Saturday, June 5, 2010

cops and caffeine

HF is a pretty healthy guy. He doesn't drink coffee and he rarely drinks soda. So he doesn't really consume caffeine unless you count chocolate. Since becoming a cop, he has found himself not only getting used to graveyard shifts, but working graves without having much sleep and working more overtime than ever before. There have been many nights that he felt tired enough that he wouldn't be able to stay awake all night. Sometimes even after getting enough sleep and eating right, he still struggles to stay awake from sheer exhaustion from all that he does!

One morning, he came home and he was very alert. I had never seen him so wide awake after a shift. Not only that, but he was very energetic. Quite hyper in fact. I asked him what was wrong. He looked at me with crazy, wide eyes and said with a smile, "I drank 3 Rockstars last night!" For someone that doesn't regularly drink caffeine, 3 rockstars really did a number on him. I began to notice really big dips in his sleep/wake cycles. He was doing whatever it took to stay awake, and then whatever it took to crash. And it was affecting his health. Then one morning I found these:

It was like one of those drug commercials from the 80s. Or for this particular situation, this spoof on the commercial from Srubs. I confronted him and threw them on his lap and said accusingly, "Who taught you how to do this?!" We laughed, but we did talk about it in all seriousness. He told me that one of the guys he works with had given them to him but  he hasn't tried them.  I expressed my concern and he admitted that he was concerned about it too. 

Basically, when he's on a good routine, he's working out and eating right and getting enough sleep. But with unforseen circumstances such as family "emergencies" and other things happening in his/our lives, he doesn't always get the sleep he needs. He stopped the Rockstars and although he may use some kind of aid or stimulant from time to time depending on the circumstance he finds himself in, he is keeping it natural, which is for sure what I want, but what he wants as well. I rarely tell him what to do, but when it comes to health stuff, I'm all over that because I worry. I worry about bad habits.
To help him, I've been trying to do my part. I try to do my best to have food on hand that he can take to work. When I wake him up in the afternoon, I try to make sure that he's had at least 8 hours of sleep. If I'm feeling especially kind, I will wake him up with a full body massage. He is sore from working out, from working in general, and from little things like his duty belt, that I know it makes him feel good. I'm into natural health, so I'm always researching about things that can help (The Melatonin seen above is a natural sleep aid, but why take it if you don't need it?) From what I've found, some of the best and easiest ways to depend less on caffeine is exercising, getting enough rest, relaxation, a balanced diet, and staying hydrated will help you stay alert.  If water isn't doing the trick, non-caffeinated herbal teas have lots of health benefits as well and may do the trick if it's a warm beverage that you are craving.  

In Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's book, On Combat, he says the following about caffeine:
Caffeine is a powerful and useful drug to temporarily combat the effects of sleep deprivation, but only if you have not abused it. If you need a "three bagger" to get you kick-started first thing in the morning, a 64-ounce "Big-Gulp Cola" to keep you going throughout the morning, two or three big, strong cups to keep you moving after lunch, and a big cup to face the family at the end of the day, you are addicted and abusing a powerful drug that will not be there for you when you need it the most. It is best to use caffeine only when necessary, such as first thing in the morning and right after lunch, two times when most of us need a little help. Never use caffeine within five or six hours of bedtime. If caffeine does not bother your sleep, that is proof that you have already built up a powerful tolerance, and it will be ineffective when you need it. Cut back, but do not go cold turkey. Starting tomorrow, drink half of what you normally consume, cut in half the next day, and so on, until you are taking caffeine only two or three times a day. Then when you really need it for that extended operation, it will be of use to you.
I think he pretty much says it all. Just like with anything we consume, there should be moderation. I recognize that cops and coffee are one of those stereotypes like cops and donuts are, but obviously there is a reason it becomes a habit and why cops come to depend on it so much. Are you addicted to caffeine? Do you need it to make it through a shift? Using Grossman's example, where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you have any helpful tips or alternatives that you don't mind sharing?


Pam Landy said...

UGH - going from not consuming any caffeine at all to three Rock Stars? That stuff is SO gross, no wonder he was humming like a live wire.

Melatonin is a good option if you haven't had a good amount of sleep for a while, but you have to make sure you use it when you know you're going to have 6+ hours of sleep, otherwise you'll still be groggy when you get up.

I have a couple cups of tea with breakfast, but only feel like I need the caffeine on workdays. Even then I don't drink full-caff coffee, only because it makes me jittery.

JB hasn't had graves yet, but has declared that "he likes sleep" and therefore can sleep whenever he likes. This appears to be true so far, but that's going to be a big switch. I'll be interested to see the tips you get too! <3

KD said...

my husband sounds like HF in that he doesn't have a regular intake of caffeine. When he was working graves he had major sleeping problems (as in, he couldn't sleep!) and a nurse friend of ours recommended melatonin. It did diddly squat for him. :/ So he still has sleeping issues, and we have a huge bottle of that stuff sitting around!

Pam Landy said...

Another comment - this topic has me rolling! :)

I really enjoy rooibos or rooibos chai in the evenings because it's a sturdy, dark, non-caffeinated tea that can take milk, which is perfect if I'm craving something more substantial than "Sleepytime" but won't keep me up.

However, from rereading your post it unfortunately sounds like he just needs sleep - the most natural solution of all, and the most effective. If he isn't getting a decent amount of sleep, then he just plain won't be able to function at even a basic level, much less the level he expects of himself. Can he block off a weekly sacrosanct sleep night?

KD said...

Pam and I are going to have our own little comment party here. :)

One of the biggest problems I see with working graveyards, no matter what your job, is that you were NOT made to work all night and sleep all day. Your body knows the difference and will fight it, which is why so many people who DO work graves have to artificially (i.e. w/ caffeine and sleep aids) modify their body's clock. The very very BEST thing you can do for yourself if you work graves is to get into a strict wake-sleep routine so that your body knows exactly what it's supposed to do and when to do it.

However, with a family and a "life", that is sometimes much easier said than done.

Pam Landy said...

Whoop whoop, KD! Comment party! :D

Your point about regular schedules is spot on - I've read about people who regularly sleep only four hours a night and have full days... the trick is that those four hours are at the exact same time each time.

Leah said...

I am so thrilled that you've brought this topic up!! CC gets back from Academy this week! Chances are, being the rookie and all, he's going to be put on nights when he gets done with FTO. We had some struggles when he did the night shift before and so I see that there will need to be some regularity and such to keep CC from using the same things that mrs. fuzz talks about here. Maybe I should send CC here to read about it! (another way to keep me from having to "lecture" him!) I also love the quote from the book. That book is on the list to read now!!!

Sister Copinherhair said...

Let's put it this way...I get up an hour and a half before I have to move so that I can drink my coffee. Indubitably hates my coffee because it makes him "have heart palpatations," as he puts it. But I usually don't drink anymore the rest of the day. Just water.

I like Starbucks. He prefers Dunkin Donuts, which is a bit too weak for my taste.

mrsofficer said...

UGH the hubby LOVED the monster drinks.And he was given FREE supplies of it. I kept telling him they were bad in excess but he never listened. Then when I started my RN program the telemetry dept.DR told me most young men here experiencing chest pains was from those kinds of drinks on an excessive amt, or some fat burner. I made him write a small note for the hubby. And ever since I haven't seen them. BUT he still drinks black coffee in the am, no harm with that :)

April said...

My honey drips coffee into his veins while at work, and then is wired when he comes home. Usually needing up to 3.5 hours to calm down before he can sleep. Then he doesn't get enough sleep by the time he has to get up with the kids get up when I leave .
It's a vicious cycle I wish I could break.

Momma Fargo said...

I work nights, too! I'm a pot of coffee a day person. Ugh. Three Rockstars would kill me. And Lt. Grossman rocks!

I have been trying to sub water for coffee and I have noticed I am getting more restful sleep and don't need the coffee as much.

Tell your husband, I sympathize.

Ann T. said...

Dear Mrs. Fuzz,
Good for you! I'm late to this conversation but you took up the cudgels nicely.

For awhile I had insomnia, and I was told a. caffeine and b. darkness. So the blackout curtains are a good bet. Slamdunk wrote about those for his children.

I haven't tried this, but it hasn't been mentioned: a white noise machine? Something that blisses out the sound of afternoon?

Anyway, the best thing for his rest (seems to me) is that you've got his back, massaged or not. What a relief that must be for him after all the stress.

Ann T.