Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sleep, coffee crashing, and sickness

I recently decided to quit, cold turkey, drinking caffeinated coffee. I have lately had trouble falling asleep. Furthermore, I have noted that when I skip a full 24-hour period of drinking coffee (such as on a Sunday), I would get headaches about half-way thru the next day. So I deduced that if the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal were operant well within the second day, then I must even up until then be under affect of caffeine - and not just when I can feel its effect during the day, but even when I cannot feel said effects at night.

My original method of avoiding effects of caffeine was to drink no coffee after 3:00pm, thus giving it a full six to eight hours to (allegedly) leave my system before bedtime. Well, certainly I felt no effects, and I did regularly fall asleep, but I was laying there a long time, seemingly too long. Apparently, it takes the average person a bit over 10 minutes to fall asleep. Even with exercise and good sleeping arrangements I am always way beyond that window. I guess I'm not alone:
About 74% of American adults suffer from chronic or occasional difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep for a few nights a week or more. Studies have shown that if you don’t get adequate sleep, your ability to concentrate and function rapidly deteriorates. This information will cover sleep and sleep disorders and will provide suggestions on how you can get a good night’s sleep. [....] The average person takes about 10 minutes to fall asleep and sleeps about seven to eight hours a night. Everyone’s sleep needs differ. Babies sleep about 18 hours each day while adults may get by on six to seven hours of sleep every night.

Some advise that when a person can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, instead of watching the clock, s/he should get out of bed and do something else. My problem is that my clock "rotates" I can easily stay up very late (once I get going), and I do not become noticeably tired until very late. Also, there is still that pesky demand to get up early for work, so one risks all sorts of cognitive, even safety risks by only going to bed when one feels notably tired.

Another method I was using, with some success, was listening to music. Apparently there is scientific backing for this:
Researchers have shown just 45 minutes of relaxing music before bedtime can make for a restful night. [...] The people in the music group reported a 35% improvement in their sleep, including better and longer night-time sleep and less dysfunction during the day.[2]

Yes it worked, but one is committed to listening to the music for that set amount of time. I think the main reason it worked for me was that I was concentrating on the music and not the random cognitive noise that my brain allows to float to the surface during the first hour after the light turns out. Still, the idea of falling asleep within 15 minutes seemed far more desirable than listing to music for 45 minutes, thus why I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee.

Today it happens that I am feeling sick. It appears that I have a temporary virus, but I'm not so sure. It turns out that people who quit, cold turkey, taking caffeine can exhibit flu-like symptoms. Unbeknown to me at the time of quitting, if one wants to cut down on caffeine, experts advise doing so slowly:
Doctors at Johns Hopkins University have confirmed that true caffeine addiction can occur even when small amounts (corresponding to about one cup of coffee per day) of caffeine are consumed. In a review of 170 years of caffeine research, the Hopkins team examined 57 separate studies and found that the features of caffeine withdrawal can vary from mild mood changes to systemic, flu-like symptoms. The major types of caffeine withdrawal reactions were identified as:

* headache, fatigue or drowsiness
* depressed, irritable mood
* difficulty concentrating
* flu-like symptoms of nausea and/or vomiting
* muscle pain or stiffness

The withdrawal symptoms typically began 12 to 24 hours after the last dose of caffeine, became most severe after one to two days, and lasted for two to nine days. [...] Decrease your consumption gradually over a period of days (or weeks, if you're a heavy consumer) to avoid being plagued by withdrawal symptoms.[3]
Well, most of my body, and especially my lower intestine, will certainly attest that I've got the symptoms noted. Maybe I should have eased off instead, which would have left me with minimal consequences. Alas, live and learn.


[image] jon-e "Mug Shot" Flickr Uploaded on January 14. September 25, 2007 [http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=357699264&size=o]

[1] "Sleep for Good Health" Kuakini Health System September 25, 2007

[2]"Listen to music to help you sleep" BBC News 2 February, 2005. September 25, 2007[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4228707.stm]

[3] "Caffeine Addiction, Can You Quit?" MedicineNet.com September 25,2007 [http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=43492]


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