Use of Stimulants and Depressants

Alcohol Consumption

Although alcohol may decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, it has the opposite effect on the duration of sleep, especially if more than one drink (a 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine or 1.5 oz. 80 proof alcohol) is consumed, especially within an hour of bedtime. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, even a happy hour cocktail consumed within 6 hours of bedtime can affect the second stage of sleep by increasing wakefulness. The disruption of the sleep pattern in the second half of the night often leads to a difficulty in falling back to sleep. With this fragmented sleep pattern, the body isn’t getting the proper amount of REM sleep cycles and rest it needs.

 

Caffeine Overstimulation

With multitasking overload and a 24/7 lifestyle, it’s easy to rely on caffeinated beverages as a stimulant to get us going and keep us there.  Moderate caffeine intake of 200-300mg (about two to three 8-oz. cups of brewed coffee) is not considered harmful. If your mind thinks in terms of grande and venti several times a day you could be overdoing it. While a little caffeine increases wakefulness, too much can cause insomnia, jitters, headaches, irregular heartbeat, racing heart and anxiety. If your body is sensitive to caffeine, even one cup can have unwanted effects. You may be ingesting caffeine in other products you eat during the day. See the chart below to gauge your level of caffeine intake. If you find you’re having difficulty getting to sleep at night, it may be due to excessive caffeine consumption or having it too late in the day. Try to avoid caffeine after 4pm, and if you’re sensitive to it, then noon is best. If you need to cut back your intake, do so over several days. Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, lethargy and mood swings.

 

Caffeine content (milligrams) for popular beverages

Brewed coffee (8 ounces).................................................................. 95-200 

Instant coffee (8 ounces)................................................................... 27-173

Brewed coffee, decaffeinated (8 ounces)............................................ 2-12 

Brewed black tea (8 ounces)............................................................. 40-120

Brewed black tea, decaffeinated (8 ounces)........................................ 2-10

Brewed green tea (8 ounces)............................................................. 35

Generic instant iced tea mix, unsweetened (1 tsp)............................. 27

Generic instant decaf iced tea mix, unsweetened (1 tsp)..................... 1

7Up, regular or diet (12 ounces)........................................................... 0

Sprite, regular or diet (12 ounces)........................................................ 0

Barq’s Root Beer, regular or diet (12 ounces)..................................... 23

Coca Cola Classic or Zero (12 ounces).............................................. 35

Diet Coca Cola (12 ounces)................................................................ 47

Dr. Pepper, regular or diet (12 ounces)............................................... 42-44

Mountain Dew, regular or diet (12 ounces)......................................... 54

Pepsi, regular or diet (12 ounces)....................................................... 36-48

Tab (12 ounces)................................................................................... 47

Red Bull (8.3 ounces).......................................................................... 76

Monster energy (16 ounces).............................................................. 160

Rockstar (8 ounces)............................................................................. 80

 

Other products containing caffeine

NoDoz, maximum strength, 1 tablet................................................... 200

Excedrin Extra Strength, 2 tablets....................................................... 130

Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch (8 ounces)................... 84

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar (1.55 ounces)..................................... 9

Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar (1.45 ounces)............... 31

Dark chocolate-covered coffee beans (1 ounce)....................... 235

Quaker Oats Cocoa Blasts cereal (1 cup).............................................. 7

 

Adapted from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 2009; Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2007; Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 2003.; Journal of Food Science, 2007; Vroom Foods Inc., 2009. Nutritiondata.self.com.

 

 

Nicotine Affects Sleep

Cigarettes contain nicotine which is a stimulant and keeps you awake. While the smoker may feel the relaxation and calm that a cigarette brings, it’s just the effect of dopamine that is being released into the body. It brings about the feeling of a pleasant experience.

Here’s how nicotine works on the brain. Within 10 seconds of inhaling nicotine, it enters the bloodstream and acts upon the brain cells. Molecules of nicotine fit like keys into ‘nicotinic receptors’ on the brain’s neurons. These keys fit into the same neurotransmitters as acetylcholine, which has an important role in alertness, attention, and sensory perception. This reaction causes acetylcholine to overwork. Within 30 minutes to 2 hours after having a cigarette, the nicotine level is reduced and the smoker feels tired, sluggish and fatigued. The smoker craves another cigarette. It’s a cycle that is familiar to 1.3 billion Americans.

The illusion is that a cigarette has a calming effect when in fact the opposite is true. This creates a cycle that is neither natural for the body nor healthy. Sleep is affected when a person wakes up during the night craving a cigarette. It’s more likely to lead to a night of unsettled sleep.

Another complication is a condition known as ‘smoker’s cough’. It can impair breathing, lead to sleep disorders, and keep your partner awake too. According to a study on cigarette smoking and sleep disturbance (Barbara Phillips, MD; Frederick Danner, PhD), cigarette smokers were significantly more likely than nonsmokers to report problems falling and staying asleep. They also had more frequent daytime sleepiness, minor accidents, depression, and a high daily caffeine intake. Quitting smoking can temporarily stress your body and interfere with sleep, but the long-term effects will be restorative once you can make it past the withdrawal period.