What’s your favorite caffeinated vehicle? Mine is rich, thick, and foamy espresso, on most days. And sometimes just black coffee prepared with my French Press. No matter your caffeine kick, your brain, body, and taste buds demand this particular stimulant daily. Don’t they? The majority of adults in America consume caffeinated beverages. But do they all think about the relationship between caffeine and sleep? I don’t think so.
You already know that caffeine’s a strong stimulant. In that case, your daily consumption should be kept in check. Now I’m not telling you to pack up your expensive coffee maker. Or never again taste the wonderfulness of a cold brew. All I’m trying to say is that caffeine intake shouldn’t go overboard.
When consumed in safe amounts, caffeine offers plenty of health benefits. But when over-consumed, it has negative effects on performance, mood, health, and SLEEP.
So allow me to discuss everything you might want to know. About the connection between caffeine and sleep. It’s good to be well-informed and then tweak your habits. Rather than thinking you’re doing the “right thing.”
Caffeine: How does it work?
It’s already out there that caffeine is a very effective stimulant. It steams up your nervous system and even affects the other systems of the body. Like the digestive, excretory, and circulatory system. The most recognizable impact of caffeine is wakefulness and alertness. It even hikes your blood pressure. But this is just a short-lived elevation.
Below I have discussed a few ways in which caffeine has an effect on your body:
• Caffeine stalls adenosine
What is adenosine and what does it do? It’s a neurochemical present in your body, which keeps building up as the day progresses. Increased adenosine equals less alertness and more sleep.
So what caffeine does at such times is mimic the personality of adenosine in your body. This prevents brain cells from perceiving actual adenosine. And, in turn, caffeine’s effects on adenosine trigger an impact on your other neurochemicals.
• Caffeine elevates dopamine
As you might already know, dopamine is responsible for activating the pleasure parts of your brain. This neurochemical increases with the intake of caffeine. That means more alertness.
And did you know that it’s because of dopamine elevation that consuming caffeine turns into a daily habit?
• Caffeine reduces melatonin
Here’s how your sleep cycle gets disrupted due to caffeine. Caffeine has a very strong influence over melatonin suppression. Even stronger than bright light!
You might not feel the caffeine kicking in immediately. The effects take around 25 to 45 minutes to show up. That’s when the boost actually sets it. But you can expect these effects to last for quite a few hours. To be more accurate, 6 to 8 hours is how long it takes for the kick of this particular stimulant to wear off by half.
Caffeine: How does it activate wakefulness?
You crave that glorious feeling after drinking your morning cup of delicious coffee. Even the afternoon dull and exhaustion might push you in that direction. And almost instantly after consuming your caffeine boost, you start to feel alert and energized again.
So how is all this happening inside your body? Caffeine alters the brain’s chemistry. It is a stimulant, after all. But it does so in a manner that forestalls the brain from feeling exhausted.
When sleepy, the brain produces adenosine.
As I said, this is a naturally present chemical directly related to sleep. So to your brain receptors, the caffeine you consume disguises itself as adenosine. And thanks to this similarity, the stimulant binds to the receptors. So they don’t recognize any adenosine.
Now your receptors cannot sense adenosine since they’re busy with caffeine. So what happens then is the neurons begin firing at a quick speed. And this spike encourages the pituitary gland to produce adrenaline.
The outcome of which is the fight mode or the flight mode. Pupils get dilated and heart rate goes up. And even the liver passes sugar into the bloodstream to activate more energy. And this is how you end up feeling fully awake.
Caffeine: What are its health benefits?
It’s almost miraculous how caffeine has an effect on energy levels. But the stimulant offers other health benefits too. Here’s proof of that. And below are the actual health benefits of consuming caffeine regularly.
• It improves metabolism
Just 50 milligrams of caffeine has the ability to kick-start the body’s expenditure of resting energy. In simple words, burning more calories becomes possible without having to lift anything. Except for your cup of coffee of course!
• It makes you feel relaxed and happy
When you consume 100 milligrams of caffeine, it contributes to enhancing your mood. Along with reducing anxiety!
• It boosts brainpower
Caffeine allows blood vessels to relax. Meaning the more the consumption, the higher the rate of blood circulation into the brain. And, in turn, increased blood flow improves focus levels. So you can solve problems and make decisions more easily.
Caffeine: How much of it is okay?
When daily intake is a part of the picture, you’re compelled to keep that consumption in check. You also need to think about the time along with the quantity. So in that regard, take into consideration all caffeine sources. Because it’s not just coffee that contains caffeine. Energy drinks, chocolate, tea, and sodas also have caffeine present in them.
It’s only common sense to assume that not everybody reacts to this stimulant in the same manner. There are people who might be slightly more sensitive than others. So if you wish to prevent caffeine from disrupting your sleep, declining focus, and creating jitters. You should know how much is recommended. And how much is too much.
If you’re a healthy grownup, 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is a safe amount. But when you have heart or blood pressure problems, you should have a word with your doctor.
So how much are 400 milligrams? Four cups of coffee, where each cup is 8 ounces. Six sodas, where each soda bottle is 12 ounces. And two 12-ounce energy drinks.
Caffeine: What is its dark side?
Drinking 400 milligrams of caffeine, which is 4 cups, a day is completely fine. Anything more than that tends to cause problems. So here are the following signs that indicate too much caffeine in the system.
- Dizziness or headaches
- Feeling jittery or shaky
- Upset stomach
- Abnormal or increased heart rate
Also, please don’t forget that caffeine’s a stimulant and a drug. So the body can easily become addicted to its favorable effects. This means if you cut back or miss your daily dose, you might have to deal with withdrawal symptoms.
Common caffeine withdrawal symptoms:
- Upset stomach
• General fatigue
• Focus deficiency
• Irritability or crankiness
• Muscle pain
• Migraines or headaches
And total wreckage of sleep, it’s the worst of all.
How are Caffeine and Sleep Connected?
There are some people who willfully devour an espresso maybe 1-2 hours before bedtime. And they have absolutely no trouble sleeping. Lucky chaps, aren’t they? Then there are people like me and you, who drink coffee at 3 in the afternoon and still keep tossing in bed all night. Why is that?
Caffeine’s half-life is 6 to 8 hours. So it takes that much time for half of the total consumption to wear off. But keep in mind that my body’s metabolism rate is not the same as yours. It might be though, who knows! Anyway, my point being is that not everybody metabolizes caffeine in a similar manner. This means more trouble in the sleep department for some. While some experience either no trouble or little trouble.
If you already know that your caffeine sensitivities are on the higher side, it’s best to change the timings. Make sure that you savor your daily cup before late afternoon. Do not consume caffeine at least 6-8 hours prior to your bedtime. If you genuinely want to eliminate the most unfavorable caffeine effect on sleep cycle!
But this doesn’t apply just to coffee. Caffeine hides in soda, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate as well. Even a few pain relievers contain caffeine.
Tips for Preventing Caffeine from Disrupting Sleep
Studies on caffeine and sleep prove that both are directly connected. So how to sleep after drinking too much caffeine? Or what do you do when excessive caffeine disrupts your sleep?If you suspect that your daily caffeine input is the primary cause of your sleepless nights. Then it’s time to lower the consumption. Until you determine the safe limit!
You can incorporate some relaxation techniques right before going to bed. These include breathing exercises and sleep-inducing yoga postures.
Also, it’s a healthy habit to develop a proper sleep schedule. It involves going to sleep and rising at the same time every day. Such a practice goes a long way when it comes to regulating bodily functions. It even minimizes the need to rely on stimulants such as caffeine to wake you up.
Popular Drinks and Foods That Contain Caffeine
So it’s just not coffee, you’ve got to watch out for the following beverages too:
• Soft drinks.
• Energy drinks.
• White, black, and green tea.
• Yerba mate.
• And obviously, cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos.
Even decaf coffee has a little bit of caffeine. Even so, it’s the best and comparatively healthier alternative to caffeinated coffee. Some decaffeinated K cup manufacturers have eliminated as much as 97 percent of caffeine. You might think these drinks don’t taste like coffee. But, lucky for you, the ones reviewed here certainly satisfy your every ounce of caffeine cravings. However, are you highly sensitive to the stimulant? Then avoid decaffeinated drinks as well.
As for common caffeine-containing food items, they’re as follows:
• Guarana seeds.
• Some energy and protein bars.
• Pre-workout powders and drinks.
• Chocolate and hot cocoa.
• Mocha or coffee ice cream.
There are a few weight loss and OTT headache pills as well that have caffeine in them.
Typically, caffeine effects don’t last for a very long time. Unless you’ve consumed too much of it. Or if you’re especially sensitive to it!In high amounts, caffeine lingers long enough to disrupt your sleeping pattern.
So you either keep your daily intake less than 400 milligrams, which is 4 cups of coffee. Or you make it a point to not consume caffeine at least 6-8 hours before bedtime.
If boosting your energy levels is a priority, there are other natural ways to do so. As for satisfying your caffeine cravings. Feel free to replace caffeinated coffee with its decaf version.
About the author:
Miguel Garriga knows and understands the A to Z of coffee. He, obviously, is a caffeine devourer himself. His knowledge base in this category is quite vast. And the detailed coffee and tea related articles he creates regularly for Koobies Coffee are proof of that.
Garriga, as a coffee drinker, is very nit-picky. And it’s this particular quality, which reflects in his posts, that other fellow caffeine junkies find the most relevant. So the nit-pickiness actually works in his favor.