Sleep Deprivation Tips – Realistic Guidelines for Caffeine and Fatigue

We all know getting quality sleep is important. I could go on and on about the negative effects of not getting enough sleep. But here’s the thing: I’m about to bring a newborn into this world, so I know I’m headed for 3-6 months of sleep-deprivation. I know from my first baby that most of the “Tips To Prevent Sleep-Deprivation” are laughable and unrealistic.

And so for everyone in the same camp – whether you’re a first responder, a healthcare worker, a shift worker, or a new parent yourself, I’ve assembled some realistic sleep deprivation tips. As someone who’s worked second shift in a bar, juggled multiple jobs during college, survived nights-with-a-newborn once before, and spent 10 years researching caffeine, I’m confident these tips can help you SURVIVE your sleep deprivation until it’s possible to get a good night’s sleep again.

GreenEyedGuide featured in

Hi there, I research caffeine, energy drinks, and fatigue in the workplace.

I’ve been passionate about the science behind energy drinks since 2003. After getting my degrees in biochemistry and food science, I wrote a book all about energy drink ingredients and safety concerns.

I’ve always been fascinated by caffeinated beverages, and by some of the energy drink stereotypes and caffeine misconceptions that just won’t go away. As a result, my mission as the “GreenEyedGuide” is to help people who deal with caffeine and fatigue on a regular basis.

realistic sleep deprivation tips from GreenEyedGuide

Sleep Deprivation Tip #1: You don't have to quit caffeine, but you shouldn't double your dose either.

In my years of experience, the most common mistake people make when they’re sleep deprived is to make twice as much coffee or buy twice as many energy drinks the next morning.

Here's The Problem

Having twice as much caffeine doesn’t give you twice as much energy.

  • Past a certain “sweet spot” caffeine will make you more anxious than alert, making it harder to focus
  • Drinking caffeine right when you wake up interferes with hormonal fluctuations in the “Cortisol Awakening Response”, which means your caffeine doesn’t work as well during this chain of reactions in your body
  • A dose of 700 mg caffeine is enough to cause panic attacks and some pretty uncomfortable side effects like gastrointestinal distress, headaches, jitters, nausea, even vomiting
yerkes dodson barks-doggie curve for caffeine sweet spot
Find your sweet spot, where caffeine makes you alert but not agitated

Here's What to Do Instead

  • Sip your caffeine slowly, like, PAINFULLY slow to the point where it’s as annoying as those people that come into a restaurant 1 hour before closing and take forever to finish a meal
  • Find your Caffeine Sweet Spot, which is the peak of the Yerkes-Dodson (or “Barks-Doggie Law”) curve where you’re alert but not agitated
  • DO NOT let any Clean Plate Club mentality interfere with you nursing the life out of that caffeinated beverage

You can also try some steps which don’t involve caffeine to wake you up, like doing some push-ups, going up and down a flight of stairs, blasting one of your favorite up-beat songs, or starting a heated debate with a friend over something that’s trivial, like “Drinking Fountain or Bubbler”, “Ben Affleck was the best Batman”, etc. The key is to get your adrenaline pumping in other ways that DON’T involve caffeine.

stress meets burnout scrabble letters

Sleep Deprivation Tip #2: Don't confuse fatigue with being sleepy.

People who are sleep-deprived still get natural bursts of energy at a certain time of day. Thanks to your circadian rhythm, your body can be tricked with bright morning sunlight into thinking it’s time to wake up. While this might wake you up, it won’t fix burnout or your bad mood.

Here's The Problem

Sleep researchers found sleep deprivation impacts our mood 2-3 times more than it impacts our motor and cognitive functions! [Source: my new favorite book, “Work and Sleep”]

This means caffeine only fights sleepiness, but not any of the other mental and emotional side-effects of sleep deprivation. If you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, caffeine won’t help you there either.

Here's What to Do Instead

  • Take a breath to practice your emotional intelligence
    • Sleep deprivation makes it harder for us to control our own emotions and to read the emotions of others – this means if you’re sleep deprived you might need to try extra hard to communicate calmly and clearly with your spouse or team
  • Boost your mood with a Dopamine hack
    • Caffeine boosts our mood by boosting dopamine, but you can boost your dopamine without caffeine by setting a short-term goal and a small reward for when you achieve it
  • Stop feeling overwhelmed by focusing on the very next step
    • Putting confidence in your next step triggers “happy brain chemicals” to counter stress and anxiety
Loretta Breuning Quote Confidence in your next step is the only stress reliever
Source: From Stressed to Rest in an Hour

Sleep Deprivation Tip #3: Don't drink the same caffeinated beverage every time.

If you want your caffeine to work on those awful days you feel like a walking zombie, you have to switch up your caffeine routine on a regular basis.

Here's The Problem

The quickest way to develop caffeine addiction and tolerance is to drink the same coffee or energy drink every day. It’s fine if you have your favorites, but drinking the same thing means you’re missing out on ingredient interactions that could help you find the right energy boost for the right situation.

GreenEyedGuide's 5 Levels of Fatigue
The 5 Levels of Fatigue, developed by GreenEyedGuide

Here's What to Do Instead

  • Choose your coffee or energy drink based on your Level of Fatigue
    • Save the drinks with the higher caffeine content for those Energy Emergencies, when you’re REALLY struggling to stay awake
  • If you’re both sleepy and irritated, pick coffee or an energy drink WITHOUT theanine
    • People did worse on tests measuring attention when they had caffeine and theanine together versus caffeine alone
Sleep Deprived Survival Checklist - GEG Research Consulting Freebie Vault

Free Checklist: 10 Tips to Stay Awake and Energized When You're Sleep Deprived

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