In the medical field, caffeine and energy drinks are staples. Most doctor’s and nurse’s lounges have coffee machines, and many in the medical field rely on caffeine to get through long shifts. The problem is that the effects of caffeine, especially over time, can be less than healthy. Caffeine can result in:
• Erratic heartbeat
• Fatigue and crashes of energy
While occasional caffeine consumption isn’t bad, over reliance isn’t good for your body or your energy levels. If you’re using caffeine to stay awake, the caffeine boosts and crashes can actually be working against you.
How to Have More Energy — Naturally
If you can’t handle any more caffeine or if you simply want to have natural energy without relying on the substance, here’s how you can feel more awake more naturally:
1) Drink lots of water.
Dehydration can lead to increased levels of fatigue. If you combine dehydration with caffeine, you’re even more likely to feel jittery and exhausted. Drinking plenty of water helps keep you hydrated and keeps your body functioning more smoothly. It’s easy enough to sip on a bottle of water while on-call or on-duty. You can also add some slices of lemon to give you water a little extra pizazz.
2) Get as much sleep as you can — and nap judiciously.
Medical professionals don’t always have time to get a full night’s sleep. Whenever you can, however, turn out the lights and make sure you get the best sleep you can. If you can’t get at least eight hours, try fitting in a power naps or two throughout the day. You’ll feel more rested if you do.
When napping, aim for a doze in the middle of the day. Try to nap no more than 20-40 minutes so you don’t interrupt your sleep cycle.
3) Eat protein.
Foods with protein, such as nut butters, can help you boost energy levels without the harsh spikes of caffeine or sugar. They can help give you long-term energy, especially when combined with a little bit of fat and some fruits and veggies for nutrients.
4) Avoid sugars and simple carbs.
Simple carbs, such as white bread, pasta and sugary foods, can make you feel temporarily more awake. However, after that comes a substantial crash where you feel even more exhausted than you were before. This can lead to a terrible cycle where you’re constantly trying to consume more sugars and ingest more carbs, chasing that initial alertness. If you’re trying to replace caffeine with energy drinks, especially, be sure to read the labels. Many energy drinks are packed with sugars.
5) Eat small meals.
Do you remember how you felt last time you ate Thanksgiving dinner? Large meals can make you feel sleepy and take a lot of effort to digest. Opt for small, healthy meals that include healthy fats, protein and plenty of vegetables and fruits. These will optimize your energy without caffeine.
6) Make the most of precious sleep time.
When you do have an evening off, make sure you make the most of your sleep time. Go to sleep earlier if at all possible. Remove all light sources from your room and use blackout curtains, eye masks or ear plugs to block out all sounds and light. Even minimal amounts of sound and light can make your sleep a little more interrupted.
Be careful about having any work items or lighted screens in your room, too. Where possible, make your bedroom a screen-free and distraction-free zone. Trying to work in bed late at night before sleep can mean it’s harder for you drift off. Aim to create a relaxation ritual before bed and keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature to help you sleep comfortably.
7) Get some sunlight.
Sunlight is one of the best all-natural energy boosters. When you can, head outside for a quick break. Get some sunlight and fresh air. It can be especially beneficial to combine sunlight with light exercise. A brisk walk around the block or around the hospital or clinic can do more to revive you than another tepid cup of coffee.
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