Impacts of Caffeine on Sleep

Impacts of Caffeine on Sleep

Many of us are guilty of drinking caffeine (and often lots of it) throughout the day without giving a second thought to how this habit affects our health or our sleep. In fact, Americans consume three times more caffeine on average than any other country in the world, and 85 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily. The average amount of caffeine use in the United States is 300 milligrams per person per day. It is no wonder that Americans struggle with sleep. We have busy schedules, and many of us depend on caffeine to give us the extra energy boost that we need to tackle the day. If you've wondered how caffeine affects sleep, how much caffeine it takes to affect your sleep, if caffeine causes bad sleep, or if caffeine affects deep sleep, read on to find out more!

What is Caffeine?

First thing's first - let's figure out what caffeine actually is. Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant drug most prevalently found in cocoa beans, coffee beans, and tea leaves. Drinking coffee and tea are the most common ways that people consume caffeine. While this drug occurs naturally, it can also be created synthetically. It works by blocking adenosine receptors, preventing us from getting tired. Caffeine affects us rather quickly.

It only takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter into the bloodstream and begin working. Though it peaks quickly, caffeine has a long half-life and can keep acting hours later, even after we no longer need or want its effects lingering. Half of the caffeine consumed is processed by the body in three to five hours after consumption, but that still leaves half of the drug behind working in the body. Caffeine's long half-life is one of the primary reasons that caffeine affects sleep.

How Caffeine Affects Sleep

It probably goes without saying that caffeine can keep us from getting to sleep. Maybe that mid-afternoon pick me up wasn't such a good idea after all, you might think to yourself as you toss and turn and struggle to get to sleep no matter how hard you try. Even a soda or tea at dinner can wreak havoc on your sleep pattern. Not only does caffeine act as a stimulant, it can also alter our circadian clock, which helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles. Caffeine makes it difficult for you to fall asleep, but it can also reduce the overall time you sleep and cause the sleep quality to not be as high as you may like.

Caffeine has also been shown to cause us to spend more time in lighter stages of sleep versus deep sleep. While this may not seem like a big deal, our bodies need deep sleep because that is when our bodies repair and restore themselves. Not spending enough time in deep sleep stages can cause more fatigue and health problems due to a decrease in cellular turnover and weakened immune system. 

The Bottom Line

It is unlikely that most of us will ever give up caffeine. It's hard to beat a good cup of coffee in the morning, after all. The bottom line is that we can be smarter about our caffeine consumption, especially in the timing of when we drink caffeinated beverages. The recommendation is that caffeine should not be consumed from six hours before bedtime through the rest of the day in order for sleep to remain unaffected. Instead of reaching for that coffee, tea, or soda during the mid-afternoon slump or as an accompaniment to your dinner, make a healthier, non-caffeinated choice. Only you know how your body responds to caffeine, and many of us are different.

You may find that you are unaffected by an espresso at 4:00 in the afternoon while your significant other cannot have caffeine after lunchtime. Get to know your body and experiment with cutting back on caffeine to see how it affects your sleep. Caffeine can cause poor sleep in quality and overall sleep time, so monitoring your caffeine consumption can be a good start in sleeping more peacefully and jump-starting your overall health.

If you're struggling with getting or staying asleep, make sure that you have crafted the best sleep environment possible. Apart from monitoring your caffeine intake throughout the day, having comfortable, cool bedding can enhance your sleep quality. Check out the variety of offerings on to take your sleep to the next level in comfort, style, and quality.

Updated: 09/13/2019