Maybe you need a cup of coffee to finish a road trip or to stay alert for some late-night studying. But do you have trouble falling asleep when it’s finally time to close your eyes? Don’t worry, even if you drink coffee late in the day, you can still get a good night’s sleep. Keep reading to learn about caffeine and what you can do to sleep better.
How does caffeine affect your body?
Research shows that drinking coffee has a multitude of health benefits for your body, including reducing your risk for a variety of diseases, helping you lose weight, and making you happier and more productive.
But drinking too much or drinking it too late in the day can get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Did you know that it takes six hours for your body to metabolize half of the caffeine you consume? Or that getting just 90 minutes less sleep can reduce your alertness by a third?
Before you drink that after-dinner espresso or late-night cold brew, try plugging it into our coffee calculator to see how it will affect your night, and consider switching to decaf or herbal tea.
Worth reading: How does coffee affect your body?
How much is too much?
The USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend limiting your daily intake of caffeine to 400 milligrams. Brewed coffee averages 95 milligrams per eight-ounce cup, meaning you can healthily drink three or four cups a day. If you prefer espresso, a one-ounce shot averages 63 milligrams, so you can have up to three double shots per day.
RELATED READ: How much caffeine is in a coffee bean?
But what can you do if you’ve already had more than that? Read on for our tips and tricks to sleeping well after drinking coffee.
So how do you get a great night’s sleep after drinking coffee?
Once you’re ready to sleep, how do you turn off your caffeinated brain and fall asleep? An important first step is improving something researchers call sleep hygiene. This means making sure your sleep environment is set up to help you sleep. This includes your daily activities and the way you organize your bedroom.
Regular exercise has also been shown to improve sleep quality. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can help you sleep better. If you’ve had a lot of coffee, consider taking a walk or swimming a few laps to burn up some of that energy. But don’t do it right before bed: researchers suggest stopping exercise at least an hour or two before bedtime.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it dehydrates you. If you drink a lot of coffee, you may want to accompany it with plenty of water. Being dehydrated can keep you from sleeping well, by potentially causing leg cramps, snoring, and dry mouth. Interestingly, studies show that this works the other way, too: not sleeping enough can dehydrate you. Plus, while you sleep, your body loses about a liter of water. So you’ll probably want to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you’re also drinking coffee.
Put down the snacks! While a midnight raid of the refrigerator can be fun, it can also disrupt your sleep cycle. Eating too close to bedtime can cause sleep-disrupting digestive issues like acid reflux. You may want to stop eating two or three hours before sleeping.
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If you’ve ever struggled with jet lag, you may have tried taking melatonin supplements. Melatonin is the natural hormone in the body that maintains your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s sense of when to stay awake and when to sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, taking extra melatonin can help you sleep.
5. Sleep Schedule
If you can, try to maintain the same sleep schedule every day of the week, including weekends. It’s tempting to sleep in on your days off, but changing your schedule can confuse your body’s circadian rhythms and leave you unable to sleep when you want to.
There’s more to a cool bedroom than that cozy under-the-covers feeling. Low temperatures are associated with sleepiness, while warmth corresponds with alertness. As you approach bedtime, your body temperature decreases, and while you sleep, it can drop a few degrees. You can encourage your body to sleep by turning your thermostat down to ideal sleeping temperatures, between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
As with temperature, light levels help your body decide when it’s time to sleep. Instead of a bright overhead light, try a lower-wattage bedside lamp. You may also want to avoid blue light, which has been shown to reduce the amount of sleep-inducing melatonin your body makes. If your cell phone has a yellow light mode, such as Apple’s Night Shift, try setting it up, and look for light bulbs in yellow shades.
Try to establish your bedroom as a place to rewind and recharge. You may be tempted to finish up a project or pay bills from the comfort of your bed, but doing your work elsewhere may help you leave your stress at the door.
Just before bed, try doing something that relaxes you. Read a book, listen to music, or try out a meditation app. When it’s finally time to close your eyes, just relax and let your brain take it from there.
What if you still can’t fall asleep?
Don’t panic. Keep the lights dim, and try returning to your book or turning on some calm music until you start to feel sleepy.
Another option? Tell yourself you have to stay awake. This is referred to as a paradoxical intention. In layman’s terms, it’s reverse psychology. While you’re wired on caffeine, run with it, telling your brain you have to pull an all-nighter and you are not going to fall asleep. You’re lying there awake anyway; give it a try, because your brain may just fall for it.
If you’ve tried everything you can think of, you can always take advantage of being awake. Fold some laundry, clean out a drawer, wipe down the bathroom counters, make a grocery list or write a letter to a friend. While you may not get any sleep, you can get some chores done and sleep better the next night.
There’s nothing quite like a delicious cup of coffee, but it shouldn’t interfere with getting a great night of sleep. To avoid having a sleepless night, you can try some daytime tricks like limiting your caffeine to morning hours, exercising moderately, drinking plenty of water, and not eating too close to bedtime. You may also want to avoid bright lights and overstimulation late at night, as well as keep a regular sleep schedule. Picking a relaxing activity to do right before bed may help you ease into sleep. And don’t panic if you don’t fall asleep right away.
We hope these tips and tricks help you get more high-quality sleep, no matter when you drink coffee. Sleep well and enjoy your coffee!