Newswise — The hustle and bustle of the holiday season sends many racing to the nearest coffee shop for that boost of caffeine to ensure everything gets done. However, the desire for that daily jolt might be masking a serious problem with sleep. “Many of us feel we need the extra caffeine between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day just to have the energy to cook, shop and deal with family,” said Joshua Septimus, M.D., an internist with Houston Methodist Hospital. “We will use caffeine to push our bodies to the extreme when we could get the same boost of energy from a good night’s sleep.” Caffeine is a stimulant that is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants, and affects the central nervous system. It makes most people feel more energetic, alert, and productive, until its effects wear off. Heavy doses of caffeine(between 500 and 600 milligrams or about four to seven cups of coffee) will not onlycause difficulty sleeping, but can also increase your heart rate, causes muscle tremors, and headaches. Doctors recommend drinking no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine (about two cups of regular coffee) a day.

“One ‘venti’ cup of coffee at Starbuck’s is already too much caffeine for one day, and many of us have two or three a day,” Septimus said.

Those who rely on caffeine to stay awake need to find out why they are having problemssleeping. It could be obstructive sleep apnea, which affects more than 22 millionpeople in the U.S.. This condition, which is an obstruction of the airway, causes people to stop breathing during sleep. Most people wake up from a deep sleep hundredsof times a night, and when they finally get up in the morning, they are exhausted,and head straight for the caffeine drinks to make it through the day.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is becoming an epidemic in this country, and many people are living with it instead of being evaluated and seeing how they can change their sleep patterns,” Septimus said. “This condition has been associated with sudden cardiac death, strokes, and sleep deprivation so it's best to check with a physician sooner than later." Sleep deprivation has been associated with car accidents, and can lead to serious health conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, and memory loss if not properly taken care of.

“Most people don’t realize how much more productive and vibrant they would feel if they could get full night’s rest,” Septimus said. “Masking your bad sleep habits with highenergy caffeine drinks or multiple cups of high priced coffee, while it might provide a short-term spark, will do nothing to cure the underlying problem, and make you feel better in the long run.”

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