Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Caffeine consumption can affect your health, both positively and negatively. A dose of caffeine can boost your concentration, increase alertness and give you the energy you need to write a blog post on caffeine and sleep. On the other hand, it might mean you can’t fall asleep at night, or the sleep you have is of lesser quality. How exactly does caffeine affect your sleep, and what can you do to avoid sleepless nights?
Afternoon caffeine drinking
Caffeine works very quickly. It only takes 30 to 60 minutes after consuming a cup of coffee for the caffeine to be at its peak level. The half-life of caffeine is 3 to 5 hours, meaning it takes that long for your body to eliminate half of the caffeine you’ve consumed, and a much longer time for it to disappear completely.
It’s no surprise that drinking caffeine in the late afternoon or evening affects your sleep. A 2013 study by researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine showed that subjects that had consumed caffeine as much as 6 hours before going to bed, had significant disruptions to their sleep, with reduction of more than 1 hour of total sleep time.
What’s more, participants weren’t even aware that they were lying awake at night. Self-reporting showed that they did not perceive a loss of sleep, but sleep monitoring did show a significant decrease in sleep. So even if you think late-afternoon caffeine does not affect you, it probably does.
In addition to disrupting your sleep on the day of consuming coffee, regular coffee drinking can affect your body. First, drinking caffeine regularly causes your body to build up a tolerance, meaning you’ll need more caffeine to achieve the same boost. And regular evening consumption can disrupt your circadian rhythm, the regular sleep-wake cycle of your body that repeats roughly every 24 hours.
Drinking coffee a few hours before bedtime can cause a delay in a normal circadian rhythm of about 40 minutes. This means that it will be harder to fall asleep at a “natural” time, and also waking up might become more difficult. In short, drinking an afternoon coffee can disrupt your natural sleeping cycle.
Caffeine and a good night’s sleep
So how do you enjoy your favorite cup of joe while still getting a good night’s rest? There’s no need to cut out caffeine completely, but it is advised to stick to less than 300-400 mg of caffeine a day (most caffeinated beverages have somewhere between 50 and 200 mg) and consume your caffeine earlier in the day. Try to avoid caffeine after 2 pm, as it will likely affect your sleep!
And if you are worried about the amount of caffeine you’re consuming, especially later in the day, consider drinking more decaf or simply using the Decaf Pouch!
Written by Valerie Bentivegna
Christopher Drake, Timothy Roehrs, John Shambroom and Thomas Roth. Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol 09 No 11. 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.3170
Tina M. Burke, Rachel R. Markwald, Andrew W. McHill, Evan D. Chinoy, Jesse A. Snider, Sara C. Bessman, Christopher M. Jung, John S. O’Neill, and Kenneth P. Wright Jr. Effects of caffeine on the human circadian clock in vivo and in vitro. Science Translational Medicine, Vol 7 Issue 305. 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aac5125