Ryan Bigg

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Caffeine and Sleep

27 Apr 2012

I used to drink a lot of Coca Cola. I think my record was 18 375ml cans of it during a LAN party once. I didn’t feel so good the morning after. I used to not brush my teeth that often as well (compared with now, which is morning & night as all good dentists recommend), and as a result I have very “holey” teeth and even had one extracted in February. I used to drink Coca Cola because it contained caffeine which would give me a pleasant buzz.

Then my dentist suggested that I stop drinking drinks containing that much sugar, and so I did. I switched to Pepsi Max for a couple of years after that. Then, one day, I stopped. I can’t remember the exact reason why I stopped drinking it, but I did. This was back in 2009.

The first couple of days were interesting. I had trouble focussing for long periods of time. I never got the caffeine headaches that people talk about. But then it got gradually better and I’ve been basically caffeine-free for close to 3 years now. Then it kept getting better. I found myself sleeping more solidly each night and being able to concentrate for longer and longer periods. I very rarely now have moments where I feel completely exhausted. When they do happen, having a some sugar helps for that last little bit.

Then there was the change in sleeping pattern in 2010, when I started writing Rails 3 in Action. I swithced from getting up at 7:45am to getting up at 6:00am. And I did this every day, except where I stayed out late the night before. That extra time in the morning allowed me to do some internet catch up, do some writing, have a shower and get ready for the day and then still have more time to do even more writing. After a late night out, there’s that buffer there that I can use to catch up on sleep that I’ve otherwise missed. I can also use this time for exercise, which is awesome.

When I get to work it’s no longer just over an hour since I woke up. It’s more like three hours. With me not being a morning person by nature, this is wonderful. I come in to work and I’ve already woken up fully and I can just get to doing everything.

Tim Riley wrote about his experiences with getting up earlier too.

However, I’ve found this new approach to be very effective. The early mornings are a good time. It is quiet. The day has just begun and my mind is clear of any distractions, so it is easy to concentrate. Because the time for work has a definite ending, it also encourages me to pick discrete and achievable goals for each morning. Rinse and repeat, and before long, I have demonstrable, consistent, incremental progress towards my goal.

So, my thing I want you to try is to go the whole month of May by changing one of these two habits. Either cut out caffeine completely from your diet, or start getting up early in the morning. If you want the “Hard Mode” variety, try both. It’s really improved my life and I reckon it’ll do the same to yours.