Caffeine: The Vicious Circle
Last updated: August 2022
I'm going to go out on a limb here, and guess that if you're reading this article, you've used caffeine to both manage the side effects of insomnia, AND caffeine has negatively impacted your insomnia.
Am I close?
My early relationship with caffeine
I have had a love/hate relationship with caffeine for as long as I can remember, dating back to soda in high school and coffee in college. During those 8 years, the source of caffeine shifted, but the intentionality was always the same – I need to be more awake. I need to feel less tired. I need to stay up later. Some days, that boost was just in the morning, but many days, I also needed it mid-day, again around dinner time, or in the early evening before sitting down to write a paper or study for an exam.
I grew up in a household of coffee-drinking parents. So to me, it didn't feel unusual or unordinary.
But, I also slept very inconsistently during that chapter of life (I mean, I guess that's not so different from now). When I did get into bed, I usually fell asleep hard and fast. I didn't find that caffeine was having any additional negative effects on my sleep, so to say.
My recent relationship with caffeine
It's been 14 years since I graduated college, and my life and my routine look a lot different today.
However, insomnia is still my frenemy. And, caffeine is still my crutch.
My daily caffeine today
As a working professional and toddler mom, I start my day with an energy drink. It has 191mg of caffeine, so similar to a small cup of coffee but easier on my stomach. It's also within the allowable limits of trying to conceive and pregnancy, meaning to me it's pretty mild overall.
After that first 16 oz can, I usually switch to water or something like Propel or Gatorade during the day. However, there are definitely some workdays where around 2:00-3:00 PM, I find myself dragging. And, just like a bad habit, I reach for another energy drink or take a quick run to Starbucks.
Problem with caffeine drinks
The problem is, that energy drink gives me the boost I need, but it also makes my nightly 8:30-9:00 PMm wind down window challenging.
I feel like this is THE conundrum, right? How do we balance our afternoon crashes with our evening routines? How do we help the earlier without harming the later? I've been around this circle so many times, thinking about the pros and cons, trying to figure out which I prefer.
Some days, it doesn't feel like a choice, right? I either need caffeine or I must close my eyes - and that's not always a luxury I have with the way my current life and schedule is set up. Sometimes work meetings, or my daughter, or both need my attention. There is simply just no time for a nap.
Then, I try hard to make peace with the way the late day caffeine will push my bedtime back. I add in an extra calming/meditation to my evening routine to help with calming my brain, and I give myself some grace when bedtime (or actual fall asleep time) is later than I'd like and I'm also frustrated the next morning when there's an extra bit of exhaustion hangover because that bedtime slot got pushed back.
How do you navigate these challenges? Have you found a middle ground?
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