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

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Your Expert in Managing Fatigue and Caffeine Use in the Workplace

GreenEyedGuide is now GEG Research and Consulting

Where It All Began

I’ve been helping people manage fatigue and caffeine use for decades now. DECADES. It’s hard to believe I’ve been studying caffeine and energy drinks for almost 20 years now – my goodness, I’m getting old…

In those years I’ve witnessed the evolution of the energy drink: in 2003 every energy drink looked like Red Bull or Monster Energy; now some energy drinks are indistinguishable from ready-to-drink coffees, teas, and juice beverages. Along with the evolution of the caffeinated beverage, my business has evolved too. I’m happy to announce that “GreenEyedGuide” is now “GEG Research and Consulting”. GEG, for short, is your expert in managing fatigue and caffeine use in the workplace.

Introducing GEG Research and Consulting - PREZI presentation
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The Importance of Fatigue and Caffeine

New Name, Same Mission

My ambition as the “GreenEyedGuide” has always been to help people see caffeinated beverages the way I do, through my green eyes. I wanted to share my science background to help people make the best choices for themselves, based on facts, not fear.

For example:

What to Drink and How to Think For Every Level of Fatigue

With the new business name and slogan comes a sharper focus to the “HOW” behind my “WHY”. With my 5 Levels of Fatigue system, I can help people identify where fatigue is doing the most damage. To boost my own system, I’ve incorporated the best practices used to keep tired nurses from killing people. As a result, my Fatigue Management Workshop helps people learn what to drink and how to think for every Level of Fatigue.

Caffeine and Fatigue Research and Consulting

I published my energy drink book in 2013. In 2020, I’ve got a new book and several research papers in the works. I’ve also got a new partnership with the Wisconsin Emergency Medical Services Association, and I look forward to leading more workshops with first responders. Suffice to say, it’s going to be a very busy year…

Thank you for joining me in this new chapter.

Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

Updated 4/21/2020 by Danielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”)

How to Manage Fatigue in the Workplace

It’s easy to imagine truck drivers, nurses, and first responders struggling to stay awake on the job, but fatigue impacts every occupation at every level. Fatigue can be as minimal as boredom or as severe as burnout. Fatigue can be physical, psychological, or both. Ignoring fatigue or accepting it as “part of the job” doesn’t just hurt employees, it also hurts the people they serve and the company’s bottom line. As a result, every company should have a plan for managing fatigue in the workplace.

The good news is anyone in any industry can make a Fatigue Management plan. After all, getting this plan started is more important than getting it perfect the first time.

In this post:

  • The Cost of Fatigue
  • Measuring Fatigue from Boredom to Burnout
  • 5 Steps to Start a Fatigue Management Plan
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. As my business has grown, I’ve expanded my focus from energy drinks to fatigue. As a result, my mission as the “GreenEyedGuide” is to help people who deal with caffeine and fatigue on a regular basis.

In March 2020, I published my second book, How to Get Sh*t Done When You Feel Like Sh*t: The Secret to Caffeine, Motivation, and Productivity for the Sleep-Deprived and Overwhelmed

The Cost of Fatigue

If you haven’t addressed fatigue in your workplace, here’s what you need to know to get started. In other words, here’s why paying attention to fatigue matters.

mistakes in the workplace due to fatigue

Even though 93% of workers say they’ve taken action to boost their energy, 2/3 employed Americans say they’ve made mistakes at work.

 

Mistakes range from trivial to severe:

  • Making a mistake in an email (22%)
  • Missing a button or wearing mismatched shoes (23%)
  • Addressing a colleague by the wrong name (or sending an email to the wrong “Bob”) (24%)
  • Missing a meeting or other job duties (41%)

Let’s look at that statistic again. More than 9/10 people say they’ve tried to boost their energy at work, but more than 6/10 people say they’ve made a mistake for not being alert enough.

That means the actions people are taking to boost their energy are not (always) working.

Why?

Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to fatigue in the workplace. Fatigue is a signal, and the key is to learn how to respond proportionately based on that signal.

At GEG, we believe getting enough sleep is important, but not always possible, and that more caffeine isn’t always the answer.

We also believe that even someone who is fully rested or fully caffeinated can feel physically or mentally exhausted at work. These principles are why the 5 Levels of Fatigue is so effective.

working 17 hours straight is as bad as being one drink deep at work

Measuring Fatigue from Boredom to Burnout

Fatigue might seem like the enemy but it can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it. The 5 Levels of Fatigue, developed by GreenEyedGuide, is a system for measuring fatigue, from boredom to burnout.

GreenEyedGuide’s 5 Levels of Fatigue is based on the science behind caffeine and the industry best practices of Fatigue Risk Management, recommended by organizations such as the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s Task Force on Fatigue Risk Management.

Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue helps you figure out when to “push through” the fatigue and when real changes need to be made.

For example:

  • Someone who is so tired they’re falling asleep standing isn’t going to feel better after a short walk and a glass of water.
  • Someone who ends their day feeling overwhelmed needs to make some changes, not just more caffeine.

GreenEyedGuide's 5 Levels of Fatigue
Introducing the 5 Levels of Fatigue, developed by GreenEyedGuide founder Danielle Robertson Rath​
67 percent of employees are sometimes, very often or always burned out at work
What is fatigue costing your organization?

5 Steps to Build Your Plan for Managing Fatigue in the Workplace

Once you know how to calculate your Level of Fatigue, you can build safeguards to prevent that fatigue from affecting your work.

  1. Workload vs Staffing
    • Do you have more work than people to do that work? If so, can any of that work be spread out over time or over different departments to reduce the workload of one person?
  2. Shift Scheduling
    • If you or your team works long, unusual, or unpredictable hours, do you have strategies to make sure they get enough sleep when off-duty? Is there enough time between shifts?
    • Can you adjust the work schedule so that mission-critical tasks ARE NOT scheduled for those times when fatigue-driven mistakes are most likely to happen (shift beginning, shift end, and right after lunch)?
  3. Employee Fatigue Training
    • Do you and your team know how to use the 5 Levels of Fatigue to gauge fatigue then act accordingly to lower the risk of making fatigue-based mistakes?
  4. Workplace Environment Design
    • Is the lighting, temperature, and layout of your workplace conducive to staying alert and focused on the task at hand?
    • When you or your team are most likely to feel overwhelmed or exhausted, are the tools you need to do your work (or get a quick break) right at your fingertips?
  5. Fatigue Monitoring
    • Do you and your team feel comfortable confessing when they need a moment to breathe or a place to take a 20-minute nap?
    • Is there more incentive to hide fatigue or to admit when help is needed?

Let GreenEyedGuide Research and Consulting help you build your Fatigue Management Plan

Sleep Deprived Survival Checklist - GEG Research Consulting Freebie Vault

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

How to drink caffeine strategically with the 5 Levels of Fatigue

Originally published January 13, 2017. Updated Sept 10, 2019.

During grad school, while working 2 jobs and researching full-time, I developed a system called the “5 Levels of Fatigue”.
It started out as a set of rules to help me consume caffeine more systematically – as I biochemist, I knew if I always picked the most potent drinks, caffeine wasn’t going to work on those days when I needed it the most.

Below, I’ll walk you through my system and how to use it to drink caffeine more strategically, MAXIMIZING caffeine’s benefits while MINIMIZING its side-effects.

For info on using the 5 Levels of Fatigue against boredom, burnout, and mental overwhelm, you’ll want to check out this page:
Click HERE

What’s the best energy drink? Everyone has their own preferences based on taste, but the scientific truth is “the best energy drink” depends on your body and your situation. Think of it this way:

An energy drink is like your favorite song: what gets YOU pumped up may do nothing for ME. A song that gets you up and moving on a Monday morning is probably not your go-to song to celebrate a Friday night.

Everyone is different, and different situations call for different solutions (that’s a beverage pun right there – in chemistry, a solution is a liquid mixture).

This is a picture of a card I made for a PhD student leaving my lab in grad school. To help her remember me, I drew a self-portrait. Big hair. Music. Caffeine.

I developed the 5 Levels of Fatigue in college and in grad school. I was juggling full-time studies with two part-time jobs. In addition to studying the science behind energy drinks, I was drinking them - a lot.

As a biochemistry major, I knew caffeine would stop working for me if my body got too used to it on a regular basis. Caffeine blocks adenosine, which prevents adenosine from sending you “YOU ARE GETTING SLEE-PY” signals. But after awhile your body realizes caffeine is blocking adenosine and MAKES MORE, so it takes MORE caffeine to feel the same energy boost.

Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue makes it less likely you'll develop caffeine dependence - it means you won't need more and more caffeine to feel awake.

Here's How It Works:

  • Every energy drink has a different amount of caffeine, juice, and sugar.
  • Some energy drinks are carbonated, some are not.
  • Carbonation, juice, and sugar content will all make one energy drink FEEL more powerful than another drink with the same amount of caffeine.

FATIGUE LEVEL 1: Dehydrated & Drowsy

At this level, you’re feeling a little drowsy, but not exhausted or overwhelmed.

SOLUTION = Do something Different. Go for a walk. Switch tasks. Take a 5 min break. Drink WATER. DO NOT drink any caffeine at this level.

Caffeine Informer Bai Antioxidant Infusion caffeine content

FATIGUE LEVEL 2: Too Tired

At this level, “I’m too tired” becomes the excuse for action. You’re not exhausted and not just bored or drowsy. You’re just a little bit off, a little sluggish, a little lethargic. You’re “too tired”.

SOLUTION = A LITTLE sluggish means A LITTLE caffeine. Look for caffeinated beverages with no more than 100 mg caffeine.

  • NON-carbonated beverages will provide a gentler boost because carbonation irritates the stomach lining so caffeine gets absorbed more quickly.
  • TEA-based beverages will also provide a gentler boost because L-Theanine has a calming effect.

FATIGUE LEVEL 3: Stressed & Struggling

At this level, you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. You’re trying to wake up but you’re really struggling to stay focused and engaged. A walk and a cup of tea aren’t going to cut it here, but it’s still not worst-case scenario “energy emergency” quite yet.

SOLUTION = Several scientific studies and international organizations say you should have no more than 200 mg caffeine at a time. So that’s what we’re looking for here.

  • HYBRIDS are the best option here – energy drink/coffee hybrids, energy drink/wannabe Gatorade drinks, caffeinated juice blends
  • Pick carbonated over non-carbonated for an extra boost if needed
  • Pick sugar-free or drinks where the only sugar comes from juice – save the full-sugar versions for those “energy emergencies” at Fatigue Level 4
bang energy ingredient review by GreenEyedGuide

FATIGUE LEVEL 4: Energy Emergency

At this level, we’re going to ignore health guidelines and go over that 200 mg caffeine per serving recommendation. This is an energy emergency. This is one step short of being a walking zombie. We’re talking just-trying-to-survive, counting-the-hours-before-I-can-go-home crisis.

SOLUTION = Choose a carbonated energy drink with more than 200 mg caffeine per can. You can also pick an energy shot because shots have higher caffeine mg per oz than energy drinks. Energy drinks with sugar will give you an extra boost though you may crash after a few hours so ONLY pick drinks with more than 10 grams sugar if you absolutely need that much more help.

bang energy ingredient review by GreenEyedGuide

FATIGUE LEVEL 5: Zombie

At this level, no amount of caffeine can save you. This is your absolute breaking point. This is worst-case-scenario.

SOLUTION = Only sleep can save you now.


This is the 5 Levels of Fatigue.

Watch GreenEyedGuide present the 5 Levels of Fatigue for Cal State Fullerton’s COMM Week 2017

In late April 2017 I had the pleasure of being involved in the Jack Up Your Life L.I.F.E (Living Incredibly For Ever) Symposium as part of California State University of Fullerton’s Communications Week. My presentation is finally available for those who were not able to attend the event in person.

Watch the GreenEyedGuide presentation below:

The 5 Levels of Fatigue and how to use this system to stay healthy, happy, and energized

[GreenEyedGuide starts ~26 min mark but I highly recommend listening to all the speakers]

NOTE:  the full Symposium page is located here.

WARNING: Video contains strong language! Discretion is advised.

 

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