Health

There are plenty of articles on the web that suggest that going over 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day can be bad for you over time.

What are not highlighted are the cumulative effects of all the caffeine you can ingest in one day over a period of time.

Thankfully there are many research papers that find both the pros and cons for increasing your caffeine intake.

For example there was a study by G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; et al found that increasing the caffeine consumption of Japanese-American men between the ages of 45 and 68, reduced the risk of developing Parkinson disease.
Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease

And here are some of the cons:

So what can we do to reduce our exposure to caffeine?

Caffeine Control Strategies

Moderation is key. To reduce our exposure to caffeine we first must take the decision to actively watch for how much we consume.

Here are some strategies that I’ve found helpful:

  • Read what’s on the label
    Although the amount of caffeine may not be on the label, if you want to reduce your consumption of caffeine err on the side of caution
  • Use alternatives
    Feeling tired; need to stay awake? Reach for an alternative to coffee (and not decaf)! Water; fruit juices; moving around; using an alarm like V-CAF that warns you when you’re feeling tired; over time these tools can help you naturally increase your energy and reduce your dependency on caffeine products
  • Become more informed about caffeine and your own body.
    By knowing the pros and cons of anything you take control over your own choices rather than defaulting to an industry’s standard for your life!

Review

These days, caffeine intoxication and addiction are real threats. The increased use of caffeine in our foods and drinks masks that we are increasing our tolerance to the stimulating effects of this psychoactive substance.

Use these strategies to help take back control:

  • Find out what you are consuming by reading the label
  • Use non intrusive alternatives such as apps like V-CAF
  • Become more informed 

Take Back Control

I decided to take back control in this area of my life and started a quest to find out more.

I’m still on that quest and hope that you also start your own. Together our collective individual actions can affect change for the better.