Note: This is a guest post by Tony Henderson and I found it especially interesting and relevant since I recently wrote a post announcing the Upgrade Reality Body Transformation Challenge.
I used to have a great system for dealing with deadlines. It was called coffee, coffee, and more coffee – supplemented when necessary by occasional candy bars and infusions of Red Bull. Recently, however, to my horror, I found that the caffeine that I depend on to help me get the job done wasn’t helping anymore. It was as if I had become immune to it. In fact, I think it was making me sleepy!
So I did what any self-respecting writer would do – I Googled my problem. First, I found out that a 20-minute power nap has been scientifically proven to reduce sleepiness more than 150 mg of caffeine – which is around the amount of caffeine that you might find in a Starbucks vanilla latte. That didn’t surprise me that much, but I didn’t really think I had time for an afternoon nap.
But then I found out something even more startling: caffeine can actually make you sleepy – and that is what was happening to me. The neurotransmitter in the brain that is most responsible for making a person sleepy is adenosine. Your body naturally makes more adenosine when you are sleep-deprived, and caffeine blocks its effects – otherwise the adenosine would slow your reaction time as well as your attention span. But by blocking the action of adenosine, caffeine
stimulates the body to release more adenosine, making people sleepier in the long run. At some point, the body is releasing so much adenosine that it seems as though the caffeine is actually inducing sleepiness.
“What we found,” says sleep scientist Quentin Regestein, who was interviewed by the Chicago Reader, “is that when people stop using coffee, morning sleepiness doesn’t get worse, it goes away.” Regestein goes on, “Ordinarily, people who give up coffee say that the clear stimulus they used to feel for an hour, hour and a half in the morning is no longer there, but that the average productivity of their day improves.”
The average productivity of their day improves?
I could certainly use a boost in productivity, but I was still wondering how I was going to get that if I gave up coffee. I turned to food. They say you are what you eat, but do you write what you eat? Based on my experience, it seems so. I decided to start an experiment. Every time I grew sleepy while trying to work, I would use a different strategy, a non-caffeinated strategy, if possible.
I made a list of strategies to boost my energy naturally:
Have a protein-rich snack (something made of real food that didn’t come from a vending machine).
Eat a piece of fruit (I prefer Clementine oranges and bananas, both of which are very easy and quick to peel).
Have some dried fruit.
Drink a tall glass of water or, if I was having terrible sugar cravings, possibly a glass of orange juice.
Go for a short walk.
Take a power nap using Pzizz, a computer program that uses sound tracks and hypnotic suggestion to induce a state of deep relaxation and then pull you back out of it. (Or Diggy suggests binaural beats)
I also made a point of eating a good breakfast and lunch, especially when I was just coming off caffeine. I figured I had to get energy from somewhere!
This approach helped me, but as time went on, I became truly obsessive. I wondered what foods I could eat at dinner to help me sleep well at night, what foods would improve my brain health overall, and specifically what foods (besides sugar-laden ones) would give me instant energy. Then I happened onto a list, “100 Best Foods for Boosting Productivity,” which was printed in the Huffington Post. The list is divided into categories, but two caught my eye: “Energy and Brain Foods,” and “General Productivity Boosters.” Not all these foods are office-friendly, but some were: raisins, figs, hummus, pita bread, peanut butter, honey, walnuts, sunflower seeds, lemon, water, plums.
So I made my own energy-inducing “trail mix” out of raisins, figs, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and dried plums (aka prunes) to keep at my desk. I bought a little container of lemon juice to add to my water. And I started began relying on two basic packed lunches that both were easy to fix: hummus and pita bread, and peanut butter and honey sandwiches (hey, whatever you have to do in the interests of science). I especially liked the latter, since I could just bring a jar each
of peanut butter and honey, and a loaf of bread, to work at the beginning of the week.
People have been asking me what I did that has made me so much more energetic. When I tell them I gave up caffeine, they look at me and say, “Yeah, right.” But it’s true. I mean, I haven’t become the Energizer Bunny. But maybe in a year from now, if I keep tweaking the diet…I’ll keep you posted!
About the Author
This article was written by Tony Henderson of Term Papers Lab, a site that helps students write term papers by offering example research papers and informative articles about essay topics and research.