Just Say No to the Joe: Afternoon Caffeine Disrupts Sleep

Caffeine and Sleep

According to a new study published on November 15, 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consumption of afternoon or evening caffeine can significantly disrupt your sleep.

The study found that 400 mg of caffeine (about the same amount as found in 2-3 cups of coffee) taken at bedtime – or even three or six hours before – has the ability to cause quite significant problems with sleep.  In fact, the study subjects found their total hours of sleep reduced by more than one hour when they consumed caffeine within hours of bedtime.  Oddly enough, however, the test subjects did not seem to be aware that they were sleeping less.

Study lead author Dr. Christopher Drake of the Henry Ford Sleep Disorders and Research Center says that drinking a large cup of coffee on the way home from work can have just as much affect on your sleep quality as if you drank it closer to bedtime.  However, he says, people tend to be less aware of this.

Drake and his team studied a total of 12 people for the study who were considered to be healthy and normal sleepers based upon a physical and an interview.  These individuals were asked to remain on their normal sleep schedules.  They were then given three pills a day for a total of four days.  One pill was taken at six, three and zero hours before their regular bedtime.  While two of the three pills contained no active ingredient at all, the third contained 400 mg of caffeine.   Each night the caffeine pill was administered at a different time.  They also had one day in which all three pills were placebo.    The researchers had the study participants keep a sleep diary and they also used a sleep monitor to create an objective measure of their sleep quality.

The study authors note that this study is the first study to look at how a particular dose of caffeine taken at various time prior to sleep could affect sleep quality.

The authors suggest that, based upon their results, it would be a good idea for people to avoid caffeine after 5 PM in order to get a good night’s sleep.

Other measures which experts recommend for getting a good night’s sleep include keeping a regular sleep schedule; having a relaxing bedtime routine; sleeping in a dark, quiet and cool place; sleeping in a comfortable bed; using your bed only for sleep and sex; not eating close to bedtime; exercising regularly and avoiding nicotine and alcohol.

Foods which include a significant amount of caffeine include coffee, tea, cola drinks, energy drinks and chocolate.  Herbal products such as guarana and yerba mate also contain caffeine.

If you try these measures and you still find that you are not sleeping well, a visit to your family doctor for a check up may in order.  It is possible that you may have a sleep disorder requiring professional treatment.

By Nancy Schimelpfening

Sources:

Late Afternoon and Early Evening Caffeine Can Disrupt Sleep at Night – EurekaAlert!

Healthy Sleep Tips – National Sleep Foundation

Caffeine in Foods – Health Canada

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