When you’re feeling tired in the afternoon, it’s tempting to go for a caffeine pick-me-up — but scientists warn that additional cup of coffee, soda, or an energy drink may be more detrimental to your sleep regimen than beneficial.
While a pleasant shot of coffee may appear to be the answer to your afternoon drowsiness, it can also perpetuate a pattern of unpredictable sleep.
“You think 3 or 4 o’clock isn’t that late in the day that it’s going to impact your sleep later that night, but it does — and I’ve seen it time and time again with patients,” says Dr. John Whyte, a physician, author, and WebMD’s chief medical officer.
He notes that this is due to caffeine’s extended half-life, which many people overlook.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the half-life of caffeine — or the length of time it takes for half the dose to exit the body — is roughly five hours for most individuals, but it can stay in your system for much longer.
“So if you have (caffeine) at 4 o’clock or 3 o’clock — at 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock, you’re still having caffeine in your body and it can still be impacting you,” Whyte adds. “People don’t think 3 (or) 4 o’clock is important, but it is….” If you can discover non-caffeinated pick-me-ups, it will be beneficial to you in the long term.”
What are some caffeine-free alternatives for an afternoon energy boost? Whyte highlighted some of his own favorites:
Napping for your afternoon slump
“A cat nap, taking something that’s 15 to 20 minutes, can actually make you more refreshed, more restored, and more alert,” Whyte adds. “You’re not going into REM sleep, where you have dreams, but you’re just resetting.”
He continues, “There’s been a lot of data recently about daytime naps.”
The timing of your brief nap is also vital to prevent disrupting your sleep. Whyte recommends taking a nap before 3 or 4 p.m.
While a “coffee nap” — taking a little caffeine before falling asleep — might be beneficial in some situations, Whyte says it’s better to avoid this method for afternoon slumps since caffeine this late in the day (with or without a nap) can still affect your sleep later on.
Replace coffee with gum or the appropriate food.
According to Whyte, data shows that chewing gum might increase alertness.
“Because you’re stimulating all these facial muscles by chewing, you’re actually increasing blood flow to your brain.” That’s what we think is happening, and certain imaging investigations have confirmed it,” he says.
Whyte admits to reaching for processed, high-sugar foods when he needs a pick-me-up in the afternoon, but he doesn’t recommend it.
“What happens after you eat that Snickers bar or drink that lemonade is that you feel refreshed because your blood sugar has increased 20 to 30 minutes later.” “The problem is that it crashes 45 minutes (to) an hour later,” he explains. “I wish more people would try carrots, hummus, and other afternoon foods that we don’t.” However, we should attempt that sugar-free healthful snack.”
Try moving your body
Getting up for five minutes every hour, rather than sitting for three to four hours at a time — something “we have all been guilty of,” concedes Whyte — can assist enhance blood flow and attentiveness.
“When we sit for so long, everything starts to pool just a little bit on a microscopic level,” he explains. “And when we start moving, we start to get those veins working, blood flowing through the arteries, which increases oxygen and blood flow.” All of this is beneficial in terms of attentiveness.”
Source: CBS News