The short answer as to whether or not coffee makes you stay awake all night long would be yes, at least in most cases.
The question is, though, when should you stop drinking coffee so it does not affect your sleep quality, and how much is too much?
Caffeine is used worldwide as a beverage to get us going in the morning, so it won’t come as any shock that enjoying a coffee before bed isn’t going to do much to ensure you sleep soundly. After all, caffeine is a stimulant.
Getting the correct amount of sleep is vital to your health, and drinking too much caffeine throughout the day can hinder this significantly. Therefore, limiting your coffee consumption to the earlier hours of the day is strongly advised.
Why Does Coffee Make You Stay Awake?
One clear and concise reason that drinking coffee keeps you awake and makes you feel more energized is because of a compound called adenosine, which is a byproduct of neuronal activity that takes place in the brain. The nervous system constantly monitors these activities. When your adenosine levels begin to fall, the body and brain will start preparing themselves for sleep.
The reason caffeine works so well in making us feel more alert when we crash is that it simulates adenosine. This tricks the body into thinking it’s not yet time to go to bed. Therefore, drinking coffee can interfere with your sleep and even cause sleep disorders such as caffeine-induced insomnia.
Caffeine decreases slow-wave sleep, which is likely to cause you difficulty falling asleep, and can end up with you having broken sleep, meaning you wake up multiple times during the night.
Caffeine-induced insomnia often comes with overconsumption of caffeine. However, because there are many types of caffeine-related psychiatric disorders, such as caffeine-induced anxiety, and caffeine intoxication, you must meet specific criteria to be diagnosed.
Some of the criteria you must meet include the following:
- Having no other sleep-related mental disorders
- Your insomnia must have a significant effect on your social or occupational performance.
- Whether or not your insomnia is genetic
- You don’t suffer from other sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy.
- The condition is severe enough to cause concern requiring medical attention.
- There is proof that your sleep disturbance is a direct ramification of caffeine intake.
How Long Does Coffee Stay in Your System?
Some people may feel the effects of caffeine from the moment that coffee touches their lips. This is because caffeine is absorbed through the epithelial tissues, in other words, through your glands, tongue, stomach, and esophagus. Forty-five minutes after consuming a cup of coffee, 95% of the caffeine has been absorbed, and it takes four to five hours for it to be completely cleared from your system.
Therefore, if you have a cup of coffee at 6:00 pm, chances are, you will still feel the stimulative effects when it’s time to go to bed.
However, this does differ from person to person. After all, the way we absorb and feel the effects of stimulants can vary widely. Factors such as genetics, medications, disorders, hormones, and activity levels can all determine how caffeine affects each person.
The Science Behind Caffeine Consumption
Tests have shown three levels of caffeine sensitivity in humans, which is all down to our genetics. This explains why you might meet someone who says they can drink a cup of coffee in the evening and still be sound asleep by 10:00 pm. However, this is a small percentage of people who experience this, in fact, only 10%.
On the flip side, some people are especially sensitive to caffeine, and even the tiniest amount can cause them to feel anxious, have shakes, and experience a rapidly increased heart rate. This can mean if these people have a cup of coffee in the morning, or early afternoon, they will still be likely to struggle to fall asleep and may even suffer symptoms of insomnia.
Research has proven that the reason we all react differently to caffeine is because of an enzyme called CYP1A2, which is what our bodies use to break down caffeine. Some people don’t make as many of these enzymes as others, which is all down to genetics.
How to Avoid Coffee Keeping You Awake at Night?
There’s a time and a place to enjoy a cup of coffee, meaning you don’t have to give it up altogether to get a good night’s rest. Below are a few ways to still enjoy your favorite beverage without worrying about staying awake all night.
1. Don’t Drink Coffee Late in the Day
The best way to avoid being kept awake all night due to the effects of coffee is only to consume it in the earlier hours of the day. For the average person with regular working hours and a set sleep schedule, only drinking coffee before 2:00 pm would be recommended. Of course, if you’re a shift worker, this is a little more difficult to control, so it’s advised that you don’t consume caffeine for around 8-10 hours before it’s time for bed.
2. Listen to Your Body
It would help if you took notice of how your body reacts to caffeine. As I said earlier, we all have different limits on what our bodies can handle when it comes to caffeine intake. Know your limits, and stick to them.
Exercising will help improve your overall metabolism, including how quickly you metabolize caffeine. If you’ve overconsumed coffee, try doing an hour of exercise to try and move it more efficiently through your system. This may help you to avoid overstimulation in the evening.
4. Vitamins and Minerals
If you’ve consumed coffee late in the day and then remember you were supposed to be catching an early night, supplements such as Vitamin C and Calcium have been shown to reduce the adverse effects of caffeine possibly.
5. Stay Hydrated
Drinking a plentiful amount of water throughout the day is beneficial for your health, sleep quality, and diet. Still, it can also help you combat caffeine’s more prolonged side effects, moving it through your system much quicker.
6. Stick to Decaf
There are plenty of caffeine-free alternatives for some people who are especially sensitive to caffeine. So, switching to decaf is probably the perfect option if you love the flavor you get from a hot cup of coffee but don’t want to suffer the edgy side effects.
Benefits of Drinking Coffee
Although drinking coffee can cause some adverse effects, when consumed with caution, it can have many positive effects.
This is good news for those who are starting to consider whether they should be consuming coffee at all.
Some of the benefits of drinking coffee in the proper doses include the following:
- Improved heart health
- Weight loss
- Decreased chance of conditions such as Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Prevention of Type-2 Diabetes
- Aids fat burn
- Improves concentration
- Increased energy levels
- Provide the body with essential nutrients
- Supports brain function
- Boosts the metabolism
I don’t want you to leave here thinking that coffee is the devil and only bad will come from its consumption, when in fact, when drunk in the correct doses, coffee can provide the body with many benefits. Hey, it can even make you live longer, some studies say.
It’s important to remember that caffeine affects us all in many different ways. While some can easily drink an espresso and fall asleep with ease a couple of hours later, others may take a sip and have the shakes for the next two days. It depends on your genetics, other health disorders, and your nervous system.
The most vital thing to note is to understand your limitations. Once you have control over this, you will know just how your body handles caffeine, and from there can determine the best time to drink it and how much.
The general rule of thumb here is to steer away from caffeine in the 8-10 hours before you plan to go to sleep, and this is the best way to improve sleep naturally, but this might not be the case for everyone. Lastly, if you feel as though drinking caffeine is having a severe effect on your sleep health, speak to a medical professional who can determine whether or not you’re suffering from caffeine-related disorders, whether that’s breathing problems or insomnia.