If you're wondering what's keeping you up at night, it could be the coffee that you drink during the day. Caffeine is safe for most adults and can even have important health benefits. On the other hand, too much of it can contribute to insomnia and other sleep issues.
While you could give up coffee without sacrificing any essential nutrients, it's rarely necessary to go that far.
Learn how to enjoy your daily caffeine habit and still stay well rested.
Facts about Caffeine:
1. Understand the chemistry. Caffeine is a stimulant. It blocks the effects of a neurotransmitter called adenosine that makes you feel sleepy. It also increases your dopamine levels so you become more alert.
2. Spot the symptoms. You've probably noticed that it's more difficult for you to fall asleep after you've been drinking coffee. Caffeine can disrupt your body clock because it suppresses melatonin. You may wind up reducing your sleep time as well as the amount of restorative deep sleep that your mind and body need.
3. Know the benefits. Studies show that moderate use boosts your mood and mental performance, and may lower your risk for many serious conditions including certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's.
Managing Your Caffeine Intake:
1. Consider each source. While coffee and tea account for more than 90% of the caffeine in the average diet, there are some additional sources that may surprise you. Caffeine is also found in chocolate, colas, and even some over-the-counter and prescription medications.
2. Measure your consumption. According to the Mayo clinic, it's wise to limit your caffeine consumption to less than 400 milligrams each day. That's about 4 cups of coffee.
3. Downsize your servings. Of course, you also need to pay attention to the size of those cups. A single giant mug or oversized fast food cup could put you over the limit.
4. Set a curfew. Timing counts too. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to go to work, and the effects can last for 6 hours or more. If you want it out of your system by bedtime, have your last cup of coffee in the late morning. The reason that the effects last for 6 hours or more is that it takes about that time for HALF of it to metabolize out of your system.
5. Take a break. Tolerance to caffeine builds up quickly, so it will have more impact if you resist overindulging on a regular basis. You may even want to taper down on some days.
6. Avoid energy drinks. Many experts warn against the use of products like energy drinks and caffeine powder that deliver large amounts of caffeine very quickly. They can contribute to heart conditions and anxiety, especially when combined with alcohol. Four Loko has been implicated in the deaths of numerous people (think Everclear, or grain alcohol meets uber espresso).
7. Drink more water. On the other hand, water is a great supplement to coffee drinking. Downing a glass of plain water first thing in the morning may help you wake up with less coffee than usual.
8. Turn up the lights. Exposure to light is another safe way to make your brain more alert. Take a morning run or walk around the block during your lunch hour.
9. Try coffee naps. For an occasional boost, try drinking a cup of coffee before taking a 20 minute nap. You'll find that you'll be waking up just when the caffeine kicks in.
10. Talk with your doctor. Your doctor can advise you about any individual concerns about coffee. You may want to cut back if you have high blood pressure or you're pregnant or nursing.
Caffeine can have positive effects for most adults when used wisely. Knowing when and how to drink your coffee will help you to enjoy your favorite brew without disturbing your sleep.