How caffeine impacts your sleep
Your afternoon coffee break may be keeping you from getting a good night sleep, experts say.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, drinking coffee even six hours prior to bedtime could result in less sleep that night.
Researchers recruited 12 healthy people with normal sleep patterns and asked them to take three pills – one at six hours before bedtime, one at three hours before bedtime and one right before they got into bed. Two of the pills were caffeine-free placebos and one contained 400 milligrams of caffeine (about two to three cups of coffee).
Participants were asked to maintain sleep diaries, while the researchers utilized in-home sleep monitors for an objective look at how the caffeine affected their sleep.
The study results revealed that the participants’ sleep was disrupted no matter when they took the caffeine pill. Even ingesting caffeine six hours before bedtime resulted in an hour of sleep lost during the night.
“This degree of sleep loss, if experienced over multiple nights, may have detrimental effects on daytime function,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Thus, the present results suggest the common practice of afternoon consumption of caffeine should at a minimum be restricted to before 5 p.m.”
The temporary lull in alertness many feel in the afternoon is normal, according to Christine McBride, supervisor of the sleep, EEG and EMG departments at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
“Sleep deprivation can make the lull more intense,” says McBride. “So rather than turning to caffeine, it’s important to focus on getting plenty of sleep and keeping a regular schedule.”
If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night, the National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips:
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine – take a hot bath or read a book.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
- Avoid exposure to bright lights before trying to sleep.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.