Caffeine and Sleep: What Should You Know?

Morning coffee and alarm clock

For many people, a morning cup of coffee is a must. Ask why, and you’ll probably get an answer regarding caffeine, the purported panacea for fatigue and lethargy. We all know that coffee seems to help after not getting enough sleep, but how much do you really know about it?

1. Caffeine is NOT an alternative to sleep.

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant for the human body. It makes the heart beat faster, it sharpens some senses, and it even helps in cognition. This being said, it is not a substitute for restful hours of sleep! Too much caffeine can make you jittery and unable to focus.

2. Caffeine can stick around for a while.
Our bodies do eliminate drugs like caffeine after a time, but that time can be longer than you think. Caffeine has a “half-life” of 3-5 hours within the human body. Fully flushing it out can take over 12 hours, so that afternoon coffee may be keeping you awake far after you need it!

3. Caffeine isn’t just in coffee and soda.
You know that coffee is chock full of caffeine, but did you know that the chemical can be found even in coffee flavored products, chocolate, and even some medicines? Caffeine is all around us, and it’s important to be aware of that when choosing our foods and drinks.

That being said, here are some tips on how to manage your caffeine intake and sleep better:
– Try not to have caffeine after 12pm. Give it time to leave your system so you can enjoy your sleep. Without caffeine you might stop tossing and turning on your sofa mattress!
– Limit caffeine intake to 200mg per day. This is roughly the amount in two cups of coffee or four caffeinated sodas. Exceeding this limit regularly can lead to caffeine dependency and decreased sensitivity to its effects.
– Monitor where you get your caffeine. Like I said, caffeine can come from many places apart from coffee and soda. Read food labels, and try keeping a tally of how much caffeine you have in a given day. It might surprise you!
– Take smarter coffee breaks. Caffeine takes between 15 and 45 minutes to fully absorb into the bloodstream. Time caffeine intake accordingly to maximize the benefits so you don’t need as much!
– Reach for water or juice to quench your thirst. Caffeine can steal moisture from your body and make you dehydrated, leading to many health problems. Skip caffeinated sodas and iced coffee as thirst quenchers throughout the day, and look for water or juice!

As helpful as caffeine can be, it is important to know how to manage its usage responsibly. Keep these facts and tips in mind, and you’ll be sleeping better in no time!