Categories
Alert Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative Fatigue Focus Insomnia Lethargy Productivity Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

When Caffeine Just Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

When Too Much Becomes Too Little

It’s time to change…

During one of our insanely busy work cycles, Darren looked limp and worn down. In our daily meetings he just stared into the distance, occasionally checking his watch.

As time went on I noticed more often than not that some management types would pull him to one side and have what looked to be an intense discussion about something that they felt the need to point out to him.

Then one day Darren came over to me and asked if we could have a quick chat over a coffee. We found a quiet corner, him with a mug of joe in his hand and me with water in mine, and Darren came out bluntly and asked “How do I do it?”

When Coffee Doesnt Do It
Photo by @potochnyi via Twenty20

The Promise

Confused I responded and said something like “Do what?”. The reply I got back shocked me. “You always seem to be with it. It’s rare that I see you getting angry or upset.”.

Now I got where this was going. In the past I’d been fairly stressed out and not working at my best. I looked sleepy and some would come by my desk and tell me to wake up!

Under pressure to perform, I started drinking diet sodas with caffeine to help keep me awake. But before long, I found myself needing more sodas to just feel normal and staying alert became harder.

 

Getting Let Down

It wasn’t long before my increased caffeine consumption started to affect my sleep. Most evenings between 6 and 7 I would go from feeling lethargic to suddenly being hyper alert.

At the time I put it down to finding work boring and that because the evening wasn’t all about work my mood picked up. But as it became normal for me to be wide awake at 3am laying in bed, I knew that something was wrong.

Also, when it was time to wake up I felt like I hadn’t slept. This feeling would continue until about 10ish after I had my first diet soda of the day. But after lunch until I got back home was a struggle.

It became so bad that my manager asked if I had a sleep condition and told me to fix up as other workers were noticing that I would nod off in front of my screen.

As Darren listened to what I was saying he nodded, laughed and said that he remembered those days and in fact a manager had told him to talk to me to find out what I did to turns things around.

What Darren and I appeared to be suffering from was a bad mix of unhealthy sleep practices and a raised tolerance to caffeine. Because caffeine blocks our brain’s adenosine receptors, our body found it difficult to work out if we were tired.

Adenosine is a chemical released by our body throughout the day. As the amount of adenosine builds our tiredness increases which let’s us know that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

Caffeine blocks our brain from being able to correctly measure how tired we are and so tricks us into thinking that we are more awake than we really are. To make matters worse, caffeine can stay in our system from between 7 – 15 hours depending on our weight and age.

Because I was drinking so much caffeinated sodas throughout the day I was actively blocking my body from being able to regulate itself which in turn led to me being too awake by bedtime, but tired throughout the day.

A Better Way

I told Darren that I tried a few different approaches, but the best results came from getting more quality sleep and reducing, then removing caffeine from my diet.

  • Avoiding Caffeine
    I stopped drinking caffeine straight away, but it may be best to take it slowly and gradually reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume. This boils down to how bad your withdrawal symptoms are and what is going on in your life at the time.
  • Eating Healthily
    Eat more iron. magnesium, and protein rich foods like beans, nuts, spinach and eggs as a deficiency in any of these can make you feel drained.
  • Staying Hydrated
    Dehydration makes it difficult for you to focus and concentrate, so by being hydrated you can increase your brain’s ability to focus and concentrate whilst reducing drowsiness.
  • Knowing How Tired You Are
    A lot of people are so busy or focused on what they are doing that they don’t realise how tired they are until they make mistakes or are feeling frustrated. By being mindful of how you feel you can train yourself to recognise the tell tale signs of fatigue. Using an app like V-CAF, an Apple Watch app, you can be notified when you are tired so that you can stop and take a natural break before continuing with whatever activity you were engaged in.

Alertness Tips

Darren thanked me for my openness and went on to try some of my tips as well as what he thought would work for him.

And that’s the beauty of being human, we are all similar but unique enough to make it interesting. Darren started to change things around based on his needs and experiences.

My tips are what worked for me, but perhaps you can use them as a base to start from if you ever feel that caffeine isn’t working for you anymore.

  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Eat Healthily
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Know when you are tired

Afterword

Don’t suffer in silence, if you’re in a difficult place, reach out and ask for help. There’s no shame involved. Everybody has times when things aren’t as good as they can be.

Whether we like it or not, we are part of a community, it’s just the way it is. Help your community and they will help you.

Categories
Exercise Sleep Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

How to Stay Awake at Night

How to Survive Nightshifts

Making the best out of a difficult situation

A colleague of mine was speaking to me about doing shift work and mentioned how much he hated it.

Luckily for him he only did this once every six weeks and got paid well enough to make it worth his while. I told him to be careful with that and he replied, “I know, working like this can kill you, you know, take you out early (shorten your life)”!

My face must of been a picture, because he then quickly told me about some of the precautions that he has taken to minimise the stress and make the shift work for him.

I’ll share some of his tips for working nights as well as pointing out the effects that sleep deprivation can have on your health.

How to Stay Awake at Night
Photo by Joshua Bartell @jjbart7 on Unsplash, lighted lantern lamp, https://unsplash.com/photos/B5PGhF55FgU

Lifestyle and Work Pressures

Our modern way of living and working encourage us to stay up later or miss out on sleep during the night. Whether it be because we are working, playing, surfing the internet or whatever, we are affecting the quality of our sleep without realising it.

For many there is no choice but to have to work during the night, and some have to work during the day as well. This can lead you to feeling miserable and tortured to the point that you start to loath everything and everyone around you.

Your work begins to suffer and you find that you are trying to work harder to make up for the drop in your productivity levels. Something will have to give, but what will it be, the job or your health, or both?

Long Nights and Your Health

Humans are social by nature and the quality of our social connections can have an effect on our health. Good relations tend to make us feel better and as a result have a positive influence on our health, whereas bad relations have the opposite effect.

Working through the night can negatively impact the quality of our family and social connections which in turn has negative effects on our health.
This may be a contributing factor as to why nightshift work has been linked to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases as well as cancer.

A study also found that night workers were less likely to exercise and more likely to increase their body mass index. It is an accepted fact that obesity plays a significant role in the development of various diseases such as:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Colon and breast cancer

Pepłońska, B., Burdelak, W., Krysicka, J., Bukowska, A., Marcinkiewicz, A., Sobala, W., Klimecka-Muszyńska, D., & Rybacki, M. (2014). Night shift work and modifiable lifestyle factors. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, 27(5), 693-706.

Another study tested 100 student nurses before and after they worked a three month nightshift period and found that they had:

  • Less energy
  • Poorer concentration
  • Poor sleep
  • A loss of interest in their daily activities
  • Irritability
  • Become more sensitive to criticism
  • A feeling of hopelessness

Healy, P. (1996). Night shift work linked to depression. Nursing Standard, 11(15), 7-7.

When You Have No Choice

Reading the above isn’t pleasant especially if you have to work night shifts, but not all hope is lost and there are things that you can do to minimise the effects of working nights on your health.

  • Nutrition
    When talking with my colleague he mentioned that he payed very close attention to his nutrition and what he ate. No junk food, lots of fruit and veg and hardly any alcohol. He also avoided too much caffeine as it would interfere with his sleep when he finished the shift.
  • Exercise
    By keeping yourself active you help to reduce the risk of being obese which itself can increase the risk of various diseases that were mentioned in the previous section. Exercise is also a very good way to help lift your mood and make yourself feel better. My coworker makes a point of going for a walk in the forest near where he lives and sometimes he runs or cycles. No matter what type of exercise you choose, make sure it’s something that you like doing which will make it easier for you to do on a regular basis.
  • Sleep
    By working nights you are actively fighting against your body’s circadian rhythm which regulates your sleep pattern. Melatonin starts to be released by your body between 9pm and 10pm and stops around 7am. You face an uphill battle when working during these hours just to stay awake.

    To make things easier on yourself make sure that you have between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day, (that includes short naps), and sleep for 2 hours just before the start of your shift.
  • Staying Awake @ Work
    It’s difficult but can be done. Just make sure not to work too many nightshifts in a row for a long period of time if you want to reduce the risks that I’ve outlined above.

    Using a bright light or sitting in a very bright area will help increase your alertness. Break up tedious tasks with some form of physical activity (like going for a walk or stretching). Also have chat breaks with your coworkers to help stimulate your mind. Tools such as our app V-CAF can help keep you awake by notifying you when you are about to fall asleep and can be used to help remind you to get up and move around.

Remembering the Risks

Many people don’t have a choice and have to work nightshifts. Working like this for the short term minimises the health risks that you are being exposed to.

If possible, like my colleague, try to maximise the periods between working nightshifts (for example, my coworker works the night shift one week in six).

It’s your duty to be informed about the risks that working nightshifts can have on your health, and to take the appropriate actions to help minimise the adverse effects on your health. I’ve outlined some of the information that my colleague gave me and supplemented it with my own research, so please use this post as your starting point for your own research.

Make The Change

Shift work is hard. If you are on a nightshift and reading this article, I don’t want to make you feel bad. The same goes for those that work long hours and don’t get enough sleep.

Just know that it’s good for now, but when you can – make the change. In the meantime look after yourself and stay healthy.

Categories
Energy Focus Productivity Staying Awake Tiredness

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!

Love Working, Hate Workaholism

It’s easily done. You have a tight deadline, the works not finished but you reckon if you put the extra time in now, you can salvage your reputation and get everything done.

There are times when you just have to burn the midnight oil to get things done and it’s understandable. But recently I’ve been noticing that people seem to think that this type of effort is normal if you want to get things done and get ahead.

Officially corporations, government bodies and global institutions talk a good talk about work life balance, but honestly, does that ring true with your everyday experiences?

Are over worked and over stressed employees really as productive as those in charge think?

Be Productive, Give Up Workaholism!
Photo by Tim Gou @punttim on Unsplash, Gastown, Vancouver, Canada, Busy people at a coffee shop

Feeling Compelled

Have you ever found yourself staying at work for longer than you needed? That includes skipping lunch, coming in early and staying late and cancelling holidays.

Or how about agreeing to an unreasonable deadline and not having a plan outside of working long hours until the work is done, to meet it?

During these difficult economic times it can be challenging to say no to the impossible deadlines; or working within your limits instead of the arbitrary hours of what the workplace culture dictates (outside of your contracted hours, of course).

If you are either one of the lucky few that like your work so much that you just can’t tear yourself away, or if you feel that you must be seen to be a ‘good worker’, workaholism can be very destructive.

What’s The Cost?

Compulsion is a horrible condition to have. It robs you of your self esteem and makes you feel like a hostage to your own life.

The time that you spend doing work related tasks is time taken away from:

  • Doing the things that can enhance your life
  • Time taken away from loved ones
  • And time stollen from your self worth.

Everyone who can work should work, but as with the case with most things in life, balance is key. An unbalanced work life often leads to:

  • Increased stress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Low productivity
  • Relationship breakdowns

Balance cannot be achieved through a dictate from up on high, but must be actively pursued. What that means is that you must make more balanced choices in order to improve your quality of life.

But How Can I Change?

The first step to implementing any kind of long lasting valuable change is to truly acknowledge that a change is needed in the first place.

Without that, change can still be achieved but you risk making your task more difficult than it needs to be, and you can find yourself just going through the motions.

Still, sometimes going through the motions actually helps you to implement the change anyway, so above all just start.

Implement any of these points as you see fit to help you stay the course and become more productive.

  • Plan you work and break it down into manageable chunks.
  • Where possible aim for more reasonable deadlines.
  • Include down time in your work plans.
  • Prioritise getting enough good quality sleep.
  • Take regular breaks when working on your tasks. We created an Apple Watch app called V-CAF to help you with that. It alerts you when you start to feel tired reminding you to take a break and reenergise yourself before getting back to work.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Set hard to break after work appointments with your family/friends and block the time in your work calendar.

A Brief Summary

We’ve gone over a lot so here’s the summary:

  • Workaholism reduces productivity and increases stress.
  • Time spent obsessing over work tasks is time taken away from other priorities in your life.
  • Make a commitment to change your work life balance and implement steps (like those listed above) that will help you stay the course.

Hope

Workaholism is a drain on your health, your personal life and work life!

To increase your productivity you may have to decrease the amount of work you do.

The choices you make regarding your work life affect all areas of your life. Hopefully you’ll choose a balanced life.

Categories
Fatigue Staying Awake Tiredness

Working Through Tiredness

Tiredness, How to Work Through It

If you want to, that is…

Recently I’ve had a lot of work on and noticed that I’ve been feeling more tired than usual.

As a result I’ve felt that my work has been harder than it needs to be and taking longer than expected.

This in turn has made me more frustrated which has effected the quality and efficiency of my work.

Thankfully I recognised what was going on and was able to stop the downward spiral, and decided to write an article about how I was able to turn things around fairly quickly.

Working Through Tiredness
Photo by Joyce Romero @joyceromero on Unsplash, Bali, Indonesia, Caught my friend sleeping while waiting for boarding.

Decreasing Productivity

It can be depressing. You have a deadline to meet or a heavy workload, but feel confident that you can meet your objectives.

Then as you get deeper into your tasks you start to feel a little overwhelmed and find that your efforts aren’t quite hitting the mark.

You increase your efforts but frustration and even a little anger might start to set in. And to top it off you’re feeling exhausted!

Now you’ve reached the tipping point. As you become more drained the likelihood of you making mistakes increase whilst simultaneously decreasing your efficiency.

Working Whilst Tired

It’s been proven that you increase the potential to make mistakes when working during tiredness. So why do so many people do it?

I believe that it’s partially due to people possessing less body awareness nowadays. It’s a similar situation to people not realising that they’re thirsty until it can’t be ignored anymore.

Another responsible factor is overloading. A never ending growing list of responsibilities and tasks lay pressure on the mind and distract you from paying attention to what your body and mind are telling you.

The lack of sensitivity to tiredness may also be linked to the amount of stimulants that are available for us to consume, which has helped to blunt our ability to recognise the tell tale signs that tell us we need to take a break.

If we don’t learn to pay attention to the signals, we are ultimately setting ourselves up for:

  • Stress
  • Nervous breakdowns
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety

Working Through Tiredness

Just because I’m tired it doesn’t mean I don’t have to hit my targets. It’s a sign that I have to take time management more seriously and make better decisions.

During my last slump I used these strategies to get me over that hump:

  • Prioritised Sleep
    Yep. I planned my waking hours around my sleep. What this meant in practical terms was that I had set times to wake up and go to sleep. No working past at least an hour before I went to bed. For me I set my bed time for 10:00 and woke up around 06:00 every day, including weekends. The idea here was to get back in sync with my circadian rhythm.
  • Exercise
    I’m more of a morning person when it comes to exercise so I did an hours weights and running session soon after waking up. For me I found that it gave me an energy boost and made me feel more alert, so I felt better about the work I had to do for the day. You’ll have to experiment and find a time that works for you, but the aim is to do some exercise every day. Even a ten minute walk helps clear your mind and relax you. It’s a great stress buster and can lift your mood.
  • Eat Whole Foods and Drink Lots of Water
    Nutrient dense food works wonders at boosting your mood and energy. Eat dark green leafy vegetables, grass fed cattle, whole milk, free range eggs and chickens, nuts and berries. These are natures gift and provide you with your basic nutritional needs. I’m vegetarian so where I mention meats, I eat more beans and lentils and do food combining, like rice and beans to get what I need. Again experiment to find what works for you. Don’t forget to drink lots of water throughout the day, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible.
  • Plan Your Work
    I’ve used Scrum and Kanban to plan what work I’ll do for the week ahead. And as usual, I’ve modified them both to fit my needs and style of work. Again, it’s not about the method, but more about the principals behind the method. In this case, it’s kinda like being back at school and having a class schedule so you knew which classes where on what day and where, but in this case it’s for work you need to get done. Planning ahead helps keep you focused on the work that needs to be done and also gives you a concrete indicator on the amount of work that you’ve done and can also help you to adjust where you put your efforts.
  • Take Regular Breaks
    Break up your work sessions into 20-30 minute work periods and make a point focussing only on the work that you have set to do in that time and then take a 5-10 minute break when your current session is done. This is my adjusted version of the Pomodoro technique, so adjust to what fits your concentration spans. In addition to that I also use our tiredness alarm, V-CAF, to let me know that I’m at that point where tiredness will begin to affect my work, so I take a break. It works wonders and I highly recommend it.

Review

Working whilst being tired sucks. Sometimes we just can’t avoid it, but I hope that you at least try some of the tips that I used to get me through my last slump. It’s better than trying to trick yourself into staying awake, and in the long term you’ll feel so much better.

Give these a try:

  • Making sleep a priority
  • Daily exercise
  • Eat healthily and drink lots of water throughout the day
  • Plan your work
  • Take regular breaks whilst working

Afterthought

It looks like a lot to do just to be able to get things done when you are tired, but it’s not that much. For the cost of a little effort every day the rewards will soon pay you back tenfold.

Being tired is a natural part of being alive. Embrace it for what it is and you’ll soon feel like you can do anything, and probably can.

Good Luck

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Focus Irritability Productivity Side Effects Staying Awake Tiredness

Stay Awake pills, are they worth the risk?

Stay Awake pills, are they worth the risk?

Nothing ventured…

In the past when I had a lot of work to get finished, a tight deadline, or studying for exams I would use caffeine to help me focus and stay awake.

I started to be concerned when I found that I needed more caffeine just to stay awake and focused, until eventually I got the jitters!

After doing some research I decided to stop taking caffeine and in particular caffeine pills.

In this article I’ll be sharing some of the things that I found out about caffeine and why I think taking caffeine pills to stay awake and study or work wasn’t worth the risk.

Working Through Tiredness
Photo by Carl Raw @carltraw on Unsplash, Southport, United Kingdom, Take a photo of your arcade, play around with the lighting in Lightroom. It’s fun.

Ease of Access

It’s never been easier to get a quick energy boost when you need it. Plenty of snacks contain caffeine and and are within easy reach via vending machines in schools, offices and train stations.

Due to caffeine’s pervasiveness in foods and drinks, many don’t realise how much caffeine they consume in a day.

Caffeine pills promise an instant energy boost packed into an easily consumed pill. A couple of pills will keep you alert and focussed. A single pill can contain as much caffeine as two cups of coffee (200 mg).

Great, so what? The FDA recommends four or five cups of coffee per day for healthy adults (depending on body weight, medications and individual sensitivity), which works out to be approximately 400 mg of caffeine. Consume just one pill and you are already at half your limit for the day.

And those that do use caffeine pills quite frequently consume more than one or two pills, especially if they have a heavy work or study load.

Diminishing Returns

When you’re in it, it’s difficult to realise that your caffeine consumption is raising your tolerance to the stuff.

I started taking more caffeine pills than the recommended dosage and felt more drained and irritable. I remember blaming it on the fact that I had so much to do and not enough time to get it done.

A good friend of mine told me that it might be best if I slowed down, and would drop hints about the effects that caffeine was having on me.

Looking back I can see it clear as day. I was consuming too much caffeine which was making me feel crap.

Classic symptoms of consuming too much caffeine include:

  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Palpitations
  • Tremors
  • And sleep disturbances

And then there’s the withdrawal symptoms. A lot of people don’t believe that caffeine is addictive whilst being addicted themselves (I was one of those).

When I first tried to stop I felt the same as when I was increasing the amount of caffeine pills I was taking. This was because I was suffering from withdrawal and didn’t realise it!

Those of you that need a coffee or tea fix in the morning might not realise that the reason you have the craving for caffeine is because you are suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Because you weren’t drinking caffeine or popping pills in your sleep, when you wake up your mind needs the caffeine just to make you feel normal.

Here’s a list of common withdrawal symptoms, tell me if any of them sound familiar to your daily experience:

  • Nervous irritability
  • Tremors
  • Palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The Alternatives

After I had decided to quit caffeine, my instinct was to look for a safe replacement or alternative that would give me the same awake feeling without the nasty side effects.

Through trial and error I found that the best alternative was to change my lifestyle. By making different choices I found myself gradually feeling a lot better than I ever did when using caffeine pills. I still drink and eat caffeine once in a while, but not to stay awake!

So in no particular order, here are some of the lifestyle changes that I’ve made:

  • Avoid Caffeine
    Gradually reduce your dependence on caffeine until you find yourself not craving it anymore (especially when you’re feeling tired or stressed). Be prepared for the withdrawal symptoms, but tough it out and know that in the long term you’ll pull through.
  • 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
    By drinking enough water every day, you help your brain to function more efficiently. Dehydration makes it difficult for us to focus and concentrate, so by being hydrated we increase our brains ability to focus and concentrate as well as reduce drowsiness.
  • Know When You Are Tired
    A lot of people are so busy or focused on what they are doing that they don’t realise how tired they are until they make mistakes or are feeling frustrated. By being mindful of how you feel you can train yourself to recognise the tell tale signs of fatigue. Using an Apple Watch app like V-CAF, you can be notified when you are tired so that you can stop and take a natural break before continuing with whatever activity you were engaged in.

Review

I made the decision a while ago to not use caffeine pills, and caffeine in general to stay awake just so I can get things done.

The risks to my medium to long term health just weren’t worth the risk for me. What about you?

If you decide you need a change, then why not try out some of the tips that we gave above:

  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Eat Healthily
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Know when you are tired

Last Thoughts

Nobody knows you better than you do. Consuming caffeine has benefits as well as drawbacks. The key seems to be balance.

Everyones centre point is unique to themselves. By taking the time to find out about yourself, you eventually will have the instinct to know what works for you.

Thanks for reading.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Energy Exercise Side Effects Staying Awake Tiredness

How to Stay Awake Without Caffeine

Five Tips to Staying Awake Without Caffeine

Five steps to greatness…

Need to stay awake but don’t want to use caffeine? 

In this post I’ll share 5 tips with you that will beat that tiredness slump.

Where's my coffee?
Photo by Dominik QN @dominik_qn on Unsplash

Caffeine and Staying Awake

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.

Side Effects

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:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Review

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.

Last Point

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.

Categories
Fatigue Focus Staying Awake

How Can I Stay Awake?

I Need to Stay Awake II

More wide awake tips…

I’ve recently been extremely busy and had fallen behind on some of my tasks and also had a new bunch of tasks to take care of too.

I decided to put more hours in to get the work done but found that as I was working I just couldn’t stay awake!

This had the knock on effect of making me have to work longer to catch up with my work, which in turn made me feel more tired.

I eventually got the work done and what I want to share with you was what I learned by having to go through that difficulty so that it may help you if you ever find yourself in that situation.

Must-stay-awake!
Photo by Matthew T Rader@matthew_t_rader on Unsplash

Drowsy Whilst Working

Many of us go through phases where we feel too tired to get the job done but we do somehow. In my own life I’ve experienced this as a student, employee, employer and parent.

Even though we get through these phases and complete the tasks or goals that we have to achieve, the experience is far from pleasurable. Over time if we repeat these cycles it can become extremely difficult to motivate ourselves to even attempt to get things done.

This is bad as we can start to attribute these feelings with the tasks that we have to do, making us feel resentful and depressed.

What Tiredness Costs You

Having feelings of resentment because you are tired whilst working (or studying) makes the work more difficult than it needs to be.

Feeling tired makes it difficult to do basic cognitive functions such as paying attention, concentration, accuracy and memory recall, which results in less than stellar performance and less productivity – leading to feeling even more resentful and frustrated. 

Over the long term this can lead to mood disorders and chronic diseases, causing harm to your career or long-term life goals. 

Mix and Match

There are a myriad of techniques that you can use to get you over that hump when you’ve got to get some work done. 

But what I found that worked surprisingly well was mixing and matching the following techniques. The beauty of this is that everyone is different so it gives you the opportunity to tailor it to your own needs as you see fit, giving it more chance of success because it is your work that you put the effort into.

  • Motivation
    This is probably key to making all the other steps work, or work better. Give yourself a target that if you achieve you’ll get a reward of your choice. Make multiple or incremental goals to help motivate you to get through the difficult parts.
  • Give yourself time limits
    Set a time limit for blocks of work or study, say three twenty to twenty-five minute periods, using the Pomodoro technique, or other themed timer app (I use Forest).
  • Use a tiredness monitor or alarm
    Even though you are tired, use a tiredness alarm like V-CAF that notifies you when you are going to nod off. That way you can stop where you are and refocus yourself and wake yourself up so that you have full concentration until the next alarm.
  • Drink something (not alcoholic)
    For me water is best, but there are other alternatives to caffeine based energy drinks such as B vitamin products, herbal and protein supplements. And of course there are caffeine drinks and products too, but these are my last choice.

Review

What eventually worked for me was to motivate myself with a reward, drinking water and using the tiredness monitor.

You are free to try the same or make your own mix, as long as you try something to get over that hump.

Once again:

  • Motivate yourself by setting goals that give you a reward if completed
  • Give yourself time limits, use tools like The Pomodoro Technique or Forest to help focus on the task at hand
  • Use tiredness monitors like V-CAF.
  • Drink water, energy drinks, coffee – whatever works for you

Conclusion

The key here is to set your own goals and use your own system to get the results you need.

Nobody knows you better than yourself.

Categories
Productivity Tiredness

How Tiredness Affects Productivity

Tiredness and Productivity

Tiredness = no productivity

One of the best ways to increase your potential and value to yourself, family and the marketplace is through increased productivity.

Whether you are a student needing to be more productive in your study regime, a parent wanting to achieve more with your family, an employee wanting to increase your earning potential and/or status, or an entrepreneur looking to get the edge over your competition, we could all benefit from an increase of productivity.

Unfortunately, many people equate more productivity with more hours spent doing a perceived task that on the face of it looks productive, but is in fact draining their energy and making them feel tired and fatigued. 

This is especially so if the extra hours they gain to spend on tasks are taken from their sleep. It may seem to work at first, but eventually it catches up with you and can lead to serious health issues in the long term.

Do More
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl @carlheyerdahl on Unsplash My current desk setup as of 2016. I am a wedding and portrait photographer and have always believed the space you do work in has a big impact on the quality and kind of work you complete. I have been refining my workspace since I was in high school and I am really happy where it is now!

Too Tired to be Productive

These days many people equate having less sleep to being a productive go getter, a hard worker or dedicated employee.

Iconic political and industrial elites are lauded for their ability to run countries and business on the least amount of sleep possible. For example:

  • Donald Trump – 3 to 4 hours
  • Margret Thatcher – 4 hours
  • Jack Dorsey – 4 to 6 hours
  • Indra Nooyi – 4 hours
  • Sergio Marchionne – 4 hours
  • Martha Stewart – 4 hours
  • Thomas Edison – 4 hours
  • Benjamin Franklin – 5 hours

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat, fueled his productivity on four hours a night sleep and drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. And Thomas Edison is quoted as saying that sleep is “a heritage from our cave days”.

Whilst it is possible to work fatigued, is it the most optimal and efficient way of working whilst safeguarding your health?

Diminishing Returns

Lack of sleep has been linked to:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s

Also, as you become more tired you’ll find that your productivity starts to decline. It becomes increasingly difficult to pay attention, process information and even remember your tasks.

Worryingly, according to a study by Angus and Heslegrave, just one night of reduced sleep lead up to a 30% decrease in performance efficiency in test subjects.
Angus RG, Heslegrave RJ. (1985). Effects of sleep loss on sustained cognitive performance during a command and control simulation. Behav Res Methods Instrum Comput. 17:55-67

Paying Down Your Sleep Debt

So how do you get more sleep when you have a heavy workload? By organizing your time better.

Sleep should be a priority for your health as well as your productivity. Making getting enough sleep a priority in your life will help you to be more productive and less stressed which in turn allows you to be more productive during your waking hours.

Ultimately this is going to be a lifestyle change and a choice that only you can make. The following tips are guides to help you adjust your priorities and help make the shift as comfortable as possible.

  • Get to bed between 9pm and 10pm.
    Your body starts to release melatonin around 9pm. If you get to bed around this time then the deepest part of your sleep will be around 2am.
  • Exercise regularly to help your body to sleep deeper.
    Exercise is also a very good stress reliever which will lift your mood and strengthen your body.
  • Whilst working, when you feel tired take regular breaks.
    As we’ve discussed earlier, tiredness diminishes our productivity. Using an app like V-CAF will alert you to when you are too tired to focus efficiently so that you can take a natural break, before getting back to work.
  • Eat and drink healthily.
    I wouldn’t recommend Sergio Marchionne’s cigarette and coffee routine, but rather eating whole unprocessed foods and drinking plenty of water. The results will speak for themselves.

Review

Like anything of value in life, there are no shortcuts to increased productivity if you value your health and quality of living.

Working longer hours doesn’t necessarily equate to higher productivity, especially if we sacrifice sleep to achieve that end.

Prioritize your sleep and it will pay you back handsomely. 

To summarize:

  • Go to bed between 9pm and 10pm.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take regular breaks when focusing on your tasks. Use V-CAF to monitor your tiredness so that you can act accordingly.
  • Eat and drink healthily.

Conclusion

Your most valuable productive asset is you. If you value your productivity look after yourself by sleeping better and getting more rest.

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
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 🙂