How does caffeine affect sleep?
As a heavy tea drinking country, we tend to consume a lot of caffeine throughout the day. What isn't solved with a cuppa in the U.K. Ever wondered how caffeine works, how much you should be drinking and what it does to your sleep? If you're struggling to get those much needed zzz's, it could be down to your afternoon cup of joe. So, how does caffeine affect sleep?
What does caffeine do?
Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant. When it reaches the brain the effects include alertness, improved reaction times, positive mood and better mental performance. It's no wonder most of use it to get through the morning! Unfortunately, caffeine does not only affect the brain. The entire body reacts to caffeine and other symptoms include, increased heart rate, sweating & diarrhoea. Caffeine in regulated amounts it's a good thing for the brain but do you know how much you should be drinking?
An adult should drink up to 50-200mg dependant on height, weight & tolerance to caffeine. In a regular sized cup of coffee, there's around 95mg. You should, however, check the labels on coffee because this varies a lot from brand to brand depending on what beans are used.
Caffeine and sleep
In an ideal world, you should stop drinking caffeine at midday. Any time after midday is likely to affect your night's sleep even if it seems so far away. Studies have shown that drinking a large, shop bought coffee 6 hours before bedtime takes an hour off your sleep that night. It's a simple thing that can really affect your bodies sleep health. The most obvious effect of caffeine disrupting your sleep is not being able to fall asleep in the first place. When you do fall asleep, caffeine is known to prevent falling into a deep sleep. These symptoms get worse in older adults since it takes their bodies longer to process the caffeine.
How much should you really be drinking?
Like all things, caffeine should be used in moderation. There's nothing to say it has a detrimental effect on your health long term when used responsibly. The odd day here and there when you need a few extra cups of coffee is fine, so long as you try to avoid more than 2 cups a day in general. A great way to moderate your caffeine intake is reading the labels on your tea and coffee. Try to consume caffeine you've prepared yourself. A survey of 6 cups of coffee from the same coffee shop over 6 days showed that the caffeine content ranged from 259 mg - 564 mg. That's quite the jump for what you think is the same coffee each day.
Try to stick to caffeine in the morning to be certain it won't have adverse effects on your sleep that night. Switching to de-caff in the afternoon is a good way to get your afternoon buzz, without the buzz. If you can, avoid energy drinks or energy shots where possible. Always read the labels on fizzy drinks, even Diet Coke has high levels of caffeine. Caffeine works best when you take it on an intermittent, off-and-on basis. You'll probably notice the effects of your morning coffee more if you cut out the afternoon fix.
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