Staying Awake Without Caffeine

When I was in high school I used to drink a triple shot espresso every morning with at least 5 tablespoons of sugar. That would hold me over in a caffeine and sugar induced high of jitters and wide eyed intensity until lunch time when I’d have a caffeinated cola or another cup of coffee. By the time I got home I’d have a cappuccino until that wore off and I fell asleep and woke up; repeating the cycle. I was a full fledged caffeine addict. When I got to college on the days where my 9:00 AM cross campus class got in the way of my beauty rest, I’d do the same thing. I’d eventually crash around 5:00 PM, falling asleep, and waking up at midnight completely refreshed, because that’s practical and what normal people do. Since then my sleeping habits have only gotten worse and unfortunately I seem to be the most alert and awake when everyone else is asleep. I find this to be a problem common among my friends. Between now and graduation I won’t have anything that resembles a normal sleeping pattern, and if I do it’s only for a few days before I’m up till sunrise watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon and hating myself.

James Franco asleep in class, he's just like the rest of us!

While caffeine has helped me, as fate would have it, caffeine also makes me incredibly ill. Anything in the line of dairy, caffeine, energy drinks or red meat will incapacitate me for a few hours. I try to avoid them as much as I can, and only give in when no other options present themselves. My sporadic and unreliable sleep schedule means that I’ll often get cravings for caffeine and it takes everything in me to not run into a Starbucks and order a grande black coffee with an espresso shot, especially on days when I haven’t slept much. I used to suffer through the caffeine cramps and stomach aches, believing that I was choosing the lesser of two evils.

Molecular structure of B12

It wasn’t until I was complaining to my cousin about my dietary woes that I finally found a fix. His advice was to simply take vitamin B12 every morning with my breakfast and I’d stay awake and alert for the entire day. I took his word for it; he manages to wake up every morning at 6:00 AM for a jog, no matter what he did the night before. I stared down the light pink pill, hoping for the best. As the day carried on I felt awake, but without the on edge tenseness and stomach pain that caffeine gave me. I felt calm and naturally awake, like I would feel after a full night’s sleep.

The body cannot naturally produce B vitamins, so we get them usually from the milk or meat of animals who can, making B12 deficiency a problem amongst vegans. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause permanent damage to nervous tissue and can present itself as anemia, lethargy, and depression. Foods richest in B12 include liver, cheese, beef, and whole milk- foods that I consciously avoid. B12 promotes metabolism and helps the body extract energy from proteins and fats.  B12 works with melatonin levels in the body to keep you awake in the day and get you to sleep at night, so after a few days taking the vitamin you should notice an improvement in your sleeping schedule.

Catherine, Hudson County Community College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter

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