Posted on June 05 2018
Part 2, Avoiding Caffeine! Top 5 Secrets for the Best Night’s Sleep
Caffeine and sleep… how much is too much, and what time is too late for a cuppa?
The stimulating effects of caffeine are no secret. In fact, most of us rely on caffeine to help us wake up and get moving on a daily basis. However, many of us don’t take in to account the negative impacts of caffeine on our sleeping cycle.
Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime has the obvious impact of stimulating the brain when it should be shutting down. Additionally, consuming too much caffeine regularly is associated with addiction or dependency, which upsets your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle, impacting your sleep, mood and general health.
Of course, it’s not all bad news for caffeine! The wonderful benefits linked to keeping your brain awake and alert are at the core of the global love affair with coffee and tea. However it is important to manage our caffeine intake, and understand the potential negative impacts on sleep, as well as the positive impacts on wakefulness.
Our top 3 tips on caffeine management and sleep
1. Understanding your intake
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults shouldn’t be consuming more than 400mg of caffeine per day, which equals about four cups of coffee. Drinking too much coffee can cause irritability associated with caffeine dependency, and serious impact your sleep cycle if consumed too close to bedtime.
But of course, its not only coffee that contains caffeine. Whilst coffee is the most common beverage associated with caffeine (with 2.2 billion cups of the staff consumed around the world daily!), tea, energy drinks and chocolate all contain caffeine – though generally in smaller doses.
Typically, a cup of tea contains around half the caffeine content of a cup of coffee, with energy drinks and chocolate varying greatly dependent on the particular product. If you are having trouble sleeping, it is always recommended to check the caffeine content on any of the drinks or foods you regularly consume in the late afternoon or evening.
2. Set a caffeine cut-off timeStudies published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine recommends avoiding caffeine up to 6 hours prior to sleep, suggesting that “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep”.
The study involving 400mg of caffeine intake showed that even at 6 hours prior to bedtime, caffeine reduced sleep by more than 1 hour, and that this degree of sleep loss (if experienced over multiple nights) may have a negative impact on daytime function.
This is particularly relevant in younger age groups where sleeping problems are increasingly common, and caffeine-based products are increasingly popular and available.
3. Don’t wake up with a coffeeWe know this will be incredibly unpopular advice for those who can’t face the day without a coffee, but hear us out!As this TIME Health article reports, drinking coffee first thing in the morning is not recommended by health or sleep professionals, as it interferes with our body’s production of cortisol, the natural ‘wake-up’ hormone. Because a routine of early morning caffeine consumption replaces the natural cortisol boost instead of adding to it, the body becomes increasingly dependent on caffeine to wake-up.The problem with dependency is that if (heaven forbid) coffee is not available, your body will no longer be ready to produce the natural wake-up hormones, causing you to feel tired and sluggish all day.
Therefore it is generally advised to rely on your body’s natural injection of cortisol, which peaks by 50% upon awakening, and hold-off on your first coffee until between 9 – 11.30am.
By following these tips on caffeine management you should rely less on the stimulant to dictate your daily functions and mood, and more on your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. If you are having trouble breaking bad habits, you can always try replacing late night or early morning coffee and/or tea with a decaffeinated option, or low-caffeine alternative.