Caffeine has been one of the most discussed aspects of food and beverages for decades now. It’s in some of our favorite drinks; we rely on it for some much-needed energy. Tea and coffee are a huge part of human history not just because of their taste and use, but because of our reliance on them and their place in our everyday life. The truth is that with coffee and tea shops on every corner and coffee makers in every kitchen, caffeine has become one of the most important “drugs” that humans use. However, caffeine seems to give us trouble with one of the most important parts of that daily routine - sleep.
It should be obvious to any coffee or tea drinker by now that yes, caffeine does actually keep you up at night! For hundreds and hundreds of years, caffeine has been helping humans to fight off drowsiness and stay awake! You’ve probably relied on some form of caffeine to help you in an energy crisis: from late night shifts at work to studying for that all important exam. But why is that exactly? Before we talk about how caffeine can affect our sleep patterns, let’s talk about why.
What Exactly IS Caffeine?
Caffeine is technically labeled a psychoactive drug, and is by far the most popular one in the world. It’s also commonly referred to as a “stimulant” that has both positive and negative effects, though the negatives are few in number. Caffeine typically affects the Central Nervous System and helps to reduce overall sleepiness and fatigue when taken in moderate doses. It can also help reaction times and greatly influence various physical attributes making it a popular additive for many Sports and Energy drinks.
However, caffeine isn’t without a few negatives. It can negatively impact pregnancies, when taken in large doses, and can also greatly affect anyone suffering from insomnia, other sleep-related issues or even anxiety. It’s important to note that these issues typically stem from overuse and large amounts of caffeine, as most seem to agree that moderate amounts of caffeine can easily fit into a healthy diet.
One of the more impactful aspects of caffeine is dependence and eventual withdrawal. While some studies have shown that caffeine is not technically “addicting”, it’s benefits and effects can be. Heavy reliance on its use can often lead to other, less-serious issues like irritability or headaches. That’s why it’s important to monitor your caffeine intake and ensure that you’re not going overboard with coffees and teas.
So now that we’ve broken down what caffeine is, how and why does it affect our sleep patterns?
How Does Caffeine Affect Me and My Sleep?
So why exactly is it so hard to fall asleep after a cup of coffee, and how can we avoid it? Well, first let’s talk about the literal effects of caffeine on our sleep. Adenosine is an organic compound that has been proven to play a key role in how our sleep patterns are controlled. One of the most important effects of caffeine is that it literally serves as an “adenosine antagonist”, meaning that it actually blocks adenosine and actually helps to prevent the onset of exhaustion and drowsiness.
It’s proven to be an incredible asset to numerous industries, helping workers around the world stay awake and alert for around-the-clock work. But it’s that very same benefit, and usefulness, that can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Thanks to the innovation of today’s coffee and tea trends, there are countless ways to drink or even eat your caffeine. The problem is that depending on how much you take, caffeine can stay in a person’s system for 5-6 hours. Meaning that a cup of coffee or tea in the early evening could keep you from “hitting the hay” at the exact time you want to.
So what are the best ways to avoid it? Well, first and foremost you can ditch caffeinated drinks before bedtime, and even before the early evening. Even more importantly, you should monitor exactly how much caffeine you’re consuming to keep yourself from suffering unnecessary jitters or headaches.
How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need?
A simple question with a not-so-simple question. We know that sleep is incredibly important to our health and mindfulness, but how much do we really need? For years and years we’ve had the “8 hours” drilled into our heads, but that’s not necessarily what’s going to work for you. As we’ve already discussed, caffeine plays an important role in many people’s daily routine. In fact, around 85% of adults have some sort of caffeine or coffee-related beverage during their day. The problem is when you rely on that coffee to provide necessary energy that you should be getting naturally from your body.
The good news is that the older we get the less sleep we need. While teenagers may need anywhere from 8-10 hours of sleep, adults should generally receive around 7 hours of sleep for every 24-hour-period. Caffeine may be a great stimulant to help us get up in the morning, but remember to avoid it near bedtime to guarantee you get the best rest possible.
Achieving Better, Uninterrupted Rest
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a diet or routine that includes caffeine. It can help boost reaction times and some physical attributes, and it makes for an energizing start to the day! The problems that can arise from caffeine tend to come from overreliance or misuse. It’s that very boost of energy that we rely on that can often leave us lying awake in bed at night, wondering how to get to sleep. While its effects are certainly no secret, they are unpredictable and should be taken seriously. Caffeine has helped us a lot in our lives, but it’s always important to use it carefully and in moderation to make sure that you get the night’s sleep your body needs.