Most experts agree that an average of seven to eight hours of sleep is ideal for adults. However, as busier schedules lead to later nights and earlier mornings, many people are looking to a cup of coffee, a caffeinated soda or an energy drink to get that much-needed jumpstart during the day. Whether it is just before daybreak or mid-way through the graveyard shift, Laborers are seeking ways to stay awake. While the stimulant may be effective in the short-term, the real question is, do we need more caffeine or more sleep?

Sleeping soundly through the night does more than just make your body more alert during the next day. Numerous health benefits are associated with a good night’s rest. Recent studies show that sleep reduces the likelihood of heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes. The link between obesity and sleep also suggests that losing weight requires quality sleep.

Sleep is especially essential to performing well on the job. A well-rested Laborer is less inclined to make mistakes due to drowsiness. It can improve productivity and prevent costly accidents. See Don’t Just Lie There, Go To Sleep for more reasons to get your rest.

It is clear that caffeine is a poor substitute for good sleep. While up to 300 milligrams (about three cups of coffee) a day is not harmful, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to a host of problems. More than 500 milligrams at any time during the day can cause anxiety, irritability, rapid heartbeat, headaches and restlessness.

Too much caffeine can also have a negative effect on sleep. Caffeine that is taken four to six hours before bedtime can disturb your body’s natural ability to wind down. If you do fall asleep, the stimulant can cause you to wake up several times through the night. All of that adds up to sleep deprivation, which makes you drowsy on the job.

The battle between caffeine and sleep is particularly common for shift workers. Staying up all night and attempting to sleep during the day throws off your circadian rhythms, causing daytime insomnia and general grogginess. As a Laborer, you need to be alert while working, especially during the midnight hours. For information on how to get a “good day’s rest”, refer to Coping with Night Work and Daytime Rest.

General information about caffeine and sleep is available from the National Sleep Foundation.

[Jennifer E. Jones]