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What Is the Relationship Between Coffie and Sleep?

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I enjoy writing about nutrition and health-related topics, especially alternative and plant-based remedies.

If you are a frequent coffee drinker, you likely already know that coffee can have effects on your sleep. However, you may underestimate just how easy it is for the caffeine in coffee to impact your sleep. Even when taken hours before bed, caffeine can result in difficulty falling asleep, disrupted sleep, reduced deep sleep, and shorter sleeping time. Keep reading for more details on how coffee affects you so you can learn how to stop coffee from negatively impacting your sleep.

How Coffee Works

As you probably know, the active ingredient in coffee is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can make you feel more alert and block drowsiness. Caffeine works because it resembles a chemical in the brain called adenosine. Adenosine slows down nerve activity in the brain, causing drowsiness, making it an important factor in getting your body ready for sleep.

When you drink coffee, caffeine binds itself to adenosine receptors, blocking that process from happening. This is how coffee prevents you from feeling drowsy. The break in the natural activity of adenosine also increases nerve activity, which causes your body to produce adrenaline. This is why you feel more alert and energetic after drinking a cup of coffee.

How Coffee Affects Sleep

Because caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors, it prevents your body from naturally becoming drowsy. Your elevated adrenaline levels can also make you feel jittery and awake, making it hard to sleep. The effects of caffeine on sleep have been studied in detail.

According to a 1974 study, caffeine negatively affects sleep in a number of ways. Participants who drank coffee before bed had a sleep time that was an average of two hours shorter than those who did not. Drinking coffee also increased the amount of wakefulness during the night and made it harder for participants to sustain periods of non-REM sleep.

How Long Coffee Affects Sleep For

These effects don’t just occur if you drink coffee in the couple of hours leading up to bedtime. Caffeine stays in your system for a long time and can negatively impact your sleep even if you drink it in the afternoon.

A 2013 study found that caffeine taken in six hours before bedtime had significant disruptive effects on sleep. For this reason, they recommend that people who have trouble sleeping refrain from drinking coffee for at least six hours prior to going to sleep.

But if you are anything like me. You can still enjoy your daily coffee without the side-effects. Just keep in mind those habits and don’t drink too much.

© 2016 Sam Shepards

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