It is one of those tips that we have heard; one that seems to have been born out of personal opinion but is actually very much rooted in scientific fact. If you drink coffee too close to your bedtime, you might end up ruining your sleep.
Of course you don’t have to be a genius to know that large amounts of caffeine will keep you awake! What might come as something of a surprise however, is just how early in the day that coffee can affect your sleeping pattern.
Research shows that drinking coffee six hours before bedtime can seriously affect your sleep.
The main stimulant in coffee, caffeine, can indeed be extremely disruptive to achieving natural sleep. Also remember that coffee is not the only culprit. Numerous soft drinks contain surprisingly large amounts of caffeine, and chocolate also contains a stimulant named theobromine.
Due to the caffeine, theobromine, sugar, and other ‘hidden’ stimulants found in your drinks and snacks, it is easy to see how you can end up feeling ‘wired’ late in the evening, without even knowing why. This can disrupt your cortisol and contribute to adrenal exhaustion.
Traditional coffee still makes up the bulk of society’s caffeine consumption though, so let’s break down the facts and see exactly it can affect your sleep. A recent study estimated that, on average, coffee drinkers consume three cups of coffee every day. What is more important than the precise amount though, is the timing throughout the day.
Timing is everything
At what point of the day is it best to drink your final cup of coffee? The answer may be more surprising than you might have realized. A study from the Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Complex has revealed a series of interesting patterns.
Focusing on the effects of both late afternoon and early evening caffeine consumption, researchers tested a number of volunteers. Incredibly, they found that caffeine consumed as early as six hours before bedtime led to the participants getting one hour less of sleep.
If you go to bed at 10pm, drinking coffee at 4pm will likely reduce your sleep by one hour.
It gets even more interesting. Six hours was actually the earliest time they tested, so it is reasonable to assume that drinking coffee even earlier than 6 hours before bedtime will also have an affect on your sleep.
When should you drink coffee?
Here’s the thing. If you are really serious about recovering from chronic stress and adrenal fatigue, then you should consider giving up coffee completely. Switch to decaffeinated coffee, herbal teas, chicory coffee.. anything that doesn’t contain stimulants.
If that’s too difficult (and it won’t be easy at first), consider switching to green tea. Another intermediate step might be to switch to ordering a ‘half-caf’ (50% regular coffee, 50% decaf) instead. If you’re feeling tired, you might just be dehydrated so try drinking a glass of water first.
If you suffering from adrenal fatigue and struggling to wean yourself off caffeine, this study has an important takeaway for you. The science shows that drinking coffee in the afternoon is going to affect your sleep. So restrict those cups of coffee to the morning only!