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Published On: Wed, Aug 14th, 2019

How Caffeine Affects Your Sleep

Did you know that about 64% of Americans drink coffee every day? Are you a caffeine junkie, too? Do you need to get your daily fix in order to see yourself through the day? What does caffeine actually do for you? Is it healthy? How much should you drink? How long does it stay in your system for?

photo/ engin akyurt

These are all questions that we’ll address in this post. Are you ready to learn more about caffeine? Then let’s go.

Food and Drink That Contains Caffeine

You know the usual suspects, like coffee and Coca Cola, but caffeine is present in a lot of different products that you might not expect. Here are some of the items that you’ll find caffeine in:

·         Tea: While it doesn’t contain as much caffeine as coffee, it still contains a fair amount.

·         Decaffeinated Coffee: That one probably caught you by surprise, right? Decaffeinated coffee contains far less caffeine, but there’s enough in there to make it harder to sleep.

·         Chocolate: Cocoa beans contain caffeine as well. How much depends on how many cocoa solids are in it, but chocolate is not a great bedtime snack.

·         Ice Cream/ Flavored Yogurt: If you like a chocolate or coffee flavor, you’re getting a dose of caffeine.

·         Your Cereal: Again, the issue is with chocolate-flavored cereals.

·         Chocolate Mousse and Desserts: Again, anything that has chocolate in it can be problematic.

·         Medications: Caffeine is present in many different pain medications. It enhances the action of the medications and helps to relieve pain.

Your Brain on Caffeine

When you drink anything containing caffeine, you’re likely to feel more alert. This is because the caffeine acts on the adenosine receptors in the brain. This is useful when you need to get through the day after a long night.

It’s not ideal if taken one to three hours before going to bed. Everyone’s metabolism is different, so you might be lucky and metabolize it faster. That said, it’s best to avoid drinking it in the evening.

How Does Caffeine Affect Your Sleep?

High caffeine intake is not just going to keep you awake. It will also affect the quality of sleep that you do get. While it’s only present in your system for about three hours, it affects other processes in the brain.

If taken within six hours of bedtime, it could delay your body’s winding down routine. How does this affect your sleep? The body naturally starts to produce melatonin during the early evening. Caffeine prevents this from happening.

It’s only when the caffeine has been completely metabolized that the body can start the process. This means that it’s not enough to avoid coffee, and so forth, for three hours before you go to bed.

What About Coffee Naps?

Now let’s throw a spanner in the works. If you need to take a short nap, coffee may help you to wake up more refreshed afterward. The reason that this works is that it’ll take a while for the coffee to be metabolized.

So, if you drink it a few minutes before napping, it won’t act fast enough to keep you awake. When you get up twenty minutes later, though, it will have kicked in. This will take care of any residual drowsiness when you wake up.

This technique won’t work at bedtime because you’re going to be sleeping for a few hours instead of a few minutes.

Tips on Caffeine Intake

We’re not saying that you should completely avoid coffee. No one wants that. What we are saying is that you have to manage how much of it you consume. Here are tips for managing your intake more effectively. 

Know-How Much You’re Getting in Total

It’s important to get a clear picture of how much caffeine you’re getting from all the different sources. Now it’s time to go and look at the labels of the food that you consume and see how much caffeine there is in it. It’s important to factor in all the sources that you’re ingesting.

What Constitutes a High Dose?

Generally speaking, a 500mg to 600mg is considered a high dose. That’s around five to six cups of coffee a day. If you’d like better sleep at night, consider halving that amount, and avoid drinking it in the late afternoon or evening.

Don’t Ditch the Coffee All at Once

When it comes to breaking the habit, going cold turkey is an option, but not a pleasant one. Our brains become hooked on the caffeine. If you stop suddenly, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

·         Headaches

·         Fatigue

·         Irritability

·         Lethargy

The symptoms will last for a few days. If you can stick it out, going cold turkey is the quickest way to kick the habit. It may, however, not be ideal if you need to stay sharp at work.

If you’d like to minimize those symptoms, you can wean yourself off it slowly. This is where understanding what your normal daily consumption comes in useful. Start by eliminating one caffeinated beverage. Perhaps cut out the last drink of the day.

Don’t make any other changes to your intake for the next three to five days. Then you can cut out another dose. Again, you’ll want to wait a few days before making another cut. Carry on like this until you’ve weaned yourself off.

Final Notes

Caffeine can be a useful tool, especially when you really need to focus. It’s important to realize that there are drawbacks, though. Over time your body will build up a tolerance, meaning that you’ll need more to get the same effect.

Another big downside is that drinking it too close to bedtime could make it harder to fall asleep, and reduce the amount of quality sleep that you’re able to enjoy. Overall, it’s best to moderate your intake and to keep your caffeine dose for the mornings.

Author: Josh Wardini

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