Coffee has been long-touted as the drink to indulge in for a boost of energy in the morning–but is it really worth all of the hype it’s managed to maintain in American pop culture? More importantly, can coffee really do what all of the clever jingles, phrases, and popular taglines claim?
Today, we’re exploring the ugly truth about coffee as it relates to sleep quality and wellness, and why it might be time to finally put your daily cup-of-joe habit to bed.
How Caffeine in Coffee Works
Part of the reason that so many of us gravitate toward coffee in the morning is because of its most potent ingredient: caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means that it influences activity within your brain and central nervous system.
Upon your first cup of coffee in the morning, the caffeine housed within your go-to blend works itself into your bloodstream within minutes, affecting everything from your circulatory and respiratory system, your muscular and skeletal system, your digestive and reproductive system—and much more.
When it reaches your brain, it influences the release of common hormones such as cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) and adrenaline—both of which are related to your natural fight or flight response; this is why the most common symptom of caffeine is a period of alertness.
By temporarily blocking the receptors in your brain that signal when your body is tired, it inspires a temporary boost of energy. This is why in small doses caffeine can make you feel more alert and refreshed.
However, in large doses, caffeine can have adverse effects, inspiring anxious thoughts, body jitters, and other troublesome responses (see below) that make it more challenging to get a good night’s sleep at the end of the day.
How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
Similar to how many hours of sleep an average person should get, there is no exact standard of measurement to determine exactly how much caffeine you should aim for to get a boost of energy in the morning.
Research suggests that around 400 mg of caffeine is typically acceptable for an average healthy person to consume in a day. For regular drip coffee, this amounts to one or two 8 oz. cups. But if you’re someone who prefers to get your morning jolt from your local coffee shop on your way to work, understanding how much caffeine is actually in your go-to drink could be more problematic, as not all coffee shops have that information readily available.
If you’re consuming more than 8 ounces in a single sitting, you could be setting yourself up to experience more than the quick energy boost you bargained for.
Side Effects of Caffeine
While coffee can inspire a burst of energy in small, measured doses, understanding the grittier long-term effects of caffeine may help you decide if what you’ve been drinking is worth it.
Some of the most common long-term effects that drinking coffee can have on your body include:
- Confusion. Too much caffeine consumption can overstimulate the brain, leading to confusion throughout the day.
- Rapid heartbeat. For those with existing heart conditions, too much coffee throughout the day can lead to noticeable arrhythmias.
- Heartburn. Because caffeine is acidic, prolonged use can lead to increased heartburn.
- Nausea and vomiting. Depending on the strength of your coffee, nausea and vomiting may occur from consuming too much.
- Diarrhea. Because caffeine is a fast-acting stimulant, it inspires activity within your digestive system. Too much, however, can lead to diarrhea.
- Headaches. Headaches are a common withdrawal symptom of caffeine, commonly experienced when we experience an energy crash in the afternoon.
- Irritability. Because caffeine can be addictive, irritability can be a common withdrawal symptom on the days you don’t consume as much.
Caffeine and Sleep
As we mentioned earlier, caffeine has a powerful effect on the brain. By blocking the body’s adenosine receptors, which are used to signal when the body is tired and help us prepare for sleep, we remain in a more alert state.
This becomes problematic with prolonged use over time because adenosine is meant to build up within the body throughout the day. As the primary sleep-promoting chemical, it works in tandem with our natural circadian rhythms. The more we block this natural process through excessive use of caffeine, the more susceptible we become to experiencing insomnia and other troublesome sleep conditions.
In fact, studies have shown that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime has the potential to reduce the number of hours of sleep you get by one. This means one less hour of indulging in the rest and relaxation that your body needs to recover from the events of the day.
When drinking coffee as a means of staying awake becomes a habit, the quality of sleep you experience can suffer drastically, cutting your sleep hours down even more.
Caffeine-Free Energy Boosters
Because sleep is such an integral part of whole-body wellness, quality sleep is the last thing that anyone should have to sacrifice. At the same time, caffeine has so many long-term effects, many of which are still being explored, that we believe it’s helpful to keep a few caffeine-free energy-givers in your back pocket to use on the days you need a boost.
A few of our favorite caffeine-free energy boosters include–
- Movement. Whether it’s a full-blown workout in the morning or a session of light, gentle stretching, a little bit of movement upon waking up can help your body get into the groove of your day.
- Sunshine. The sun naturally stimulates the production of Vitamin D in the body, which is known to inspire an increase of energy at the cellular level.
- Music. Similar to movement, the right song or playlist can inspire all of the energy you need to turn a sluggish day around. The livelier the song, the better!
How to Improve Sleep Wellness
Looking for more opportunities to improve your sleep wellness? Start with your environment. The cozier your bedroom looks and feels, the more nourishing your sleep experience will be.
To help you get started, we recommend building your perfect sleep space from the bottom up—beginning with a mattress and pillow protector for a clean sleep foundation, a selection of cozy sheets and pillows for support, and all of the top-of-bed comfort layers you need to sleep soundly the whole year through.
To make shopping for the perfect bedding easier, we invite you to explore our complete collection of sleep essentials and keep in mind—the more you mix and match, the more you save! Head to our shop to bundle all of your favorites together and save up to 40% off your entire purchase.