Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Trouble Sleeping At Night… Then Have No Energy During the Day?

Posted by Dr. Gray on Monday, June 29, 2009

Too many of my patients, friends, family, acquaintences, and the rest of our society are complaining of difficulty sleeping at night, while needing some form of stimulant to function during the day. Are you one who began by needing a little energy during the day? So, you chose to drink a caffeine-laden soda, coffee, or energy drink… or took NoDoz… ate an energy bar… etc. This temporarily works to boost your energy levels. Now, because you’re alert during the day, you find yourself having difficulty getting to sleep at night. This, of course, leads to fatigue the following day… so you drink another soda or other stimulant of choice. And the cycle begins…

The psychoactive drug caffeine is the second largest traded commodity (in dollars) around the world (oil is the only commodity traded in higher amounts!). 48 million sleep-aid prescriptions were written in 2006, and that number has been increasing every year. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, over-the-counter pills, pain meds, energy drinks, so-called “health” bars, and a myriad of other consumables. Caffeine has a half-life of four to seven hours in the body, therefore, nearly half of the caffeine taken in at lunch is still in your system by the time you’re heading to bed.

Caffeine molecules bind to the same receptors that signal the pressure for sleep, thus hiding your body’s need for rest. Masking tiredness is a signature feature of caffeine. Caffeine also prevents adenosine from dilating the brain’s blood vessels (theoretically, to increase oxygen efficiency during sleep). That’s why caffeine is found in many over-the-counter headache pain medications, such as Anacin. If a headache is vascular in nature, caffeine helps relieve the pain by narrowing the blood vessels.

All of this activity caused by the caffeine also triggers the body to release epinephrine (adrenaline), another anti-sleep chemical. Adrenaline, among other things, increases the heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the pupils, increases blood sugar levels, and increases the blood supply to the large muscle groups in the body.

Caffeine is not the devil (that’s refined sugar), and can be used in moderation. However, caffeine consumption should end by noon. Often, the simple act of cutting caffeine after noon will be enough to allow your body to begin recognizing normal sleep signals from the brain. You’ll then have a much easier time of falling asleep at a reasonable time… and staying asleep for seven to eight hours.

P.S. – Found a new blog cycling site similar to the last one I told you all about. It’s called Condron, and has a few differences. Haven’t decided which one I like best yet. Check ’em out.

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