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There’s a fine line between balancing daytime productivity with sound sleep at night time and nowhere is that in conflict more than with caffeine and sleep.
It’s widely known that drinking too much caffeine to power through a busy day can keep us awake at bedtime.
Worse still, many of us consume even more caffeine the next day to help us feel alive and functional after a poor night’s sleep. It’s basically a vicious cycle and one that is incredibly bad for our sleep quality and overall health.
Which begs the question – how does caffeine affect sleep?
For some, that extra shot or two of caffeine lifts their mood and concentration. But for others, caffeine-laden beverages cause the opposite of their intended outcome.
Whether caffeine lifts you up or gets you down, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to help you learn the true effects of caffeine on sleep.
How Does Caffeine Affect Sleep?
That’s a good question. How does caffeine affect sleep?
For starters — caffeine and sleep aren’t exactly the best of pals. Caffeine is actually a drug that influences our brain, promoting alertness to prevent you from feeling sleepy.
While that’s great for the working day, as you can imagine, that’s bad news if you’re fond of drinking lots of tea or coffee throughout the day and into the evening. Hello, insomnia!
Now — you probably won’t be surprised to learn that caffeine has an almost immediate effect on your body, but you might be shocked by how long it actually takes to completely go through your system.
Caffeine usually takes around 30 to 60 minutes to reach its peak level in your blood. It can then take anything from between 3 to 5 hours for your body to eliminate just half of the caffeine you’ve consumed. As for the remaining half of the caffeine – effects can last for a whopping 8 to 14 hours. Yikes!
One of the most obvious negative effects of caffeine is poor sleep. Not only can it make it hard for you to actually fall asleep but studies have shown that caffeine can also confuse the timing of your body clock.
That means you’ll reduce the amount of your deep sleep cycles and your total sleep time. Not ideal.
Caffeine Induced Sleep Disorder
One of the worst effects of caffeine on sleep is to contract a caffeine induced sleep disorder. This is actually recognized as a mental disorder and results from long-term overconsumption of caffeine.
Typical symptoms occur during and after caffeine withdrawal or intoxication and include insomnia, restlessness, sleep talking, headaches, nightmares, nausea, anxiety, abnormal movements, aggression, strange behaviors and emotions, muscle pain and difficulty focusing, as well as several other negative effects.
Clinical attention is needed to determine whether or not a person has a caffeine induced sleep disorder.
A diagnosis will only be made if the examination shows that an individual’s inability to sleep is caused entirely by the effects of caffeine and their symptoms relate to sleep disturbances seen in caffeine withdrawal or intoxication.
It’s also worth noting that a caffeine sleep disorder is more likely to occur in someone who is not a regular caffeine drinker.
Sadly, caffeine induced sleep disorder is rarely diagnosed and there is no treatment available for sufferers at this time.
However, an individual with such symptoms is encouraged to quit their caffeine use or cut down their intake. Counselling and hypnosis are also said to help alleviate symptoms too.
How Not to Let Caffeine Affect Your Sleep
As we’ve already established, caffeine is a stimulant and it blocks the sleep-inducing chemicals in our brain, which help us to fall and stay asleep. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid drinking your favorite brew altogether.
Scientists have found that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime will reduce your total amount of sleep by 1 whole hour. With that in mind, you should stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least 8 hours before you go to bed.
Those 8 hours are vital for giving your body enough time to process all the caffeine without it disturbing a restful night’s sleep.
If you can, try and avoid drinking tea and coffee in the afternoon and evening, and limit yourself to a maximum of two cups before lunch. Also, the effects of caffeine on sleep are greater in older adults, so stick to drinking caffeine-laden beverages in the morning if you’re a mature-age caffeine drinker.
Alternatives to Caffeine
If you love drinking your afternoon tea or coffee and don’t fancy giving it up, there are caffeine free hot drinks that could be a good alternative.
Herbal teas, in particular, are a great afternoon tipple and often have far-reaching positive effects in other areas of your life too — including focus and alertness. You don’t need caffeine to stay awake!
We’d recommend avoiding decaf coffees too. Although these certainly have less caffeine than regular coffees, they are not truly caffeine free.
Check out some of these products instead:
Now that’s everything you need to know about how does caffeine affect sleep. Remember to leave 8 hours between that mug of coffee and bedtime!
How do you feel about caffeine and sleep?