Your daily caffeine intake could be seriously affecting your sleep quality.
Let us paint a picture most of us can relate to. You wake up having slept for seven hours, but somehow you’re still exhausted. After making a coffee at home, you still feel groggy on your way to work – so you stop in for a takeaway coffee on your commute. Midday rolls around and you hit a wall – so you make a beeline for the coffee machine at work. Then, much later in the evening when the day is finally over and you’re watching Netflix, you find yourself reaching for chocolate as an after-dinner treat.
And, just like that. You’ve now taken in caffeine during every stage of your day: morning, afternoon, and evening. And you probably weren’t even thinking about it.
There’s a bigger link between caffeine and sleep deprivation than you think. We drink coffee when we feel tired – but having too much caffeine, or having it too late in the day, can prevent us from falling asleep at night and leave us waking up seriously sleep-deprived the next morning (so, we reach for another coffee and the cycle continues). A 2013 study revealed that consuming caffeine even 6 hours prior to going to bed can have severely disruptive effects on sleep. (1)
On top of sleep deprivation, too much caffeine has been known to increase anxiety and restlessness, which can contribute to individuals developing insomnia.
Caffeine stops the brain’s receptors from receiving adenosine, which signals drowsiness and promotes sleep. It is the most accessible stimulant (yes, caffeine is a drug) and is present in coffee, chocolate, black tea and soft drinks, to name a few.
But have you ever wondered how these daily hits of caffeine are negatively impacting your sleep?
How caffeine affects your sleep
Caffeine works by suppressing the production of adenosine, a chemical in the brain that promotes sleepiness. When adenosine is blocked to the brain, three main things take place that we can refer to as the three ‘D’s:
- Difficulty to fall asleep
- Difficulty to stay asleep
- A deficit in restorative deep sleep, or stage 3 of the sleep cycle – the stage where the body repairs itself to wake up feeling rejuvenated. Research has shown that caffeine intake interferes with this stage of sleep.
Consuming caffeine, no matter what form, can prevent us from sleeping for up to 7 hours after it is ingested. Caffeine before bed is a massive sleep disruptor, even if it’s something like chocolate, as it may cause us to lay awake for hours (all the while wondering why we feel so wired).
If you are having trouble sleeping, or simply want to increase the quality of your sleep, we recommend replacing caffeine with other alternatives.
Alternatives to caffeine
Next time you feel yourself reaching for a coffee, chocolate or caffeinated beverage, try these instead for a natural pick-me-up:
- Herbal tea: herbal tea is free from caffeine and provides a rejuvenating effect to help clear the mind. Some of our favourites are chamomile, vanilla, and peppermint tea.
- A veggie juice or fruit juice will give you a long-lasting energy boost through the day (plus is naturally packed with vitamins).
- Try a decaf blend coffee if you’re longing for that coffee taste.
- Many caffeine-free hot drinks are gaining popularity – next time you meet a friend for coffee, grab a turmeric chai latte.
- It’s also worth considering if your choice of food is impacting your sleep negatively, as some foods can keep you awake (and leave you at risk of craving caffeine the next day).
If you can replace your afternoon coffee for any of the above, chances are you’ll be able to get to sleep faster, stay asleep, and enjoy deep, restful sleep that will leave you feeling energised the next morning.
Caffeine in tea vs. coffee
Different types of tea contain different amounts of caffeine (for example, black tea has a higher caffeine content than green tea). The way coffee is brewed also determines the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee.
But research has found that, on average, one cup of coffee contains the same amount of caffeine as two cups of tea.
If you’re worried about your caffeine intake or have been feeling nervous, anxious or sleep-deprived, why not make tea your go-to?
If you still feel like you need a small amount of caffeine to function, green tea or matcha are delicious and refreshing options that contain a smaller amount of caffeine than their counterparts coffee or black tea.
Try cutting the caffeine for yourself and see if you notice a difference in your sleep quality. Chances are you’ll wake up feeling more rested, rejuvenated and ready to take on the day ahead.
- Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, ‘Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed’, 15 November 2013