Imagine your child woke up in the morning and dryly grumbled:
“Can’t function until I’ve had my coffee, mom.”
a) send your child to bed earlier the next evening thinking that perhaps the solution is more sleep?
b) say, “Absolutely honey. Here’s your cup.”
I can’t think of a single mother who would encourage a coffee habit with her child because we know in our gut that coffee is not the answer.
Dr Michael Breus is a psychologist and insomnia expert who has conducted a load of research on sleep. His research reveals:
Drinking coffee first thing in the morning does not wake you up, make you alert or give you an energy boost. All it does, according to science, is raise your tolerance for caffeine so that you need to drink more and more of it to feel any effects at all.
In fact, he says that the worst time to have a cup of coffee is within two hours of waking OR within six hours of bedtime, especially if you have sleep problems.
So what DOES coffee actually do?
- Coffee suppresses natural melatonin production by interfering with your natural circadian rhythms which govern your sleep cycle.
- Coffee puts our body in “fight or flight” mode. It gives us that morning boost by pumping up our stress hormone cortisol. The problem with waking up with a cortisol injection is that we are forcing a spike in blood sugar, which needs to be mitigated by an insulin response. This is bad news for post-natal mamas who have stopped breastfeeding and are trying to shift their baby weight, especially if their morning breakfast is plain oatmeal, cereal or toast with no accompanying protein. These grain-based breakfasts break down in your body into simple sugars, exacerbating that blood sugar spike created by your coffee. Whatever sugar your body doesn’t need is packaged into fat by your liver.
- A body in “fight or flight” is also not focused on resting and digesting. As a result, digestion is compromised and all those beautiful nutrients you are hopefully taking in with breakfast will not be optimally digested and absorbed, resulting in nutritional deficiencies, which affect everything from your mood to immunity levels.
- Coffee is a diuretic and that is a problem first thing in the morning for TWO major reasons:
- FIRST: We lose about a litre of water over the course of the night through perspiration and exhalation. So, by the time we wake up we are dehydrated. Diuretics like coffee and black tea are thus the polar opposite of what our body requires to actually kickstart all of its daily functions. Mamas who wake up and feel nauseous, please have a look at how much water you are drinking throughout the day and how you are using coffee.
- SECOND: As a diuretic, coffee is also encouraging your body to pee out all of your water soluble vitamins, like your B-vitamins and Vitamin C. Those of you who’ve been reading my posts for a while know that these are exactly the vitamins our adrenal glands need to cope with stress. So you’ve reduced your body’s ability to cope with stress even before you get to work.
- Coffee also affects iron absorption in your stomach and particularly your kidneys ability to retain calcium, zinc, magnesium and other important minerals. All bad news for post-natal mamas who have to be extra cautious about iron levels to replenish blood lost and maintain energy levels. Also bad news for mamas with constipation and sleep problems as magnesium is a crucial mineral needed to maintain regularity and ensure restful sleep.
In short – not only does coffee sabotage your natural melatonin production – it also dehydrates you, depletes you of much needed vitamins and minerals and impairs your body’s ability to cope with stress.
But if not coffee — then what?
And herein lies the difficulty. If you’ve read this and gone, “There is no way on earth I’m going to be physically capable of surviving the day without coffee” — then you are most likely so sleep deprived that coffee is your saviour. And so, you are caught in a vicious cycle – too tired to give up coffee. Too wired in the evening to fall asleep before 10.30pm and get those golden 8 hours of sleep.
(And by the way — if you are sleeping 8 hours daily and still wake up feeling like you need a coffee, that is not normal and you might want to consider getting a blood panel to check iron levels, thyroid & adrenal function).
Here are a few ideas to help you break the sleep-caffeine cycle:
- Dr Breus recommends drinking a big glass of water in front of a window first thing upon rising to hydrate your body and stop the production of melatonin so that you stop feeling sleepy. He also suggests you follow with a tepid shower to help your feel invigorated.
- Have a protein-fueled breakfast in the morning, like my Adrenal Friendly Breakfast. This helps give your body energy, healthy fats & fibre to help you combat stress effectively, regulate your hormones, boost immunity and keep you regular.
- Try having a cup of maca instead of coffee to boost your energy levels.
MACA ROCKET FUEL DRINK
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of your choice)
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 tspn maca powder
- 1 tspn raw cacao powder
- 1 tspn coconut oil
- 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
- pinch of cinnamon
Put all the ingredients in a small pot and whiz with your hand-held blender. Then heat until hot and put it in your thermos to go. So energizing and warming! And for half the price of a Starbucks (I’ve done the math).
And did you know that maca….
- is rich in vitamin B, C, and E — all of which help you combat stress;
- has plenty of calcium, zinc, iron & magnesium to boost immunity & help with sleep;
- reduces anxiety;
- improves thyroid function;
AND HELPS MEN AND WOMEN INCREASE THEIR LIBIDO!
Sleep, sex & stress management – all in a drink that won’t give you a hangover.
Mamas – it is totally within your reach to break the cycle of fatigue. Nutrition can help you bust that rut. And who knows what else you might have energy for before bedtime!
Cristina Tahoces is a holistic nutritionist and owner of Thrive Nutrition Practice. Please join her Facebook group “Thrive Nutrition Practice” for daily articles, recipes, promotions on professional grade supplements and upcoming workshops.
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