Hello again! Writing today’s post just before bed got me thinking about the importance of rest. We all need rest, but it is easy to keep ourselves so busy that we neglect our bodies, downing caffeine to keep ourselves going. Inadequate rest means a slower metabolism, less motivation to train for the upcoming 5k, and lethargy throughout the day. Stimulants can only help so much. It is important to note that caffeine cannot replace sleep, but it can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. Caffeine can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, it takes about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated.
Many studies have shown that adequate rest actually improves productivity and efficiency. Caffeine helps restore better levels of wakefulness and counteracts degraded cognitive task performance due to sleep deprivation. However, caffeine may produce detrimental effects on subsequent sleep, resulting in daytime sleepiness. The most marked effects of caffeine on sleep, even at levels equivalent to those of a single cup of coffee, consist principally of prolonged sleep latency, shorter total sleep time, increases in light sleep and shortening of deep sleep time, as well as more frequent awakenings. These effects depend not only on the amount of caffeine ingested at bedtime, but also on the amount of caffeine ingested over the whole day. The effects of caffeine are smaller in habitual versus occasional coffee drinkers. Of course it may be difficult to change your caffeine habits. When you hit that afternoon slump around 2:30, it’s a lot easier to grab another soda or coffee and keep on chugging along than it is to take a 30 minute nap. While I have heard in the past that avoiding caffeine after a certain time in the day would help with falling asleep at night, I recently read that caffeine abstinence for a day is a more effective option.
If you are struggling to make it past that afternoon slump without at least one caffeinated beverage, here’s another thing you can try: go outside. Spending as little as 30 minutes out in the sun can boost your energy dramatically. A study at the University of Texas found that a few minutes of UV rays each morning boosts melatonin output at night, and can improve sleep quality within one week. Sunlight provides other benefits as well. Researchers have found that the more time spent outside on warm, sunny days, the more people’s memory improves and their minds are open to new information and creative thoughts. One interesting finding was that spending time indoors while the weather outside was pleasant actually decreased mood and mental performance. So do yourself a favor and get outside! Just don’t forget to use a sunscreen if you’re going to be out there a while.
Another thing that might help with your energy is moving around. When you find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open during that afternoon class or meeting, you can’t do much but tough it out. But if you know you’re always tired at that time of day, take a 10-15 minute walk before the class or meeting to get your blood flowing and re-awaken your body. If you’ve got a little more time, do a bit more strenuous workout to release some endorphins. Those “feel good” chemicals will stay in your body for hours, giving you the energy you’ll need to make it through the afternoon.
Aside from these little tricks to keep you awake when you’re tired, the best remedy is to get some sleep. Everyone’s bodies are unique, so I cannot prescribe an exact amount of sleep each person needs. But listen to your body. You know when you’ve gotten enough sleep. On that note, I’m headed to bed!