Sleep is vitally important to success in any field. When you are sleep deprived you will always perform worse, and chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a series of health issues. One of the leading causes of insomnia, is technology.
People aren’t aware of the effects of using technology right before they go to bed. The blue light from digital screen such as smart phones leads to the suppression of melatonin. This is the hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycles, blue light suppresses melatonin production and makes it harder to fall asleep. As a tech skeptic I know this is an issue so I don’t do this.
The Origin of Sleep Issues
I never had any type of sleep problem growing up. I would be exhausted from whatever I did during the day and fall asleep immediately. I started developing some sleep issues in college whenever I had a big paper or exam. The combination of stress, anxiety, and caffeine can do serious damage to anyone’s sleep patterns.
In my last two years of my undergrad I became a functional caffeine addict. This is extremely common in the modern Western world, we have forgotten how to relax. So for my junior and senior year I lived the typical college experience. Too much caffeine and last minute papers, and a (un)healthy amount of partying as well. I accepted this for what it was and told myself I would fix my sleep patterns after I graduated.
The First Solution
I knew what the problem I had to solve was – too much stress and caffeine. The stress decreased after I finished my last set of exams, the caffeine did not. I had other projects I was working on, and these were powered by strong coffee. The easiest solution to fixing my sleep issue is to stop drinking coffee after 2pm. So I implemented this rule as well as did more research into sleep.
I felt I had all the boxes checked,
- low stress
- no blue light/technology before bed
- read a book before sleep
- no caffeine after 3pm
My sleep improved most nights, but I would still have relatively frequent insomnia, which really bothered me. My lifestyle should not lead to insomnia – and this is something I never struggled with as a kid, and I should not struggle with it.
The Second Solution
My frustration with my first solution led me to a more radical decision. I decided to take a break from coffee, instead I would drink a couple of cups of tea a day. Therefore I would avoid the issue of headaches and grogginess from going cold turkey from caffeine.
So I stopped drinking coffee and my insomnia went away immediately. This was an incredibly simple (not easy) solution that pointed out the culprit – too much coffee. I knew it was unsustainable, and undesirable to cut out coffee completely. Instead I thought about my coffee consumption, even if I stopped drinking coffee 8 hours before I went to bed I still drank a lot of coffee during the day.
I would simply drink the same amount of coffee, but do it in less time. I was still consuming the same amount of caffeine in a day.
Losing Sight Of The Forest For The Trees
I am an avid coffee drinker. I love the effects of coffee, it helps me be more productive, and perform better at the gym. I could easily drink 4 big mugs of coffee per day and think nothing of it.
I was doing whatever I could to rationalize my coffee consumption. In the end it came down to a very simple fact, I was consuming a lot of a stimulant. This should have been a significant indicator to drink less coffee.
The lesson here: always look for the simplest solution to issues before moving on to more complicated solutions.