We’re all working longer hours, want to spend more time with our families and find a little something left over at the end of the day for ourselves. All of this means sleeping less, and one of the few legal ways to still be functional the next day is with the help of caffeine.
Legal or not, however, caffeine has some serious risks. A cup (or four) of coffee probably won’t do more than make most people jittery, but in concentrated doses (and combined with sugar, as in energy drinks) it can be harmful, even fatal.
Last week, the FDA issued a warning about powdered caffeine after tying the deaths of two young, healthy men to overdoses. Just a teaspoon of pure caffeine is about the same amount as in 25 cups of coffee.
If you’re trying to stay awake, caffeine isn’t even your best option. It takes time to leave your body, so drinking it later in the day could keep you awake well after bedtime, it’s habit-forming, suppresses vital neurotransmitters in the brain and doesn’t actually help your sleepiness, just delays the inevitable. Try these tips for more effective, stimulant-free ways to stay awake.
Fatigue isn’t just in your limbs; you have to periodically reboot yourself head to toe. Roll your eyes and stare at a far-away spot for 20 seconds to refresh strained muscles.Give your brainsome mind candyby switching tasks when you’re feeling sleepy to something that’s fairly fast and easy, like answering emails or even watching cat videos (this has the benefit of lowering your stress levels just as playing with a real animal would). And deep breathing is not just for yoga class — boost your circulation while lowering blood pressure (it’s practically magic!) by inhaling using your abdomen, not your chest. Sit up straight, take a long, deep breath through your nose and let it push your belly out, then exhale and repeat until zen.
Just like an engine, you get out of your body what you put into it.Instead of reaching for an energy bar, or worse whatever is left in the office vending machine, grab something low in sugar and high in protein, like Greek yogurt (with fresh fruit), a handful of nuts or carrots with hummus. This is high-quality energy that won’t leave you shaky from low blood sugar in a couple of hours. And remember to drink water — thirst sets in when 2-3 percent of your body’s natural hydration is lost, but mental effects like fatigue and confusion, and even irregular heartrate, show up at as little as 1 percent loss. This is because blood is mostly plasma, which is mostly water, and that means good stuff isn’t being distributed and waste isn’t being flushed out.
Sitting is killing us just as surely as smoking is, so the next time you’re feeling sluggish, rev your engine with a walk. Even 10 minutes will boost circulation and energy for up to two hours. Bonus: Grab your phone and step to the beat in the sunshine. Music amps you up as you shake off tension and stress, while the sunshine and groovy feelings boost serotonin (which has a role in metabolism and is suppressed by regular caffeine binges) and dopamine (which improves your concentration and mood — two things we’re all low on by mid-afternoon).
Seriously, put down your smartphone, turn off the TV and go to bed. Even a single night of sleep deprivation makes you more sluggish, shortens your attention span and hurts your ability to learn. And anew studyat Canada’s Concordia University showed that kids who got the recommended amount of sleep had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Keep that elevated for a while and you’re headed toward heart problems and lowered ability to fight disease, not to mention weight gain and depression. All of which could lead a person to abuse harder substances than caffeine to keep functioning. Soget some sleep, before lack of sleep gets you.