Fighting Off Sleepiness: Myths and Facts
Myth: A grande latte is a bad idea because it will make it hard for me to sleep at night. continued...
Shives points out that people react very differently to caffeine, so you may
want to start off with half a cup after lunch and see if that disrupts your
nighttime sleep. Don't drink coffee in the late afternoon or evening.
As with naps, moderation is the key when it comes to caffeine. If you overdo
it, you may set off a vicious cycle, making it hard to sleep at night so you
are drowsier the next day. And many sleep experts advise against drinking
caffeine after 2 p.m.
Myth: A candy bar or can of soda will give me a kick-start.
Fact: Sugar will give you a temporary lift, but when it wears off you're
likely to be even more tired than before.
People are often tempted to seek out the soda machine or the candy counter
when they hit that afternoon slump. When we are fatigued, our bodies often
crave a rush of fuel to keep us going, and Shives says that studies bear out
this anecdotal experience.
"Research shows that if sleep-deprived people are offered an array of foods,
they disproportionately choose sugary and/or fatty items," she says. "Our
bodies crave foods that have a high glycemic index because they provide a quick
boost of energy."
The trouble is, when the sugar high wears off, you are likely to feel even
more tired than you did before. One study found, for example, that an hour
after drinking high-sugar energy drinks, sleep-deprived patients were sleepier
and had more lapses in concentration than patients in the control group, who
didn't drink the sugary drink.
To minimize afternoon drowsiness, Shives recommends that you eat a light
lunch. "Avoid fats, sugars, and carbohydrates," she says. "Have some lean
protein -- but be sure to keep it light."
Myth: Exercise will only make me more tired.
Fact: Moderate exercise can help combat drowsiness and leave you alert and
Exercise is an excellent way to ward off an after-lunch circadian dip, says
Shives. It doesn't have to be a big time commitment: "You don't have to
spend hours at the gym," she points out. "A brisk 10-minute walk, or some
vigorous stretching, will give you a quick pick-me-up."