As a child we often fight sleep. As an adolescent we often change our patterns depending on our social, study and work commitments and parental pressures. In early adulthood we make the rules and when we find ourselves parenting we ache for more sleep and wonder why children fight it so hard. As students we try an find all the tricks to staying awake, either to finish an assignment, prepare for an exam or to keep up with the social activities.
One way we try and achieve this is with stimulants, often caffeine related. over 50% of Australian’s caffeine intake comes from coffee, with cola (18%), tea (16%) and energy drinks (5%) making up a majority of the caffeine stimulants. Whilst it has short term benefits of speeding up the brain and central nervous system, increasing concentration and alertness it’s long term effects of increased risk of blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, ulcers and infertility make this a risky choice. Not to mention the addictive nature of caffeine and the side effects of withdrawal, headaches, cravings, mood swings and agitation.
So it’s best to put a few simple things in place when consuming caffeine:
- Limit yourself to less than 400mg of caffeine daily – this is around 5 cups of instant coffee or 5, 250ml of energy drinks.
- Avoid single doses of caffeine that are in excess of 200mg as these can alter your blood pressure, hydration and body temperature within 30 minutes of consumption.
- Avoid consumption of caffeine after 3pm as it will interfere with your regular quality sleep patterns
- If your worried about your levels of consumption and want to reduce your intake reduce slowly over a period of time to avoid the side effects of withdrawal.
- Identify the food and drinks which contain caffeine and track your consumption use
- Find substitutes like eating an apple, taking a walk, drinking water or going for a swim to increase your alertness and brain activity.
Caffeine may help you finish that assignment on time but over time you will work less efficiently. You can make the best use of your time by getting quality sleep and working more effectively in the time you have as a result of that sleep.