I have been approached by many people in the last few weeks asking me about sleep habits and quality. I am known to nag my students about the importance of sleep and the role it plays in academic success. I think many people have been having trouble in the last couple of weeks, especially in the area where I live, because the time change has cut down our daylight in the evening and I don’t think the sun has been out since we “fell back”. It may seem minor but our brain needs those daylight cues and our circadian rhythm can really be altered by something as benign as a one hour time adjustment.
I have been sharing my Sleep article with students as they try to trouble shoot what may be impacting their ability to either fall asleep, or stay asleep. In talking with people, I am repeatedly AMAZED by the quantity of caffeine they are consuming as well as how late in the day they are consuming it. There is a vicious cycle that can be developed by consuming too much caffeine. It can leave us feeling jittery, anxious, and affect our ability to fall asleep. This leaves us with little or poor sleep and causes us to reach for more caffein the next day.
How much caffeine are you consuming? I want to share a great resource “Caffeine Content of Food and Drugs” offered by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They have produced a comprehensive list of some of the most widely consumed food, drinks, and over the counter medications that contain caffeine. It also gives perspective. While some people have a couple of cups of coffee a day, it turns out their cup is actually a large mug and a daily total of caffeine can far exceed many “energy” products on the market.
So, here is what I recommend to my clients and students who are experiencing sleep issues:
1. Look over my sleep article and see if you can take some of the recommended steps.
2. Track your caffeine consumption and keep a sleep journal for 7-10 days. See if you can find some correlation to quantity and time of caffeine consumed with ability to fall and stay asleep. You may find something there.
3. Speak with a healthcare provider if you are experiencing sleep problems. There may be something underlying going on.
4. If you decide to cut back on caffeine, you will want to make sure to taper it down slowly over time. If you cut back too much, too soon, that can have negative consequences.