Caffeine and Sleep
The vast majority of adults consume caffeine daily, with many relying on caffeine’s energizing effects to enhance their mood and optimize their performance. Caffeine is found naturally in many plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves, cacao pods, and kola nuts. Synthetic caffeine is also added to medications and energy drinks.
While caffeine is a common tool to promote wakefulness in the morning and to ward off sleepiness during the day, it comes with potential side effects, including jitteriness, headaches, and nervousness. It can also interfere with sleep, especially if consumed too late in the day.
How Does Caffeine Affect Sleep?
Caffeine consumption can make you fall asleep later, sleep less hours overall, and make your sleep feel less satisfying Trusted Source Elsevier Elsevier is a publishing company that aims to help researchers and health care professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. View Source . It can also reduce the amount Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source of deep, slow-wave sleep you get, which is a critical stage of sleep for feeling refreshed the next day.
Caffeine affects the brain by blocking adenosine receptors Trusted Source NIH News in Health The NIH, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. View Source . Adenosine is a sleep-promoting chemical that is produced in the brain during our waking hours. Normally, adenosine builds up in the brain the longer you are awake. The more it builds up, the sleepier you become. When caffeine blocks this process, you remain alert and vigilant. But this may also be why caffeine consumption can disrupt sleep.
Can Caffeine Cause Insomnia?
Research has not shown Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source caffeine consumption to directly cause a person to develop insomnia. However, people who have chronic insomnia may use caffeine to cope with the daytime effects of sleep deprivation, and this practice may worsen the symptoms of insomnia at night. The adverse effects of caffeine on insomnia symptoms can be more severe in people who only use caffeine occasionally compared with those who use it every day.
People with chronic insomnia may find it helpful to try reducing or eliminating caffeine intake or only consuming it early in the day as strategies for improving sleep.
Can Caffeine Keep You Awake?
Caffeine is known to boost cognitive functions, such as memory and attention, especially in sleep-deprived people. However, it cannot ward off all of the effects Trusted Source SpringerLink SpringerLink provides researchers with access to millions of scientific documents from journals, books, series, protocols, reference works, and proceedings. View Source of long-term sleep loss. Even though caffeine can marginally improve performance, it is no substitute for a restful, restorative night of sleep. And, especially if consumed too late in the day, the alertness-promoting effects of caffeine can linger into the evening and interfere with sleep.
Whether caffeine effectively keeps you awake when you are sleepy and how long caffeine makes you feel alert varies depending on various factors, including the caffeine dose, how frequently you consume caffeine, and even your genetic makeup Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source .
How Long Does Caffeine Keep You Awake?
The effects of consuming caffeine typically begin after around 30 minutes Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. View Source and may last up to five hours Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source or longer.
Caffeine has a half-life of anywhere between 2 and 12 hours. A drug’s half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for your body to metabolize and eliminate half the dose you consumed. The range is so wide because many individual factors affect how quickly you metabolize caffeine and how soon its effects wear off.
For example, nicotine use Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source can shorten the half-life of caffeine by up to 50%, so frequent smokers eliminate caffeine from their body more quickly.
In contrast, people in the later stages of pregnancy metabolize caffeine more slowly. Caffeine has a half-life twice as long in pregnant people compared with the general population.
Does Caffeine Make Some People Sleepy?
There are a few different reasons why some people feel that caffeine makes them tired instead of more alert.
The disruptive effects of regular caffeine use on sleep can create a vicious cycle. Caffeine use can exacerbate sleep deprivation, and sleep loss causes sleepiness the next day, which in turn causes an increased need to consume more caffeine in order to cope. Ongoing sleep deprivation can cause a level of daytime sleepiness that even caffeine cannot counteract.
Another possible reason for feeling tired after consuming caffeine is caffeine tolerance. Research studies looking at the effects of caffeine tolerance have produced mixed results Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source , but some caffeine consumers recognize that consuming caffeine daily over time can dampen its alertness-promoting effects and lead to dependence. People who regularly use caffeine to cope may find that caffeine does little to address chronic sleepiness.
Sleepiness can also be a symptom of withdrawal from caffeine, which is why regular caffeine users may feel sleepy in the morning until they consume it.
How Much Caffeine Is Safe To Drink?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that it is generally safe for adults to consume up to 400 milligrams Trusted Source U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. View Source of caffeine per day. Since there can be a lot of variation in the way people respond to and metabolize caffeine, some people may be able to safely consume more, while others may need to limit themselves to less. The best way to get an individualized recommendation on caffeine intake for your specific situation is to speak with a doctor.
Caffeine is most often consumed in drinks. Since there are so many different caffeinated products, it can be hard to know exactly how much caffeine is in a particular drink, especially a fresh-brewed cup of tea or coffee that has no label.
|Beverage||Approximate Caffeine Content|
|Coffee (8 ounces)||100-200 milligrams|
|Energy drink (8-16 ounces)||50-300 milligrams|
|Soda (12 ounces)||0-70 milligrams|
|Tea (8 ounces)||40-120 milligrams|
How Many Hours Before Bedtime Should You Have Caffeine?
The generally recommended cut-off time for caffeine use is a minimum of eight hours Trusted Source National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI is the nation's leader in the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders. View Source before bedtime. For example, if you typically go to bed at 10 p.m., avoiding caffeine after 2 p.m. may help minimize sleep problems.
If you are struggling with sleep, start keeping track of the time of day you consume caffeine and how you sleep that night. You may find that you sleep better with a longer period of caffeine abstinence before bed, such as 10 hours or more.
How Can You Tell if Caffeine Is Affecting Your Sleep?
Difficulty falling and staying asleep, nausea, headaches, or nervousness could be signs of caffeine overuse or dependence. If you find yourself feeling excessively sleepy during the day and caffeine is not helping, this could be a symptom of sleep deprivation or a sleep disorder. Schedule a conversation with your health care provider to discuss your sleep concerns and how caffeine and other factors may be affecting you.
If you decide to reduce your caffeine intake or stop using caffeine altogether, it may help to taper down gradually to reduce the risk of withdrawal effects like headache, anxiety, and poor mood.
How Else Can You Stay Alert During the Day?
There are many energy-boosting alternatives to caffeine.
- Get morning light exposure: Your body’s internal clock responds to light as a cue to wake up and increase alertness. Turning on bright lights, or, better yet, going outside for natural light lets your body know it is time to start your day.
- Practice healthy sleep habits: Setting a consistent sleep schedule and arranging a relaxing sleep environment are examples of sleep hygiene approaches that can improve your sleep and reduce your reliance on caffeine.
- Exercise: Exercising can improve your alertness Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source and may help you sleep better as well.
- Take a power nap: Napping is not a substitute for high-quality nighttime sleep, but a short nap of up to 20 minutes can temporarily restore your energy if you are feeling sleepy.
- Reduced Sleep Time Caused Increased Food Intake in Overweight Adults March 17, 2023 – Young adults with a higher body mass index (BMI) reported increased hunger and food intake along with impaired blood pressure and heart rate regulation after a night of reduced sleep.
- People With Obesity, Sleep Apnea Found to Be Receptive to Weight-Loss Conversations March 1, 2023 – Interviews with people with obesity hypoventilation syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea expressed a preference for an individualized approach to weight loss.
- Low-Protein, High-Carbohydrate Diet Improved Sleep Quality and Length
Adolescents Who Ate a Mediterranean Diet Were More Likely to Report Better Sleep
Listed news articles do not represent the opinion of Sleep Foundation and are provided for informational purposes only.
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