It’s tempting to load up on coffee after a weekend, holiday or just a late night. Believe me, I’ve been there more times than I can count. It’s equally tempting and culturally acceptable to have that mid-afternoon cup of Joe. But don’t do it! You’ll pay for it in poor sleep later, whether you realize it or not.
Caffeine has a half-life of five to six hours and varies with lifestyle and health factors. So drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages later in the day means that half or more of the caffeine will remain in your bloodstream as you approach your set bedtime. Yes, adults should have set bedtimes, too, but that’s a topic for another day.
Some of the factors that may increase the half-life of caffeine in the body are liver health, medications taken regularly, age, weight and pregnancy status. Fall into the wrong category for one of those factors, for example being middle-aged, and your caffeine half-life increases. With too much caffeine in your system, you’ll set yourself up for sleep problems, including greater time needed to fall asleep, shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality. And let’s not kid ourselves about just managing the half-life of caffeine. Even if you’re a healthy adult and your half-life is six hours, you’ll need a full 12 to get all of the caffeine of your system.
Having a Coffee Curfew Reduces Your Need for Caffeine
If we set aside the desire to look cool and the fallacy that a dose of caffeine will provide you some sort of edge to knock out some work or get a leg up on the competition, we come to realize that what we really need in order to feel more alert and productive every day is better quality sleep. And high levels of caffeine consumption are counter to those goals for two primary reasons:
1. You will sleep less
Tweetable “Only the time you’re asleep counts. You get no extra credit for lying awake in bed.”
With too much caffeine in your system, you’ll have greater sleep latency, a fancy sleep science term meaning the time between when you lie down and when you fall asleep. If you have problems with sleep latency, you’re lowering the possibility for duration of sleep you need to fully restore and recharge.
2. You will sleep worse
Tweetable “The ‘I feel like I haven’t slept at all’ phenomenon is real and not at all a goal.”
We all know that feeling of waking up after a night’s sleep and feeling like we haven’t slept or we just aren’t finished. That’s a telltale sign that something has impacted your normal sleep cycle. You either didn’t get into the deeper stages of sleep or you didn’t stay in them long enough. A typical sleep cycle is 90–110 minutes long and repeats 4–6 times per night. Any disruption in the cycle you will feel, but too caffeine keeps you in light sleep longer, and prevents you from getting enough of the rejuvenating deeper stages 3 and 4. Caffeine seems to have less of an impact on REM sleep. So, if you check your caffeine consumption today, you won’t wreck yourself for tomorrow. And over time, you’ll need less caffeine because you’ll be and feel more rested having it earlier in the day.
How I Established a Coffee Curfew That Sticks and You Can, Too
- Set noon as a non-negotiable caffeine curfew. I’m an early-to-bed, early-to-riser, so I set my curfew pretty early. I’ll watch the clock and slam whatever is left in my insulated travel mug, if it comes to that. Hey, I’m not proud. But I shoot for finishing earlier most days.
- Eliminated afternoon caffeine. I have herbal tea, bone broth or decaf for the comfort without the caffeine.
- Vowed to have sweet tea only on special occasions. I grew up in the South in the United States where sweet tea is a rite of passage and a regular dinner time drink. I now only have that on special occasions, maybe once a year. It saves my waistline and my sleep quality.
I know what I’m proposing may be a tall order, but it’s worth the sacrifice to ultimately feel better and be more productive. Backing into your curfew 15 to 30 minutes at time over a week or two is a nice way to ease into it. Put down the cup and let’s get started!
P.S. If you need more help improving your sleep, establishing a Daily Mind Gym practice will help as well.
© Copyright — Instant Equilibrium LLC
Originally published at www.instantequilibrium.com on September 8, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com