Life Lessons

Catching More Z’s

Are you tired?  Of course you are.  Nobody’s getting enough sleep.  Blame it on FOMO and our electronic devices; our 24/7 mentality and longer work days; and our over-consumption of caffeine.  But wait – that might be a chicken and egg situation.  Is sleeplessness the consequence of drinking too much coffee, or are we drinking gallons of coffee to combat fatigue?

When it comes to sleep health, I’ve heard it all before.  Moderate the temperature in your bedroom, don’t eat anything past 8:00 pm – and the best one – get up the same time on the weekends as you do on weekdays.  Ha!  Fat chance I’m gonna set my alarm to wake me at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning.

As a night-owl, I stayed up well-past what is considered a reasonable bed-time, only to be startled awake by my ear-splitting alarm clock.  Make no mistake, the reason it’s called an “alarm” clock is because the shrill sound incudes panic and distress.  Then, like a true java-junkie, I relied on a venti-sized coffee to shift myself into high gear.  And I thought I was doing okay.

But a couple of months ago, I committed to making some big changes in my life that have resulted in a dramatic improvement in my sleep health.  First, the easy one: since I didn’t suffer from FOMO, I shut off my cell phone at dinner time and I don’t turn it on until the next morning.  Next: I’ve broken the late-night habit of forcing myself to stay awake just so I can cross one more thing off my never-ending to-do list.  And finally: working at home has enabled me to swap commuting time for additional shut eye.  The results?  I have never been more clear-headed and present; the dark circles under my eyes have vanished; and my caffeine consumption is down to one half-caf-half-decaf cup of coffee a day.  I still get all the flavor, but I no longer need the jolt.

Maybe you’re thinking all this change is too drastic.  And realistically, your current life-style does not allow for one or more of these changes.  Understandable.  But think about how much effort you put into deciding what you eat – and won’t eat – and how you make time for a workout or yoga class.  The three-legged stool of health is nutrition, exercise, and sleep.  Two legs are not enough for stability.  We need that third one – sleep.

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Pop Culture

The Coffee Culture

cup of joeOn an early morning train bound for DC, I made my way to the café car.

“How’s the coffee?” I tentatively asked the guy behind the counter.

“It’s hot, brown, and there’s plenty of it,” he replied with a hint of irony.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I smiled because his reference to the movie City Slickers wasn’t lost on me.

“I’ll have a small one.”

“You’ll be back for more,” he warned.

How’d he know I come from a family of java junkies?  That my dad’s addicted to his Keurig?  That my grandmother always started her day with a pot of espresso?  She’d say it wasn’t strong enough unless the spoon stood up by itself.  As for me, I started drinking coffee for medicinal purposes.  The caffeine was my first line of defense when a migraine hit.  Now, of course, I’m hooked.

As I drank what was, at best, a serviceable cup of joe, I recalled the luncheonettes of the forties and fifties where patrons sat at a counter with a proper cup and saucer and a piece of pie, and the smoked filled coffee houses of the sixties where young people congregated to talk politics and listen to folk music.  When did cars start coming equipped with cup holders so commuters could drive-through their favorite coffee chain in the morning on their way to work?  Today, teenagers are more apt to hang out at Starbucks than to try and get into a bar and, for most of us, “let’s meet for drinks” has been replaced by the “coffee date.”

The coffee culture is not only thriving – it’s taken over.  Did our 24/7 mentality cause it?  Maybe it’s because caffeine is an acceptable and legal drug.  Or because coffee just tastes and smells so damn good.

There are 30 coffee shops within an eight-block radius of my apartment.  Seriously.  I’ve counted them.  And I’m not complaining.  After all, it’s nice to have options.  So whether you like French roast, espresso, or Turkish coffee, prefer it hot or iced, frequent one of the big chains or a small indie like Thinking Cup or Wired Puppy – coffee is a must.

red poppy

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