THE BOTTOM LINE
- Drinking caffeine after 2pm means you’re likely taking it to bed with you.
- High caffeine tolerance does not reduce the effects of caffeine on sleep
- Luckily, there are ways you can enjoy your brew and sleep good, too!
Caffeine is truly the sweetheart of the stimulant world. It’s the most widely consumed psychostimulant on the planet, with most people getting their fix from coffee. This widely popular supplement not only tastes great it also can increase focus, energy, and quite literally pump you up. However, coffee has a dark side (cue the ominous music), while it may be helping you write that screenplay, it might also be disrupting your sleep.
Why does caffeine feel so good?
First of all, caffeine works quickly. It is rapidly and completely absorbed within 45 minutes of consuming it. Secondly, caffeine taps into the brain’s reward systems. It boosts dopamine levels, which can elevate mood and improve focus and provides a potent feedback loop that leaves us wanting more.
How does caffeine disrupt sleep?
- It stays in your system: Caffeine works rapidly but it also has a long half-life (the time it takes your body to get rid of half of the active ingredients). Caffeine has a half-life of four to seven hours, which means if you have 200 mg of coffee at noon, by 5 pm there’s still 100 mg kicking around inside of you. The remaining caffeine can take 8-14 hours to fully leave your body.
- Caffeine blocks relaxation: Adenosine is a chemical that blocks certain activities in your brain, causing you to feel sleepy. Caffeine blocks adenosine from doing its job which in turn speeds things up in your brain. This is great for work but not ideal for sleep.
- It’s an adrenaline booster: The activity of caffeine on your brain causes your pituitary to send out hormones telling your adrenal glands to produce more adrenaline. Adrenaline is our “fight or flight” hormone that boosts energy, heart rate, and attention. Adrenaline is a great friend when you’re pumping iron but a terrible companion during sleep time.
- It reduces melatonin: melatonin is an important hormone that peaks during sleep. Consuming coffee causes a decrease in melatonin levels during the night.
A GUIDE TO REDUCING THE IMPACT OF CAFFEINE ON SLEEP
Many people can still enjoy coffee AND get good sleep by following a few basic guidelines. Get your caffeine fix in before 2 pm (or 6 hours before bed) to avoid the lingering anti-sleep effects of caffeine. Limit your daily intake to 250- 400 mg to reduce any health risks.
2. PAIR IT WITH L-THEANINE
L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves. On its own, it improves focus and reduces stress. Taking a dose of 50 mg of L-Theanine with 100 mg of caffeine can significantly improve attention and cognitive performance, better than just coffee alone. This powerful little supplement is easy to take and boosts coffee’s good effects while reducing your stress response.
3. RETHINK YOUR DEFINITION
Coffee may masquerade as a delicious treat, but it should really be viewed as a supplement. It may help to think of it as a performance-enhancing substance that you don’t need to keep dosing all day (no matter how good lattes taste).
4. SKIP COFFEE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING
Your body has a natural system that wakes you up in the morning by pumping you up with energy-boosting hormones like cortisol. Drinking coffee within the first 90 minutes of waking up can blunt the stimulating effects of coffee and lead to increased tolerance to caffeine. Time your coffee breaks for late morning and right after lunch when cortisol is generally lower. Choose water first thing in the morning, instead! Learn more ways you can boost your morning instead of choosing coffee.
5. WATCH YOUR INTAKE
Caffeine is often snuck into treats like dark chocolate, pain relievers, and sodas. Even decaf has 15 to 30% of the caffeine dose of a regular cup of coffee.
I can really handle my caffeine...
so I don't think it will affect my sleep
Even though it’s common to build up a tolerance to caffeine’s stimulating effects, this does not mean it won’t disrupt sleep. Continuous exposure to caffeine disrupts our internal clocks which can lead to sleep problems. People who have built up a tolerance to caffeine often drink more, which ultimately leads to an increase in side-effects. You can reduce these effects by using caffeine intermittently, taking tolerance breaks, or halving your intake every other day.
To reduce the negative impact of caffeine on sleep:
- No caffeine for 6 hours before bedtime
- Take coffee with L-theanine to boost focus and reduce stress.
- Have your first cup 90 minutes after waking up for optimal stimulating effects.