Is Your Coffee Habit Keeping You Up at Night?

If you’re an Insomniac, there is a better question to ask.

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photo by Mikesh Kaos

“Is my coffee habit keeping me up at night?” It’s a question on many Insomniac’s minds, a question I contemplated for 15 years as I perfected the art of staying up all night, suffering from insomnia with coffee, and suffering from insomnia without it. There is evidence that goes both ways; well it mostly goes one way, but if you are as desperate as I was to keep your coffee habit alive, you will shake the internet until what you need to hear falls out! If you don’t suffer from insomnia, your biggest concern probably lies around what time of day you should stop drinking coffee. 

If you suffer from insomnia however, the question is simply, “should I be drinking coffee in the first place?” There is no doubt the physiological effects from coffee can interfere with good sleep, and most studies I have come across show this in some way by dissecting the amount and timing of coffee, or even going into tremendous detail studying age, gender, caffeine sensitivity, and genetic variability. 

There is a lot of who, how, what and when, and for the average person the results from these studies could be very useful for maximizing sleep.

For the Insomniac though, the most important question is always “Why?”

My answer to why led to perhaps my biggest sleep breakthrough; when I realized my coffee wasn’t preventing the onset of sleep, but preventing me from waking up in the morning. Yes, I said “preventing me from waking up!”

I now believe 100% that coffee never effected my ability to fall and stay asleep. When the answer to why was “so it could help me wake up,” I realized it wasn’t coffee, it was my mindset. Coffee was causing me to take my natural ability to rest and expend energy for granted! Going to bed with the mindset that I needed a cup of coffee in the morning never allowed me to embody what it truly meant to achieve the type of sleep that would equip me to excel coffee-free. 

Moreover, drinking coffee to “wake” up just reinforced my limiting belief that I didn’t get enough sleep. Once that was a strong belief, I was constantly looking for any evidence to validate this, and that wasn’t hard to find. When all you find is evidence that you came up short on sleep, you will quickly go from a sleep problem to an identity problem, which is all that insomnia is.

If you want to overcome insomnia, you don’t have to quit your coffee habit!

It’s not settling to think about quitting coffee is it? You’ve tried everything it seems to sleep better and so far, there’s no way out. Short-term energy fixes can seem like your only ally when you’re struggling to remain “functional.” I know how you feel!

I even believe quitting coffee can stabilize your insomnia even more! As a matter of fact, I retracted a program I created called “Kick Your Coffee Habit” once I was fully present to this belief. Insomnia is very subtle and slick, like a good salesman. It can talk you into believing anything, and before you know it you’re making all the wrong investments. Quitting “reasonable and clock friendly” coffee consumption on-account of your inability to sleep, to me sounds like punishment. “Coffee, I love you very much, but I must let you go because I am very bad and incapable, so long.” Before you realize it, the reinforcement is in the wrong belief and you have invested in your insomnia, not your sleep.

Investing in sleep-friendly habits instead of quitting coffee will not make you feel like you are trying to heal through punishment, which isn’t even possible. If you can sleep better while still doing the things you love most and re-acquire the confidence needed to sleep and not feel defined by insomnia – well now you’ve got a formula. Remember, it’s not the caffeine keeping you up, it’s the fear!

Before you order the latest state of the art espresso machine…

photo by Nathan Dumlao

Be careful when you contemplate the “why.” It would be easy to talk ourselves into believing that our “why” for drinking coffee is for all the right reasons, like taste, a healthy energy boost and socializing, vs. our ability to sleep for energy.

If we know deep down inside that our coffee habit is truly interfering with our sleep, but the thought of giving up coffee is a loss too extreme, the human brain is very skilled at either convincing ourselves we should keep drinking coffee for all the “beneficial reasons” or that better sleep just isn’t that important to us right now.

Again, insomnia is very subtle! This decision-making process can best be interpreted when looking through the scope of the Neuro-Linguistic Programming model, which presupposes our behaviors may shift at the prospect of losing something important to us. This intention, our why, becomes impossible to measure in an experiment. To unveil the subconscious mind is one thing, to reveal what it is really thinking is another.

So then, who really knows? Well, you do and hopefully I can help you access that answer.

I am drinking coffee again, and sleeping better than I ever have and I believe you can too. Before doing so though, seriously contemplate your answer to “why.” To keep my clever subconscious at bay, I felt it necessary to put some measures in place. The first measure was quitting, for a day anyhow, then every other day after that. I found it comforting to be able to say, “I get to drink coffee today,” or “I look forward to drinking coffee tomorrow.” I wasn’t being punished, and I was also giving my sleep the proper space to gain confidence that it was capable of not needing a false energy supplement. There is a HUGE difference between adding to energy and creating false energy. I love how I feel when I’m able to add coffee to wonderful sleep.

The next thing I did was ask where my commitment was. If you are committed to overcoming insomnia, maybe that commitment requires that you quit coffee altogether, or maybe it just means uncovering your underlying belief. The most important thing is not what decision you make about coffee, but to contemplate whether you may have been talking yourself out of good sleep before it even takes place, recognizing that such negotiation is possible. Sometimes this acknowledgment alone is all it takes to achieve the right mindset, realize you’re not broken and start sleeping again. When our guard goes down, our sleep-confidence goes up!

If your commitment is to coffee, I understand. It doesn’t have to feel like picking sides. Try incorporating some new sleep friendly habits first. If that doesn’t work, then maybe it’s time for an experiment?

Here is another way to find the answer. What led you to coffee in the first place?

Was it a healthy relationship? Was it in reaction to the world’s demands? Was it a hot coffee date at Starbuck’s, hmm? These are some questions that can help you determine if your relationship to coffee is emotional, accidental, conditioned and perhaps against your intuition.

Look there is more than one way to achieve great sleep, but every healthy strategy leads back to sleep-confidence. There is nothing like knowing you can sleep, no matter what, and wake up with natural energy. So, do what you need to do to get that confidence back, coffee or no coffee. 

“Good sleep, good health!”

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