A good day starts the night before. 

Sleep is a translation from your subconscious of how you conduct your daily life. Being a life-long learner means actively taking responsibility for one’s actions while being openminded to new ways of taking care of our future self.  

Let’s take a look at a couple of legal drugs that are often consumed as a social right of passage or a mark of high performance in our busy, modern culture. Unfortunately, overconsumption of either of these two substances causes negative effects on the brain–especially when it comes to your sleep and, therefore, your mind health.

Alcohol

To understand how alcohol impacts sleep, we look to the experts at the Sleep Foundation to describe the 4 stages of sleep.

A normal sleep cycle consists of four different stages: three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages and one rapid eye movement (REM) stage.

Stage 1 (NREM): This initial stage is essentially the transition period between wakefulness and sleep, during which the body will begin to shut down. The sleeper’s heart beat, breathing, and eye movements start to slow down and their muscles will relax. Brain activity also begins to decrease, as well. This phase is also known as light sleep.

Stage 2 (NREM): The sleeper’s heartbeat and breathing rates continue to slow down as they progress toward deeper sleep. Their body temperature will also decrease and the eyes become still. Stage 2 is usually the longest of the four sleep cycle stages.

Stages 3 (NREM): Heartbeat, breathing rates, and brain activity all reach their lowest levels of the sleep cycle. Eye movements cease and the muscles are totally relaxed. This stage is known as slow-wave sleep.

REM: REM sleep kicks in about 90 minutes after the individual initially falls asleep. Eye movements will restart and the sleeper’s breathing rate and heartbeat will quicken. Dreaming mostly takes place during REM sleep. This stage is also thought to play a role in memory consolidation.

These four NREM and REM stages repeat in cyclical fashion throughout the night. Each cycle should last roughly 90-120 minutes, resulting in four to five cycles for every eight hours of sleep. 

Drinking alcohol before bed can add to the suppression of REM sleep during the first two cycles. Since alcohol is a sedative, sleep onset is often shorter for drinkers and some fall into deep sleep rather quickly. As the night progresses, this can create an imbalance between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep, resulting in less of the latter and more of the former. This decreases overall sleep quality, which can result in shorter sleep duration and more sleep disruptions.

A study from the London Sleep Centre confirmed that “at all dosages, alcohol causes a more consolidated first half sleep and an increase in sleep disruption in the second half of sleep.” 

To reduce the risk of sleep disruptions, you should stop drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime. In addition to consuming early, here is a cheat sheet per body-type. 

Air & Alcohol

Because alcohol is a sedative and has a heating quality, the negative effects of alcohol for the air mind can be minimized if you consume smart.

  • Never consume on an empty stomach.
  • Limit to one glass of wine or low-alcohol beer with dinner.
  • Do not drink before bed.

Fire & Alcohol

Fire and alcohol DO NOT mix! The heating aspect of alcohol will have a fire mind tossing the covers off over night and, if consumed to intoxication, lead to hot-temper or anger outbursts. If you must consume,

  • Best choices include diluted, clear spirits mixed with coconut water or water and citrus.
  • Make sure to consume extra water to offset the heat.

Earth & Alcohol

Alcohol can be safely consumed by the earth mind if smart tactics are implemented.

  • Do not consume after the last meal of the day.
  • Choose a low-alcohol and low-calorie option like light beer or white wine.

Caffeine

Caffeine has been called the most popular drug in the world. It is found naturally in over 60 plants including the coffee bean, tea leaf, kola nut and cacao pod. All over the world people consume caffeine on a daily basis in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, some soft drinks and some drugs.

Because caffeine is a stimulant, most people use it after waking up in the morning or to remain alert during the day. While it is important to note that caffeine cannot replace sleep, it can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production.

There is no nutritional need for caffeine in the diet. Moderate caffeine intake, however, is not associated with any recognized health risk. Three 8-ounce cups of coffee (250 milligrams of caffeine) per day is considered a moderate amount of caffeine. Six or more 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is considered excessive intake of caffeine.

Today caffeine has become a key component of our sleep-deprived culture. But when taken too late in the day — when we are trying to fight off that afternoon slump — caffeine hinders our ability to fall asleep at night. As a result, we are even more tired the next day. So we reach for another caffeinated beverage in an endless sleep-deprived cycle. Sleep experts recommend we stop consuming caffeine after 2pm.

What are caffeine’s effects on the body?

  • It stimulates your central nervous system, providing you a jolt of energy and increased alertness. 
  • It acts as a diuretic, which means it helps your body get rid of extra salt and water by increasing the urge to urinate. 
  • It increases your blood pressure.
  • It may interfere with the absorption of calcium in the body. 
  • It can boost the metabolic rate and increase fat burning, but after a while, this effect diminishes as the body becomes tolerant in long-term caffeine users. 

Caffeine metabolism varies from person to person. Some people can just naturally handle more caffeine than others. This is because every individual has a unique caffeine metabolism that is influenced by a variety of factors, such as age, sex and hormones, weight, smoking, diet, medications and more. 

The key is to experiment with what works for you but we can help steer you in the right direction according to your dominant mind type.

Air & Caffeine

Best to go decaf!

Fire & Caffeine

Best consumed with food.

Earth & Caffeine

Positive effect if taken black and on an empty stomach.

References:

Pink, Daniel. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Riverhead Books. 2018.

https://fullscript.com/blog/caffeine

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep

Back to…

Mind Health: Series 6

Don’t forget to check off the series items as you complete them!

Up Next…

Demystifying Meditation

Alicia discusses the benefits and debunks the myths in this informative blog.