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Caffeine & Sleep Quality: Why This Pairing Is So Destructive

on August 21, 2020

Are you one of those people who can’t function in the morning until you’ve had that first (or tenth) sip of steaming hot coffee? Whether the reason behind that need is out of pure habit or you rely on caffeine to help you wake up isn’t relevant. Either way, it is destructive to your sleep quality.

The very thing that helps you wake up in the morning could be the exact reason that you don’t sleep properly at night. Therefore, creating a vicious cycle that ultimately leads us nowhere. 

In this article, we are going to look at the link between what we eat and drink and how effectively we sleep at night. While our food and beverage cravings may sate our hunger or thirst, they are potentially setting ourselves up for a more than disappointing night of sleep. 

Coffee: Tastes So Good But Its Effects Are So Bad

Many people who begin a caffeine habit often find that as time goes on they need more cups of coffee to achieve the same feeling of alertness and energy that they felt at the beginning. The more we consume caffeinated drinks, the less of a desired effect they have. 

This inevitably leads people to consume more coffee during the day. It is not uncommon for many of us to have a break to get a caffeine kick as late as 4 pm or 5 pm. But what exactly does this mean for sleep hygiene? 

It takes our bodies a long time to process the coffee that we drink and it’s estimated that caffeine will stay in our system for between 4 to 6 hours. That means when you’re having your Americano or Espresso to get past that early evening slump, it is still in your system when bedtime rolls around. As coffee is a stimulant, it not only increases adrenaline to make us more alert but it also suppresses the chemical, adenosine. 

Adenosine is an important chemical made in the brain. It helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle and promotes drowsiness at the end of the day. When too much caffeine has been consumed in a day, an individual will find it hard to fall asleep and may struggle to reach the REM stage of sleep. Overtime, overconsumption of caffeine can lead to sleep deprivation. 

What We Eat And Drink Impacts Sleep Quality

The food and beverages that we consume play a big role in the quality of our sleep patterns. Sugar is viewed in the same way as caffeine - harmful to sleep quality. Have you ever had trouble getting your children to go to sleep after they’ve been to a birthday party? That is because they more than likely exceeded recommended sugar consumption making them energized and hyper. 

Certain food and beverages will contain ingredients or compounds that can alter the effectiveness of your sleep. Alcohol is known for making us feel drowsy and helping us to fall asleep, but in reality, prevents us from reaching deep sleep during the night. Foods that contain the amino acid, tryptophan such as chicken and yogurt can boost serotonin - the sleep-regulating chemical - and make us feel more tired. 

You’ve probably heard someone mention not to eat a heavy meal before going to bed. While this is true, you should also be mindful of exactly what you are consuming as it could potentially be a stimulant that will lead to a night of poor sleep. 

Alternative Ways To Improve Sleep Hygiene

If you feel that your caffeine addiction has been taking a toll on your sleep, then you must kick the habit. Rather than reaching for sleep medication, there are more natural ways that you can improve your sleep hygiene on a daily basis such as: 

  • Stop eating at least two hours before going to bed
  • Limit caffeine consumption to no more than 400mg per day
  • Turn off digital devices up to one hour before going to sleep
  • Sleep in a quiet, cool and dark room every night 
  • Practise relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation or reading in the lead up to bedtime 

If you are still struggling to sleep, then it may be an indication that you are experiencing a more serious health problem. 

Sleep disorders such as Sleep Apnea play havoc on an individual’s ability to sleep well and many people with this condition wake up feeling exhausted the next day. The danger is that many turn to coffee to overcome daytime sleepiness which can lead to them not getting diagnosed soon enough. 

If you believe that your inability to sleep effectively at night is due to more than caffeine consumption, it is important to consult with your doctor as soon as possible. With the right treatment, you and a CPAP machine can get your sleep hygiene back on track.