What time should I stop drinking coffee If I want to sleep at night?

Arguably the words most easily accessible drug, found naturally in over 60 plants including the coffee bean, tea leaf, kola nut and cacao pod. It can be highly beneficial in improving general alertness, reducing fatigue, improving memory, improving your cognitive functioning and speeding up your reaction times. But can also be detrimental to our sleeping patterns in reducing total sleep time and sleep efficiency, and worsening perceived sleep quality. It does this by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. 

Some studies have shown that older people are generally more sensitive to the affects of caffeine and subsequent impacts on their sleep, although it's been observed caffeine can impact everyone differently and this is sometimes dictated by genetics or an individual's metabolism.

There is no actual requirement for caffeine in the human diet, yet there aren't any health risks to drinking it in moderate doses. As a general rule, you can assume that an average 8-ounce (240-ml) cup of coffee offers around 100 mg of caffeine. Research suggests that you should not exceed 400mg of coffee per day. Regularly exceeding this amount has found to have some dangerous negative side affects.

A recent poll in the USA suggests that 43% of Americans are “very likely” to use caffeinated beverages to combat daytime sleepiness. Ironically, the daytime sleepiness can be caused by poor sleep quality, which can be caused by a higher than recommended caffeine intake!

In a study by Drake et al 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleep disruption was measured after taking 400mg caffeine (4-5 cups of coffee equivalent)  0, 3, and 6 hours before bedtime. The results showed the 400mg dose at  0, 3, and even 6 hours before bedtime ALL impact sleep quality. But went on to say that you should try refrain from any caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime. So no caffeine after 2pm is a good rule to follow!

To get out of this cycle and requirement for caffeine to keep you awake in the afternoon, we found some alternative ways to help you sleep better at night and have a lesser reliance on a double-shot espresso to keep you awake during the post-lunch slump.

  1. Try keep to a regular bedtime and alarm time even on weekends.
  2. Don't eat too late. As a minimum, leave 2 hours between your last meal and going to bed.
  3. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows (ideally a silk one)
  4. Try get into a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as taking a bath or listening to music
  5. Use your bedroom only for sleep. If you're working from home try use a different room in the house.


Referenced articles

Coffee, Caffeine, and Sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials Clark, Ian; Landolt, Hans Peter

Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed; Christopher Drake, Ph.D., F.A.A.S.M.,1,2 Timothy Roehrs, Ph.D., F.A.A.S.M.,1,2 John Shambroom, B.S.,3 and Thomas Roth, Ph.D.1

Caffeine and Sleep: The Sleep Foundation

Pros and Cons of the Caffeine Craze, Web MD  Kathleen Doheny

Progress in Brain Research 2011, Chapter 6 - Effects of caffeine on sleep and cognition Jan Snel, Monicque M. Lorist

FDA Consumer Updates: Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

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