Most of us love a cup or two (or maybe more) of coffee each day, but can the caffeine in your cuppa be interfering with your sleep?
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural substance found in coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans. Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the brain by increasing alertness and preventing sleepiness. It increases your alertness by inhibiting the chemicals in your brain that promote sleep. It’s rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and reaches peak levels between 30-70 minutes. Effects of caffeine can last between 3 and 7 hours, but it may take as long as 24 hours for it to be eliminated from your system.
Where is caffeine found?
Caffeine can also be produced synthetically and is found in a number of different foods and drinks. The most popular are coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and some soft drinks. It can also be found in some medications.
Caffeine and sleep
Caffeine can impact your sleep in several ways. Firstly, it’s sleep inhibiting properties make it harder to go to sleep. Secondly, you may sleep lighter and wake up more often during the night. And thirdly, it increases the likelihood that you need to get up to the toilet during the night as well.
Research shows that those who consume more caffeine have poorer sleep, and those who have poor sleep, tend to consume more caffeine — so it can become a vicious cycle.
How much caffeine is too much?
There is no hard and fast rule about caffeine and sleep. Your age, weight, general health and any medications you take can influence how long caffeine stays in your body, and impacts your sleep. Those who regularly consume caffeine may also have a higher tolerance to its effects.
The amount of caffeine in food or drink varies according to its strength. Examples of some of the most common sources are found below:
Instant — 65-100mg
Brewed — 80-350mg
Normal — 50-70mg
Green — 30-60mg
Herbal — 0-30mg
Soft drinks and energy drinks
Cola — 35-50mg
Energy drinks — 80-126mg
Milk — 10mg per 50g (dark chocolate has more)
Generally speaking, a daily intake of less than 400mg of caffeine doesn’t seem to have any negative effects on sleep in healthy adults.
For most people, the general recommendations are to avoid caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime. However, everyone is different so if you have trouble sleeping, keep track of your caffeine intake during the day, and how you sleep that night. You may find that you need to reduce your intake, or change when you have it (e.g. not after mid-afternoon). Understanding the impact caffeine has on you, and managing your intake is important for good quality sleep.
How to get a good night’s sleep
As well as limiting your caffeine intake before bed, there are many other things you can do to help you sleep well. Watching what you eat before bed, getting regular exercise and doing relaxing activities before bedtime can all help you nod off a lot easier.
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