New Findings on Caffeine and Sleep

It’s pretty much a common sense rule that many of us know all too well: don’t drink caffeine late in the day, or the evening for that matter, or be faced with difficulty falling asleep.

Many of us heed that caffeine and sleep advice, yet aren’t really sure of what is considered too late to drink caffeine or just how much it can affect sleep. The advice varies: some say don’t drink caffeine 5 hours before bed, others say don’t drink caffeine after 2 pm. Now, new research is out that gives us more clues as to the effect of caffeine dosage and caffeine timing.

The study is considered a unique first study that looked at specific doses of caffeine and the times these doses were given before bedtime. It was published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine and conducted by researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine.

Nuts and Bolts of the Caffeine Sleep Study

The study consisted of 12 adult females and males — all good sleepers. All participants were requested to keep their normal, routine sleep schedules. Each participant was asked to take three pills for four days.

One pill was to be taken at bedtime, the other three hours before bedtime, and the other six hours before bedtime. The participants weren’t aware of the exact contents of the pills. One pill contained an equivalent of about two to three cups of coffee (or 400 mg of caffeine). The other two pills contained no caffeine and were in essence placebos.

In order to monitor sleep disturbances, the study participants were asked to keep a sleep diary to record the sleep quality. A sleep monitor (similar to the type that is used in sleep labs) was also used on each participant to monitor their sleep disturbances.

Results of the Caffeine and Sleep Study

The results indicated that caffeine, in fact, did disrupt sleep. Specifically, consuming caffeine at both three hours before bedtime and even six hours before bedtime was found to disrupt sleep.

When caffeine was consumed as far in advance as six hours before bedtime, it reduced total sleep time by over one full hour.

What You Can Do

Even if you don’t think your late afternoon latte doesn’t interrupt with your sleep, this latest study of late-afternoon caffeine reveals that it can impact your total sleep time.

To improve your sleep quality, try to restrict your caffeine intake to the morning hours. If you must drink coffee during midday, try to drink it before 2 pm. If you love to sip on tea or coffee in the afternoon, switch to decaffeinated tea or decaffeinated coffee.

We’ve always known that caffeine could interfere with sleep. Now, thanks to this new study, we know that at a minimum consuming caffeine as far in advance as six hours before bedtime can impact our quality of sleep.

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