Drowsy In A Meeting?
What should you think when you are drowsy in a meeting? Eat? Drink water? Drink coffee? Get up and walk around? Open the window wider? You know the kind of drowsiness I am talking about. That overpowering sleepiness that demands some action. You feel like curling up on a sofa and getting a good power nap. If you ask a doctor for advice then the answer would be “it depends…”
The first question to answer in response to this problem is to determine if you had a good night’s sleep the previous night. A good night is defined as at least six and a half to eight hours sleep. An easy way to tell if you are getting enough sleep is to check back through the activities of your typical day. Were you able to stay awake throughout? Many of us think that there are certain activities, which, make us sleepy, and therefore that it is natural to sleep through or at least doze and not pay attention. The reality is that for most people, this dozing is likely to be a consequence of lack of enough sleep. Because if you are getting enough sleep, you should be alert all day, no matter what you are doing. Some people though sleep all hours and still doze through meetings and even when they are alone at their desk, the thought of work is too much to contemplate. For such people we have to look to some other reason.
One possible explanation for feeling drowsy is either high or low blood sugar. People who suffer from diabetes feel very tired if they eat too much, especially carbohydrates and sugars. They lack energy, yet there is so much sugar circulating in their blood. The problem is that they lack insulin, a hormone, needed to shift the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells. In effect the cells can see food, but cannot get at it. In the case of low blood sugar, there is not enough sugar in the blood. So even if there is insulin to shift the sugar into the cell, the problem is that the commodity is just not available. The body’s cells then know what it feels like to live in Kenya during the periodic shortages of sugar. So apart from enough sleep, either low or blood sugar can cause drowsiness during the day. This though raises an interesting question. How come people who are fasting do not sleep throughout the day and night? After all they should either be in a state of low blood sugar or high blood sugar.
Fasting is voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time, that is, there has to be intentional abstention from food. Fasting is one of the oldest therapies in medicine. Hippocrates believed that fasting allowed the body to heal itself. Ayurvedic medicine has long included fasting as major treatment. More recently there is some research that shows that periodic fasting can boost health, especially cardiovascular. However the research has to be treated with caution. Most people who fast do so for religious reasons. The problem with attributing good health to fasting is that people who fast and are religious are less likely to smoke, take alcohol or behave badly – health wise. They are therefore already at a lower risk of heart disease. But, research shows that fasting may change the way the body metabolizes low-density lipoprotein, the bad fat that is a part of cholesterol, lowering the levels in the blood. Sugar too is metabolized more efficiently during periods of fasting. In the end the periodic fasting may therefore lead to less diabetes and weight gain both risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
So why is it that we do not fast more often? We have very good examples to follow. Every major religious figure fasted. Think Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha. Each used a period of fasting to get mental and spiritual clarity. Mahatma Gandhi used fasting as a political tool of protest in the early 20th century. And it seems that feeling drowsy and tired through the working day is not due to a lack of food, but is more likely because of over-eating, not sleeping enough or more likely a combination of the two. So stepping out of a meeting to drink coffee with sugar is simply adding fuel to the fire. Drink some water perhaps.
And here is the good thing, fasting for a few weeks leads to weight loss. On average, about two kilograms in the first month alone with much of it coming off the first week. So a bit of fasting can be good health-wise. Not only are you mentally more alert, but in the process you get to lose weight, which, in our present day environment is usually a good thing.