Guest blog post by Danielle Robertson Rath from GEG Research and Consulting
"Help! Parenting during COVID’s got me drinking a quaran-TON of caffeine!"
Parenthood can be emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. For example, as a member of the “2 Under 2 Club”, I feel like I’m stepping on a treadmill every morning. It’s always one activity after another with no chance to rest. In other words, keeping both my active newborn and my mischievous toddler entertained, fed, and safe requires my full attention and all my energy. For this reason, I’m grateful for the decades I’ve spent researching caffeine. It might be an uphill battle trying to get my toddler to bed at night, but I know exactly what kind of caffeine to drink, when, and how much, to give me the energy I need for these battles.
When I started my studies in metabolic biochemistry, all energy drinks looked the same. Nowadays it’s not so simple. First of all, there are some energy drinks with nothing but B-vitamins, fruit juice, and caffeine from green tea. Secondly, there are some ready-to-drink coffees with twice as much caffeine as a can of Red Bull. And finally, there’s even a few healthy-looking teas with more added sugar than an adult woman is supposed to have in one day. As a result, it’s not so easy to figure out what caffeinated beverage to drink. And this is where I come in. Specifically, I help people who work long or unusual hours and rely on caffeine to help them survive. In other words, it’s my job to show people how to drink caffeine more strategically to reduce burnout, caffeine addiction, and health issues related to sleep deprivation.
The bad news is there is no magic potion that will make you feel alert and happy all the time. Even though I’m the leading expert in the science of caffeine and energy drinks, caffeine is not a substitute for proper sleep. However, when a full night’s sleep isn’t possible, I use the 5S's of caffeine to help me get through the day.
If you follow Lake Country Sleep on Social Media, you’ve seen Erin talk about the 5S's of Soothing Your Baby:
Sucking on a Pacifier
These 5S's can make the difference between calm and chaos with your newborn. In the same way, the 5S's of Caffeine can make the difference between feeling exasperated and feeling empowered, even when you’re sleep-deprived.
The 5S’s of Caffeine
It takes 15-20 minutes for caffeine to kick in. One way to get more energy with less caffeine is to give those first few glorious sips of your coffee a chance to kick in before you drink the whole cup. Furthermore, don’t discount the placebo effect. When we feel like we’re about to get a reward, our brain fires dopamine. Sometimes just the act of cracking open a caffeinated beverage is enough to fire dopamine in your brain, making us feel happy and more alert.
When we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (meaning ZOMBIE-LEVEL EXHAUSTED tired), drinking caffeine is not a good idea. As I’ve elaborated in a previous Caffeine at Midnight podcast episode, there are times when having caffeine can backfire, making us more unfocused and emotionally burned out than we were beforehand.
Caffeine’s half-life is 3-6 hours, meaning that’s how long it takes HALF of the caffeine you drank to leave your body. As a result, if you have caffeine late in the day, it could sabotage your sleep and create an unfortunate cycle. For example, you drink caffeine too close to bedtime, don’t get good quality sleep, wake up tired, need more caffeine the next day, get even worse sleep, and on and on. The secret is to know when to stop drinking caffeine. You can do this with a little bit of math.
Before you brew that coffee or open than energy drink:
Figure out how much caffeine is in your drink
Divide that number by two
Figure out what time it is
Add 4 hours to the time
Ask yourself, “Would I drink (the answer to Step 2) when it’s (the answer to step 4)?”
If the answer is no, put down that caffeinated drink and try some other ways to wake yourself up
As a mom, you know your baby cries for different reasons. You wouldn’t try to soothe her the exact same way every time because you adjust your strategy to fit the situation. In the same way, you need to adjust the caffeine you drink instead of drinking the same thing every time. Ultimately, this is the premise behind my “5 Levels of Fatigue” system. For instance, every Level of Fatigue corresponds to different types of tiredness, from boredom to burnout. As a result, every level calls for a different solution. And there’s a different drink or solution (get it? Because a solution is a liquid?), as well as different actions you can take to lower your Level of Fatigue by one level.
Here’s how to switch up your caffeine strategy:
First, always start with water before caffeine. Dehydration and boredom can make you tired, so try drinking water before you drink any caffeine.
Second, pick your coffee or caffeinated drink to match how tired you are. Save the extra shots of espresso or the ultra-strong energy drinks for the most intense “Energy Emergencies”.
Finally, pick up your copy of the eBook bestseller, “How to Get Sh*t Done When You Feel Like Sh*t” to learn more about using the 5 Levels of Fatigue.
There comes a point where no amount of caffeine can save you. The only solution is to get some sleep. Think about flying with small children: you have to put on your own mask first, right? The same goes for getting sleep. We can’t help our little ones if we’re constantly neglecting ourselves. As moms, it’s so easy for us to sacrifice our own health and wellbeing for our babies. But you don’t have to wait until you’re having a mental breakdown to ask for help. You deserve to get enough sleep. Don’t laugh, I know it’s hard to imagine. And some days, like when your kids are teething or battling a cold, a full night’s sleep is just not possible. However, a holistic sleep plan from Lake Country Sleep can help you and your baby reclaim those precious ZZZs.
Let’s get sleeping. And when we can’t, let’s get caffeinated.
For all things caffeine, please make sure you check out my blog - get to know me a bit more and my role in trying to reduce energy drink-related hospitalizations. Make sure to follow along on both Instagram and the Caffeine at Midnight Podcast where I offer tips, tricks, and even more helpful content. And don’t forget to check out one or more of my bestselling books on caffeine, energy drink ingredients, and beating burnout.
About Danielle Robertson Rath
Danielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”) has nearly 20 years of experience researching caffeine and energy drinks. She has 10 years of experience in Risk Management across multiple industries including Food/Beverage, Supplements, Manufacturing, and IT Consulting.
Danielle earned her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry/Chemistry from the University of California San Diego. She earned her master’s degree in Food Science/Food Chemistry from the University of California Davis. Danielle has always been passionate about learning the science behind caffeinated beverages.
Danielle lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, daughter, and bulldog. She frequently travels to her home state of California, where she visits the beach and gives guest lectures at local colleges and universities.