I was seeing a middle-aged patient, husband of my kids’ elementary school teacher, in the clinic for snoring, daytime fatigue, and tiredness. He already had a sleep study done which was negative for sleep apnea but did show increased arousal index ( number of times brain waves show wakefulness activity lasting for 5-10 secs.) Increased arousal index can be seen with arthritis, sedentary life, fibromyalgia, alcohol usage, and leg movements of sleep. I went over sleep hygiene instructions, reassured him that he did not have sleep apnea, and as I was leaving the exam room asked him what he did for fun. “I grind coffee beans,” he replied with a wide smile on his face! His fatigue and tiredness disappeared soon after he eliminated bedtime coffee and switched to decaf coffee in the morning!
Here are a few more tips from your sleep doc:
1. Avoid caffeine after 1 PM.
2. Smell, sip, and enjoy decaf coffee same way you enjoy a glass of good wine.
3. If you are a morning person, you do not need coffee in the morning. Go with a glass of orange juice.
4. If you are not a morning person, enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning to kick start your day. My personal favorite though is “bed to bike” routine. Jump on the stationary bike as soon as the alarm goes off. Do not let your mind talk you out of it. You can read on the bike, watch news, or check emails (you can get a very nice laptop stand which can work with bike or even with your treadmill. I bought one from www.airdesks.com and I love it.)
5. The surest indication for a strong cup of coffee is drowsy driving. Coffee here can be life saving. Go ahead. Enjoy it. You have my full support. Power nap can also provide similar benefit without robbing you of your deep sleep (REM sleep and stage 3 NREM sleep.)
6. Never drink just to drink. You will not take medication just to take medication. Caffeine is no different. It has to be taken for a reason; to maximize alertness while driving or attending an important meeting.
7. After dinner coffee is suicidal for sleep. I feel like getting up and yelling a loud NO when the waiter offers coffee after the dinner. Please help me stop that life-robbing tradition.