Exploring Coffee’s Health Impact: Is It a Friend or a Foe?

Jerry Seinfeld once humourously summed up our love affair with coffee: “We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.” But beyond the laughter, where does coffee stand when it comes to our health? Let’s break it down and separate fact from fiction.

Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that caffeinated coffee may not be as detrimental to health as once thought. In fact, moderate consumption – about three to five cups a day – has been associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases and mortality.

But what about the caffeine? While coffee boasts beneficial phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals, caffeine can have both positive and negative effects depending on individual metabolism. Approximately half of the population are “slow” caffeine metabolisers, which means they may be more susceptible to adverse effects like anxiety and heart disease.

Key Takeaways

  • Personalised Impact: Coffee affects everyone differently, with some individuals experiencing anxiety or agitation at high doses. Slow caffeine metabolisers, in particular, may need to monitor their intake more closely to avoid negative side effects.
  • Consider External Factors: Pregnancy, oral contraceptive use, and smoking can all influence caffeine metabolism, altering its effects on the body. It’s essential to be mindful of these factors when assessing coffee consumption.
  • Coffee vs. Sleep: While coffee can provide a temporary energy boost, it’s no substitute for quality sleep. Relying on caffeine to compensate for sleep deprivation can perpetuate a cycle of fatigue and stress, negatively impacting overall health. If you want to learn more about the connection between coffee consumption and insomnia, this article could provide valuable insights.
  • Serving Size Awareness: A standard cup of coffee in research terms is eight ounces, yet many commercial servings exceed this volume. Clients should be aware of their true coffee intake and consider reducing consumption if necessary.

In the ongoing debate over coffee’s health effects, moderation and individualisation are key. By understanding how coffee interacts with our bodies and considering lifestyle factors, we can make informed choices that support overall well-being. So, whether you’re sipping a morning brew or contemplating that afternoon pick-me-up, remember – it’s all about balance.

References:

So Jerry Seinfeld Called Us to Talk about Coffee. NPR: The Salt. April, 2013.

Van Dam RM, Hu FB, Willett WC. Coffee, Caffeine, and Health. N Engl J Med . 2020 Jul 23;383(4):369–78.

Could Short Naps be the Secret to Battling Sleep Deprivation?

We’ve all been there—life throws us a curveball, and suddenly a full night’s sleep becomes a distant dream. Whether it’s a late-night flight, a sick child, or an irresistible binge-watching session, the result is the same: we wake up after just a few hours, needing our brain and body to function at their best.

But fear not, for the power nap might be the superhero in this sleep-deprived saga. A recent study from The Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University in England delved into the impact of naps on alertness and exercise performance.

The Sleep Experiment

The researchers gathered 15 young males (average age: 22) who were already well-versed in resistance training. The study employed a cross-over design over five weeks:

  • Week 1: Two nights of sleep deprivation + no nap
  • Week 2: Off week
  • Week 3: Two nights of sleep deprivation + 30-minute nap
  • Week 4: Off week
  • Week 5: Two nights of sleep deprivation + 60-minute nap

After each round of sleep deprivation, the participants underwent various tests measuring physical, cognitive, and emotional performance.

Interestingly, the study revealed that naps didn’t impact how much the participants could lift during sleep deprivation. However, the mood, alertness, vigour, and happiness of those who took naps saw improvement. Cognitive function also fared better on the days they indulged in a midday siesta. Notably, the duration of the nap (30 vs. 60 minutes) didn’t sway these outcomes.

Key Takeaways

  • Small Study, Big Picture: While the study’s scope was limited to 15 young males, it adds valuable insights. However, it conflicts with earlier research from the same institution, emphasising the need for a cautious interpretation of findings.
  • Nap Nuances: Napping’s effectiveness varies among individuals. While some swear by its refreshing effects, others may find themselves battling post-nap grogginess or even nighttime insomnia. Individual circumstances play a crucial role.
  • Consistency is Key: Instead of viewing naps as occasional remedies for sleepless nights, embrace them as a daily ritual. Scheduling a nap approximately eight to nine hours after waking and keeping it short (20 minutes) or long (90 minutes) can maximise benefits.

In the realm of sleep and exercise, the power nap emerges as a potential ally. As we navigate the inevitable disruptions to our sleep patterns, a well-timed nap might just be the superhero cape our bodies need to power through.

References:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37722387/ 

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/10.1080/07420528.2018.1552702

Sleep, Fitness, and Memory: A Comprehensive Look

We’ve all heard the saying that everything in life is connected, and when it comes to our health, that couldn’t be truer. Every move we make, every bite we take, and every hour we sleep plays a part in this intricate dance of well-being. Today, let’s delve into a recent study from McMaster University that explores the fascinating interplay between physical activity, sleep, and memory. Let’s shed light on yet another dimension of our health puzzle.

How the Study Worked

It’s no secret that our lifestyle choices ripple across different aspects of our health. The McMaster University study, which focused on 26 older adults and 35 younger adults, sought to unravel the connections between fitness, sleep, and memory. The participants underwent a cardiovascular fitness test, wore sleep monitors, and engaged in memory tests.

Surprisingly, the study found no direct link between fitness level, sleep, and memory in the younger group. However, a compelling story unfolded among the older adults, particularly those classified as “low fit.”

For these seniors, the study revealed a correlation between poor sleep quality and reduced performance in high-interference memory tests. Each night waking resulted in a four percent decline in memory test scores. Sleep efficiency, the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed, showed a similar pattern – as efficiency decreased, so did memory performance.

On a positive note, improved sleep efficiency correlated with enhanced high-interference memory among the least-fit seniors. This suggests that cardiovascular fitness could play a crucial role in protecting the aging brain and counteracting the adverse effects of poor sleep.

While general recognition memory showed no connection with fitness or sleep, the study underscores the impact of lifestyle on specific aspects of cognitive health.

Key Takeaways

  • A Glimpse Into Brain Health: While the study focused on memory tests, it’s essential to acknowledge that cognitive health involves multiple dimensions. Regular physical activity might counteract some sleep-related memory issues, but the broader impact of poor sleep on overall health remains a concern.
  • The Sleep Priority: Understanding the vital role of sleep is paramount. Poor sleep quality can affect various aspects of your life, from productivity to eating habits and emotional well-being. 

As we continue our journey through the intricate dance of health, this McMaster University study adds another beat to the rhythm. It reinforces the notion that our choices, especially in terms of physical activity and sleep, echo through the corridors of our well-being. Let’s prioritise understanding these connections, encouraging ourselves to move, rest, and live in harmony for a healthier, more vibrant life.

References: 

http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.793875

http://dx.doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.5498

20 Sleep Myths Debunked

Could sleep myths be affecting people’s sleep quality? New research from Villanova University suggests that they might. In a study involving 1,120 adults, participants were surveyed to assess their belief in false statements about sleep. Surprisingly, the study found that many people endorsed these sleep myths, with 10 out of 20 false statements being endorsed by at least 50 percent of the participants.

The consequences of believing in these sleep myths were significant. Those with higher scores for sleep myth beliefs demonstrated inconsistent bedtimes, more frequent napping, engaged in activities in bed that are incompatible with good sleep hygiene, and perceived few negative consequences of insufficient sleep.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these myths and why they are misleading:

Myth #1: Being able to fall asleep “anytime, anywhere” is a sign of a healthy sleep system.

Reality: It can indicate sleep deprivation or sleep apnea.

Myth #2: Most adults need only 5 or fewer hours of sleep for general health.

Reality: Getting less than 5 hours of sleep is linked to various health problems.

Myth #3: Your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep.

Reality: Continued sleep deprivation leads to decreased performance.

Myth #4: Adults sleep more as they get older.

Reality: Older adults often get less sleep than younger individuals.

Myth #5: If you can get it, more sleep is always better.

Reality: Oversleeping, usually defined as consistently sleeping more than 9 hours a night, can lead to issues like increased inflammation, obesity risk, and cognitive decline if done as a habit. These negative effects can also be amplified by a sedentary lifestyle. However, it must be emphasised that optimal sleep duration varies from person to person. 

Myth #6: One night of sleep deprivation will have lasting negative health consequences.

Reality: While short-term sleep deprivation can often be fixed with a good night’s rest, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to lasting health issues like heart disease and obesity. Prioritising regular, healthy sleep patterns is crucial to avoiding these long-term health problems.

Myth #7: In terms of your health, it doesn’t matter what time of day you sleep.

Reality: Disrupted circadian rhythms from nighttime work can lead to health issues.

Myth #8: Lying in bed with your eyes shut is almost as good as sleeping.

Reality: Wakefulness and deep sleep have distinct physiological differences.

Myth #9: If you have difficulty falling asleep, it’s best to stay in bed and try to fall back to sleep.

Reality: Stimulus control therapy, such as leaving the bed until tired, can help with insomnia.

Myth #10: Although annoying for bed partners, loud snoring is mostly harmless.

Reality: Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.

Myth #11: A sound sleeper rarely moves at night.

Reality: Occasional movement is normal during sleep, but chronic movement could indicate a sleep problem.

Myth #12: Hitting snooze when you wake up is better than getting up when the alarm first goes off.

Reality: Fragmented sleep from snoozing can lead to decreased mental flexibility and mood.

Myth #13: If you’re having difficulties sleeping at night, taking a nap in the afternoon is a good way to get adequate sleep.

Reality: Napping can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and exacerbate insomnia.

Myth #14: Alcohol before bed will improve your sleep.

Reality: Alcohol before bed may aid initial sleep, but it can disrupt the second half of the night, causing more awakenings and affecting overall sleep quality. You can read more about this in this blog post. 

Myth #15: For sleeping, it’s better to have a warmer bedroom than a cooler bedroom.

Reality: Warm environments are associated with worse sleep; cooler bedrooms are generally better.

Myth #16: Boredom can make you sleepy even if you got adequate sleep beforehand.

Reality: Boredom may reveal underlying sleepiness and inadequate sleep.

Myth #17: Watching television in bed is a good way to relax before sleep.

Reality: Watching TV before bedtime can increase arousal and hinder sleep.

Myth #18: Exercising within 4 hours of bedtime will disturb your sleep.

Reality: Late-night exercise (1-2 hours before bedtime) can make falling asleep harder for some as adrenaline and heart rate become elevated. However, it is no secret that regular exercise improves overall sleep quality. Hence, find a routine that works for you; if late workouts affect sleep, consider exercising earlier in the day to balance fitness and restful sleep.

Myth #19: During sleep, the brain is not active.

Reality: Based on brain wave activity, there seems to be plenty going on inside our heads.

Myth #20: Remembering your dreams is a sign of a good night’s sleep.

Reality: Longer sleep duration, not dream recall, is associated with better sleep.

These are just a few of the sleep myths that people commonly believe. It’s essential to address these misconceptions as they can influence individuals’ sleep behaviours and habits. While some of these myths might have a grain of truth for specific individuals, the key is to tailor sleep practices to what works best for you. Remember, sleep is a vital component of overall well-being, and dispelling these myths can lead to healthier sleep habits and, consequently, improved health.

References:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2021.10.004 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2019.02.002 

The Magic of Sleep: Why It Matters at Every Age

Ever wondered why we sleep? Think of it as your brain’s night janitor. It comes out after a long day to take out the trash, cleaning up the mess accumulated in your head. Recently, a study from Stanford University has shed light on just how crucial sleep is, particularly for older adults. The research suggests that those who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night might be at a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline compared to those who get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. So, could the key to preventing dementia be as simple as giving your brain enough time to tidy up during sleep? Let’s explore this intriguing connection.

This is Your Brain on Sleep

The human brain accumulates metabolic waste throughout the day, including beta-amyloid proteins. These waste products build up as plaque around neurons, disrupting their ability to transmit information and potentially leading to Alzheimer’s disease. However, during slow-wave sleep, particularly stages 3 and 4, the brain effectively flushes out these harmful particles by increasing the flow of cerebrospinal fluids. In essence, sleep acts as a janitor, taking out the trash. The first few hours of sleep are crucial for this process, ensuring that even if sleep gets cut short, some metabolic waste is cleared.

The Study’s Findings

The study examined the relationship between self-reported sleep duration, beta-amyloid accumulation measured by PET scans, and cognitive function in older adults. The results were revealing. Volunteers who reported the least sleep had the most beta-amyloid in their brains, putting them at higher risk for cognitive decline. However, those who slept nine or more hours, while not showing higher beta-amyloid levels, did exhibit subtle cognitive decline. Interestingly, the study also found a U-shaped pattern in cognitive performance, with the best outcomes observed in those who slept 7 to 8 hours.

Important Factors and Limitations

The study couldn’t account for factors like sleep apnea and medication use, which might have influenced the results. Additionally, self-reported sleep times may not be entirely accurate. People tend to over-report their sleep times, making it challenging to determine the actual duration.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s never one thing: As people age, their sleep patterns naturally change, with more early bedtimes and wake-ups. Sleep efficiency tends to decline, along with a reduction in deep, restorative sleep that helps remove beta-amyloid proteins. Physical changes, medications, and mood disorders can also disrupt sleep.
  • Diet quality matters: Poor sleep quality can lead to suboptimal diet patterns, and vice versa. A healthy diet can improve sleep quality, while poor sleep can lead to unhealthy eating habits.
  • Movement for seniors: Exercise becomes even more crucial for seniors, as it can slow cognitive decline and improve overall physical and mental function. Regular physical activity can decouple cognitive issues from other health problems, reducing the risk of dementia.

In summary, sleep is essential for brain health at every age, as it plays a critical role in clearing metabolic waste and maintaining cognitive function. Understanding the connection between sleep, diet, and physical activity is key to promoting overall well-being, especially in older adults.

References:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2021.2876

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy194

http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/EDE.0b013e318187a7b0

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.004

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsmc.2017.09.001

http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.3474

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11357-016-9874-5

http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archinte.166.10.1115

4 Things You Need to Know About Stress and Sleep

In the busy world we live in today, two well-known challenges often show up: stress and sleep problems. It’s no secret that both can take a toll on your overall well-being. They can weaken your immune system, wreak havoc on your metabolic and cardiovascular health, and even impact your cognitive function and emotional regulation. While it’s clear that stress and sleep are intertwined, understanding the intricate dance between them is more complex than meets the eye. Let’s delve into four key insights that shed light on the intriguing relationship between stress and sleep.

1. A Vicious Cycle: Stress and Sleep Deprivation

Picture this: stress and sleep problems are like old pals who always show up together. It’s a package deal that many of us are familiar with. Research has revealed that these two often go hand in hand. Where you find stress, sleep troubles often lurk nearby, and vice versa. But the age-old question remains: which one comes first? Is it the stress that keeps you tossing and turning at night, or is it the lack of sleep that magnifies your stressors?

Realistically, it’s not as simple as cause and effect. Stress and sleep problems can create a vicious cycle, each intensifying the other. Brazilian scientists embarked on a mission to unravel this puzzle by studying the experiences of 92 young adults. Their innovative approach aimed to tease out the culprit behind the cycle of stress and sleep disruption.

2. The Sleep-Stress Instigator

It turns out that poor sleep often takes the lead in the stress-sleep cycle. The study’s participants experienced increased perceived stress following nights of insufficient sleep. Interestingly, the data indicated that stress levels didn’t wield the same influence over subsequent sleep patterns. This surprising revelation suggests that sleep problems might be a driving force behind heightened stress levels.

3. Cause and Effect Unveiled

This study’s strength lies in its methodology. Unlike previous attempts, it employed a longitudinal approach to gather real-time data on participants’ sleep and stress patterns. The daily tracking of sleep hours and stress levels over the span of 4 to 11 weeks allowed researchers to uncover cause-and-effect relationships that had eluded them before.

However, it’s worth noting that this study’s findings are specific to young adults in Brazil. Cultural and demographic differences could influence how stress and sleep interact in other populations. While the study provides valuable insights, its applicability may vary among different groups.

4. A Path Towards Better Well-Being

Now that we’ve unveiled some of the mysteries surrounding stress and sleep, what can you do with this knowledge? The takeaways are twofold:

Firstly, prioritize sleep for better stress management. When stressors are beyond your control, improving your sleep quality can help mitigate their impact. This study suggests that enhancing your sleep might contribute to a more manageable perception of stress, even in the face of unchangeable circumstances.

Secondly, embrace the power of adequate sleep. Striving for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night is a wise move. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a slew of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. If you find yourself clocking fewer than 7 hours of slumber and battling daytime stress, addressing your sleep habits could be a pivotal step towards better well-being.

Keep in mind that while more sleep is generally beneficial, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Excessive, unrestful sleep might signal underlying health concerns, warranting a medical evaluation.

In the intricate dance between stress and sleep, understanding their interactions empowers you to make informed choices. By nurturing your sleep and managing stress to the best of your ability, you can find a harmonious balance that contributes to your overall health and happiness. Remember, it’s not just about the quantity of sleep, but the quality of life it can help you achieve.

References:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2022.01.004

This Sleep Better Strategy Might Be For You

Are you finding it challenging to resist the urge to check your phone before bed? You’re not alone. Many of us struggle with this habit, which can disrupt our sleep. However, a recent study published in PLoS One suggests that making a simple change in your bedtime routine can lead to better sleep. By putting your phone away just 30 minutes before bedtime, you can experience significant improvements in the quality and duration of your sleep. In this article, we’ll explore the findings of this study and provide practical tips to help you create a phone-free sleep routine that promotes restful nights.

A quick disclaimer, though: There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to improving sleep. While this study supports the idea of restricting phone use before bed, everyone’s sleep patterns and preferences are unique. What works for one person may not work for another. However, if you’re someone who likes to rely on data and evidence, these study findings may inspire you to give this approach a try.

1. The Logic Behind Reducing Phone Use

Reducing phone use before bed goes beyond minimising exposure to blue light. It also helps reduce exposure to emails, texts, videos, and social media posts that can induce stress and heighten arousal. The study revealed that the 30-minute phone ban before sleep significantly reduced pre-sleep arousal, making it easier for you to relax and fall asleep.

2. Beware of Falling Asleep Too Early 

Engaging in activities that make you feel sleepy too early can disrupt your sleep routine and negatively impact the quality of your rest throughout the night. Falling asleep before your regular bedtime can throw off your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, it’s important to maintain consistency and avoid sleep disruptions by sticking to your regular bedtime.

3. Embrace Small Changes

Instead of completely turning off your phone at 7 p.m., which might feel overwhelming, start with the more manageable task of putting the phone away just 30 minutes before bed. It’s crucial to gauge your readiness and willingness to adopt this change on a scale of 1 to 10. If 30 minutes seems challenging, start with a smaller timeframe, like 25 minutes, and gradually work your way up. By shrinking the task, you increase the likelihood of success and build momentum.

4. Adjusting the Task Size

Even if you initially believe a task is the right fit, it’s possible that it may still be too large. The only way to determine this is by giving it a try. If a task proves to be consistently challenging, it’s time to shrink it even more. This is where the “pfffft” test comes in. Make the task so small that you might think, “Pfffft! That’s it?” Finding the right-sized task ensures a higher chance of success.

5. Recognise the Power of Change 

We often overestimate our ability to change habits and routines. Starting with the 1-10 scale allows for a more realistic assessment and helps you discover whether a task you thought would be easy is actually challenging. This experience can be enlightening and help you adjust your expectations. Additionally, setting a “bare minimum goal” and a “stretch goal” enables you to have a target even on your toughest weeks while still pushing yourself when conditions are favourable.

By committing to putting your phone away 30 minutes before bed, you can enhance the quality and duration of your sleep. While this study offers valuable insights, it’s essential to remember that individual responses to sleep strategies may vary. Experiment with different approaches and find what works best for you. Incorporating small changes and adjusting the task size can lead to meaningful progress over time. Take control of your sleep routine and experience the rejuvenating benefits of a good night’s sleep.

References: 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228756 

How Daylight Enhances Your Sleep

Do you ever notice that you sleep better after a day filled with sunshine? Well, you’re not alone. A recent study from the University of Washington sheds light on the connection between daylight exposure and sleep. In this article, let’s dive into the study’s findings and explore why daylight is crucial for improving your sleep quality.

Seasonal Differences and Daylight

As we move away from the equator, the amount of daylight decreases during the winter months. This reduction in natural light can significantly impact our sleep patterns and body clocks. A study from the University of Washington aimed to understand how seasonal variations in light exposure affect sleep and overall sleep quality.

The Power of Light

Researchers enlisted 500 students who wore devices to track their sleep and light exposure. The collected data revealed fascinating insights. During winter school days, students fell asleep 40 minutes later and woke up 27 minutes later compared to the spring season. This shift can be attributed to the decreased exposure to natural daylight and increased exposure to artificial light in winter.

Circadian Clock and Sleep

Insufficient exposure to daylight disrupts our circadian clock, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle. As Horacio de la Iglesia, a senior author of the study, explains, “If you don’t get enough light during the day, it ‘delays’ your clock and pushes back the onset of sleep at night.” In simpler terms, limited daylight exposure makes it harder for us to fall asleep at night.

Managing Light for Better Sleep

The study found a strong link between light exposure and sleep timing. When students had more daylight exposure, they tended to fall asleep earlier. Regardless of the season, participants typically fell asleep about two hours after their last exposure to a 50 lux light source. 

The Takeaway

To optimise your sleep, aim for plenty of natural light during the day, even on cloudy days, and minimise exposure to bright artificial light before bedtime. Remember, nature’s gift of daylight is not only beautiful but also essential for a good night’s sleep.

References: 

https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/974082

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jpi.12843 

3 Steps to Escape the Sleep-Mood Spiral

Do you ever wonder if your mood affects your sleep or if it’s the other way around? It’s a common question, and scientists have been studying this intriguing relationship. In a recent study from the Netherlands, researchers set out to uncover the dynamics between sleep and mood. Let’s explore their findings and discover practical strategies to break the sleep-mood spiral.

So, here’s what happened in the study: Participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire three times a day for 30 days. They had to rate statements that reflected their emotions, worry levels, and sleep quality on a scale of 0 (not at all) to 100 (very much).

The results showed that good sleep predicts a positive mood the following day, while poor sleep predicts a negative mood. On the other hand, having a positive mood during the day contributes to better sleep, while negative emotions and worry lead to poor sleep quality. Interestingly, the impact of sleep on our mood was more pronounced than the effects of mood on sleep.

Now, how can you break free from the sleep-mood spiral? Here are some tips:

1. Recognise the Cycle 

Acknowledge the interconnected nature of worry, poor sleep, and negative emotions. Excessive worry can disrupt your sleep, leading to intrusive negative thoughts and emotional distress. Conversely, sleep problems can impair your ability to manage negative emotions effectively. Awareness of this cycle empowers you to take proactive steps toward breaking free from its grip.

2. Discover Strategies for Better Sleep

Consider incorporating cognitive behavioural techniques (CBT-I) to optimise your sleep. Create a relaxing pre-sleep ritual that helps calm your mind, such as reading a book, practising deep breathing, engaging in meditation, or jotting down your thoughts in a journal. Prioritise a sleep-friendly environment by ensuring your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Challenge negative thoughts about sleep by reframing them with positive and realistic alternatives.

3. Embrace Awake Time in Bed

Rather than becoming frustrated when you find yourself awake in bed, view it as an opportunity for relaxation and self-care. Engage in activities like reading a book or allowing your mind to gently wander. Reframe your mindset, appreciating this time as a peaceful break. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial, even if you’ve had a difficult night. Avoid the temptation to sleep in or nap, as it can perpetuate the cycle of insomnia.

Breaking free from the sleep-mood spiral requires patience and determination, but you possess the power to create positive change. By prioritising restful sleep, addressing negative emotions and worry, and implementing practical strategies, you can unlock the transformative power of restful nights. Take charge of your sleep, and watch as your mood and overall well-being flourish.

Here’s to nights filled with peaceful slumber and days brimming with positivity!

References: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796223/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666915321000615 

Caffeine and Insomnia

Are you having difficulty falling asleep at night? Do you regularly drink coffee, tea or energy drinks in the afternoon and at night? Or perhaps you only drink it in the morning but do you seem to be quite sensitive to the effects of caffeine?

If so, this article is for you.

Caffeine has a half life of 5-7 hours. It means that after 5-7 hours, 50% of the caffeine has already been removed from your body. It also means that after 5-7 hours, you still have 50% left in your body, which could be around much longer and may be the reason why you can’t fall asleep at night.

For example, you drank a cup of brewed coffee with around 114 mg of caffeine at 4 pm. At 10 pm, you’ll still have 57 mg of caffeine in your body. It’s like having a cup of instant coffee at 10 pm.

Some people won’t be bothered by this, but if you’re like me, this would mean that your mind would still be wide awake after midnight! Not fun.

Caffeine is Everwhere

80% of the world’s population use caffeine. It is the second most traded commodity after oil. It has truly become a natural part of human life, particularly because of its ability to perk you up.

Caffeine is actually the most commonly used drug in the world. It is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, softdrinks, chocolate, energy drinks and snacks, and some medications and supplements.

It would help you if you have an idea of how much caffeine is in your food and drinks so you’ll know how to control your caffeine intake and timing.

Different brands have different caffeine content depending on the type, origin and preparation method. This is the caffeine content of 1 cup (240 mL or 8 oz.) of common beverages:

  • Brewed coffee – 70-140 mg (average of 95 mg)
  • Instant coffee – 30-90 mg (average of 60 mg)
  • Energy drinks – 50 – 160 mg
  • Black tea – 47 – 90 mg
  • Green tea – 16 – 36 mg
  • Soft drinks – 20 – 40 mg
  • Chocolate drink – 2-7 mg

Decaffeinated” does not mean “non-caffeinated”. Decaf can contain up to 15%-30% of the original caffeine content.

  • Decaf coffee – most have 8-14 mg, but others have up to 20-32 mg of caffeine
  • Decaf tea – < 5 mg

Chocolate contains caffeine, as well. 1 oz (28 grams) of chocolate has:

  • Milk chocolate – 1-15 mg
  • Dark chocolate – 5-35 mg

Check out your favourite beverage and snack and its caffeine content here. How are you after 390+ mg of caffeine in one drink? I’d be shaking and puking all over the place, if you ask me.

How Much Caffeine is OK?

Most health literature including that of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state the following:

  • 200-300 mg of caffeine a day is considered to be moderate That is equivalent to two to three cups of coffee, or 4-5 cups of tea per day. 1 cup is approximately 240 mL or 8 oz.
  • 400 mg is the recommendeddaily limit of caffeine. That’s 3-5 cups of coffee, or 8-10 cups of tea per day.
  • Excessiveintake is more than 400 mg, such as eight to ten cups of coffee per day.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not exceed 200 mg of caffeine per day, or two cups of coffee.

Aside from the amount of caffeine, you also need to consider when you take it if you want to have a good night’s sleep.

Different people have different speed and efficiency at which their bodies break down caffeine.

Some (gifted and annoying) people have no problem falling asleep and staying asleep even after drinking coffee after dinner.

But if you’re like most people, you may find it difficult to fall asleep if your last caffeine intake was after 2 pm.

Much worse is if you’re like me who is very sensitive to caffeine, which means that the effects of caffeine last longer (especially if it’s brewed coffee).

I never really drank too much coffee or tea because I experienced a lot of its side effects. I also drank my coffee and tea before noon, usually at 10 am because I learned my lesson the hard way: drink it in the afternoon and I’d still be staring at the ceiling at 4 am.

My usual intake was only 1 mug of coffee and sometimes I would add 1 mug of tea. In total, it would only be around 150 mg of caffeine for the day, but the after-effects were pretty strong, particularly if I had brewed coffee:

  • Hyperacidity, heartburn and acid reflux (sometimes vomiting acid with some of the coffee)
  • Shaky hands and muscle tremors
  • Racing heart
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Insomnia

I tolerated these for over 20 years because I thought I needed what caffeine could give me in return: energy and alertness after my sleep deprivation the night before.

Never have I thought that it was actually my caffeine intake that was worsening my insomnia and my fatigue the following day.

How Caffeine Affects Your Sleep

The effects and clearance time of caffeine vary from person to person, depending on age, weight, gender, and genetics. However, it has two effects on your body that may be worsening the quality of your sleep.

(1) Caffeine blocks your body’s natural signal to go to sleep.

As you already know, caffeine is a stimulant that helps increase your alertness, especially when you’re feeling sleepy. It does that by blocking the effects of adenosine.

Your brain naturally releases a chemical called adenosine as soon as you wake up. The longer you are awake, the more adenosine is built up.

The more adenosine that has been built up, the more sleep pressure you feel, and the more sleepy you become.

After sleeping sufficiently, your adenosine stores are cleared, ready to build up once again while you are awake.

But if you have caffeine in your body, it blocks adenosine receptors. Basically, the sleepiness effect of adenosine is ignored.

So even if you have plenty of adenosine in your body, you won’t feel sleepy after taking caffeine.

Remember, though, that just because you feel awake doesn’t mean that your body no longer has the high levels of adenosine. Caffeine simply blocks it. It’s defying your body’s natural signal to go to sleep.

The problem is when you’re actually trying to go to sleep but you can’t, because you still have caffeine in your body.

Remember the half-life? You may still have 50% or more of the caffeine you ingested in the afternoon!

Caffeine is one of the most common causes of onset insomnia, which is the difficulty to fall asleep. It’s normal for people to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes in bed (this is called sleep latency).

Back when I was still drinking coffee, it could take me 1-3 hours to fall asleep. My mind would still be racing at 2 am, no matter how much deep breathing and meditation I tried to do.

Never have I seriously thought that it was caffeine causing it. I thought it was just stress and ineffective meditation!

This difficulty to fall asleep reduces your total sleep time and reduces the overall quality of your sleep. Prolonged sleep deprivation leads to a variety of health problems.

(2) Caffeine can wake you up a few times each night to urinate.

Caffeine stimulates your bladder, which leads to frequent urination. Have you noticed that you go to the toilet more after your caffeine intake?

And it’s not just the frequency that’s the issue, but also the urgency! Prolonged bladder stimulation can lead to incontinence, as well.

Urinary frequency leads to water loss. You feel thirsty more quickly because of this, and so you drink more fluids to make up for the water loss.

With this diuretic effect and your increased water intake, you’re expected to get up a few times at night to urinate. I used to get up 3-5 times a night to visit the loo.

That doesn’t really help you get a peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. For the elderly, this also increases their risk for falls and injury.

Cut Down or Cut Off Caffeine?

Responses to caffeine vary from person to person. If it does not affect the quality and quantity of your sleep, your energy level, anxiety and other aspects of your health, there’s no problem at all.

But if it does, maybe it’s time for you to consider reducing your caffeine intake, or even giving up caffeine entirely.

How would you know if caffeine is affecting your sleep? If you constantly find yourself wanting to go to sleep before noon time unless you get your boost of caffeine, it is highly likely that you are suffering from sleep deprivation that may be worsened by caffeine.

Here are some tips for you if you want to cut down or control the quantity and timing of your caffeine intake:

  1. Take your last caffeine before 2 pm, or even earlier if you are sensitive to caffeine. See which caffeine-cutoff-time works best for you by observing your ability to fall asleep and sustain sleep, as well as your energy level the next day.
  2. Use halfof your usual amount of coffee or tea, or brew it half of the time you usually do.
  3. Try decaf, but remember that it still has some caffeine in it, and it’s still additional fluid that can increase urination at night, so it’s best to avoid it close to bedtime.
  4. Also cut down on the sugaryou put on your beverage. Sugar is a topic for another day, but it’s worth noting here that lessening added sugar every day compounds to big health benefits in the long term.

If you are ready to quit, here are some tips for you:

  1. Be very clear with your reasonfor quitting. Your reason must be more important to you than the pleasures and benefits you get from caffeine. I loved drinking coffee so much, I really did. But I realized that I love my health more, and if I could sleep better and feel better, that would mean the world to me. Knowing clearly what is more important to you will help you make the habit change sustainable in the long-term.
  2. Be prepared for withdrawal symptomsfor up to 10 days, such as: throbbing headaches, insomnia, tremors, palpitations, fatigue and drowsiness (yep, I experienced all of them when I gave up coffee). If you go to work, it’s best to quit on a Friday so you can have Saturday and Sunday at home. Expect to be pretty much shattered in the first 4 days, but after that, the symptoms slowly disappear and you’re free! Woohoo!
  3. Talk to the people who could provide supportfor your decision. This may be your significant other, your children, relatives, friends and co-workers that you normally drink coffee and tea with. Some of them may make fun of you, some of them may tempt you to take caffeine again. Some of them will be happy for you. Some of them won’t understand your decision, but as long as you understand your reason 100%, that’s all that matters. Most of them, though, would be happy to support you. You’d be surprised that they’ll offer you a non-caffeinated drink the next time you visit them.
  4. Also remember that you can still have funwith your caffeine-loving friends during their coffee break, or when you go to a cafe together. You don’t need to disown them because you’ve quit caffeine and they haven’t. You can simply drink something else and enjoy the moment with the people you enjoy being with. And they like being with you, too, with or without caffeine.

After I Gave Up Coffee

Because of the side effects that I experienced with coffee, I finally decided to give it up right after my 40th birthday. I still drink tea because it does not give me the side effects that coffee does, and I enjoy drinking it, not because I absolutely need it to keep me awake. However, I still make sure that I don’t drink caffeinated tea after 2 pm.

In my 20 years of coffee dependence, it was normal for me to fall asleep 1-3 hours after going to bed and to get up 3-5 times each night to urinate.

Now, it normally takes 15 minutes or less to fall asleep. I get up 0-2 times a night to visit the loo, versus 3-5 times before. I still have to work on my fluid intake at night, but this is a big improvement!

I feel more relaxed because I’m sleeping better and no longer have coffee to trigger palpitations and anxiety.

Because I’m sleeping better, my body is recovering better. I feel better overall and I have more energy the next day. I never needed coffee to give me energy.

No more coffee-related headaches! No more dependence. I’m free!

My teeth stains have started to disappear, as well.

Has my sleep quality reached 100%? No, but it has improved so much since I’ve given up coffee. My sleep tracker has been giving me a sleep score of 88-96, which is very good, and I get that in most days.

I’m not saying that quitting coffee fixed my sleep all by itself. I practice other things that help me improve my sleep, from deep breathing to wearing yellow-tinted glasses and everything in between, but it was definitely being coffee-free that has allowed all the other factors to work.

Do I still have trouble staying asleep sometimes? Yes. “Someone” is snoring. Cough and colds happen, stress happens, coronavirus happens, and it’s not always easy to get optimal sleep.

It’s normal to occasionally experience difficulties sleeping. What’s not normal is when it happens regularly, leaving you exhausted and sleepy during the day over a long period of time.

Before quitting coffee, it was difficult for me to fall asleep and stay asleep regularly. Now it’s a different story, and for someone who’s had insomnia for a long time, this is a big achievement. Having good sleep had always been in my birthday and Christmas wish list.

If you are suffering from insomnia, please consult your doctor. I understand how frustrating it is. I hope that you will explore lifestyle-related changes and natural sleep remedies and steer away from sleeping pills and alcohol, which cannot provide natural sleep. Go ahead and read my article on Why Alcohol Does Not Give You A Good Night’s Sleep.

Choose At Least One Simple Habit You Can Start Now

My goal is to inspire you to develop simple health habits one at a time. You’ll be surprised to see how your new habit will eventually make you feel better about your health and about yourself.

Your habits also have a compounding effect, and they’ll lead you to the kind of health and the kind of life that you’ll have 20, 30, 50 years from now. It would be great if you work towards the kind of health you want to enjoy in your retirement years.

Which one of these would you like to start with today?

  • Have an idea of how much caffeine is in your drink, food or medicine. A lot of people don’t know that there’s caffeine in chocolate, for example. You have to know yourself. Google is here to help you.
  • Be more aware and in control of the timing of your caffeine intake. Most people sleep well if they take their last caffeine before 2 pm, but you may be different.
  • Brew your coffee or tea for less time.
  • Gradually shift to decaf and non-caffeinated drinks.
  • Quit caffeine, particularly if you have insomnia or anxiety.

Which new habit did you choose? Please let me know by commenting below. I’d also love to know your thoughts after reading my article. I wrote this for you and I hope it will help you.

References

“Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker (2017)

“The 4 Pillar Plan” by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee (2018)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230475/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3805807/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27225921

https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajprenal.00129.2015

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-caffeine#section3

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/caffeine-side-effects#section6

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194#myths

https://www.medicinenet.com/caffeine/article.htm#what_are_the_sources_of_caffeine

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