Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Human Experiment, Part 2

Earlier this month, I posted about my own efforts to deal with insomnia, and how I inadvertently threw myself into caffeine withdrawal. I'm following up here.

So to summarize my experiment on myself, I manipulated the following variables, all at once, with no control group, and no way of knowing which variable was responsible for any changes I saw.

1) I stopped all caffeine. Well, mostly. After the caffeine withdrawal headache and fatigue, I decided there was no real rationale for this, and I've been drinking half a cup of coffee most mornings. In anticipation of the crowds and a purported 1:5000 person: porta-potty ratio at Obama's Inauguration, I did not have any coffee on that morning. I've had no Diet Coke (yes, this is possible) and my efforts to completely stop chocolate have been unsuccessful. So my caffeine intake has been limited to half a cup of coffee in the morning and episodic chocolate in reasonable (mostly) quantites. No artificial sweeteners.

2) I stopped drinking alcoholic beverages.

3) Since I have trouble falling asleep, but don't have trouble with daytime sleepiness, I wondered if I've simply come to need less sleep and I tried setting my alarm significantly earlier in the mornings. I am not a morning person, and this was awful (it lasted 2 days) but perhaps because it co-incided with my caffeine withdrawal. After that, I started going to bed at least an hour later than I was used to.

4) I increased the amount of exercise I was getting...oh, at least for a while. I also tried to add on some evening exercise to manipulate my body temperature several hours before bedtime-- a few minutes until I got flushed, but not sweaty enough to need a second shower. It was going well until a few days ago when I turned into a human slug. I resume a normal exercise schedule today.

5) Stress-- I started this plan during a time when stress was low and there was a long weekend in there. I've had some stuff going on since, and I spent a night away from home and my usual routine. Sometimes, life is just what it is.

My findings:

  • It is easier to give up Diet Coke than it is to abstain from Chocolate.
  • It is easier to give up alcohol than it is to abstain from chocolate.
  • Decaffeinated tea is as happy an event as regular coffee.
  • My daytime energy level has not changed with less morning coffee.
  • One can actually have mild cravings for Diet Coke.
  • It's easier to go to bed later than it is to get up earlier
  • It's a pain in the neck to exercise every single day
  • It is notably cheaper to eat in restaurants when there is no alcohol, soda, or after dinner beverage involved (I don't like decaf coffee).

Oh, and the results: most nights, I'm falling asleep within minutes and sleeping through the night.

Sweet Dreams!