Coffee & Sleep: Tips for a Decaf Snooze

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We’ve all made the mistake before: having too much caffeine before bed. Maybe it wasn’t even your fault. Maybe you specifically asked the Barista at Starbucks for a Venti decaf latte, but alas mistakes happen. The bigger issue is: finding out how to fall asleep after you’ve had caffeine.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, caffeine is a stimulant and while it’s usually helpful for waking many people up in the morning and keeping them alert during the day, it can prevent sleep when taken too close to bed time. Caffeine temporarily blocks sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increases adrenaline production.

While moderate amounts of caffeine aren’t recognized as a health risk, more than three cups of coffee a day can be considered excessive and if continued over a long period of time, it can be considered dangerous to a person’s health.

Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. A person can begin to feel the effects of caffeine as quickly as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, the effects of caffeine will last for 3-4 hours and can take about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine ingested to be eliminated. Many studies do support the theory that caffeine can cause physical dependence. Some symptoms that will be found during withdrawal from caffeine are headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.

According to InsomniaCure, there are certain hours throughout the day that you should avoid caffeine/coffee altogether. Try not to drink coffee after 5:00 p.m. on a daily basis. If your bed time is early, try to avoid caffeine after 3:00 p.m. The drug will stay active in your body long after this. While an after dinner coffee can be nice, just stick with decaf and you should be fine to fall asleep.

If you did make the mistake of consuming caffeine too close to bed, AskMen has some tips to still getting a good night of sleep.

Create a Peaceful Sleep Environment

Since caffeine is a stimulant, you need to make sure your immediate sleep environment lacks stimulation. Turn off the television, internet and any other distractions (including your cell phone). Make sure your lights are out and you draw the curtains to avoid any street lights or other outside lighting.

Exercise

If you are still feeling the effects of caffeine, try doing some light exercise. Do some jumping jacks, walk on a low speed on the treadmill or around your home. If you have any experience with yoga, try doing the “corpse” pose. Simply lay on your back, feet slightly apart and palms facing up, resting at your side. Allow time to feel the weight of gravity on your body, so that you feel heavy. Breathe slowly and deeply, letting your abdomen rise and fall with each breath. Now address each part of your body, working from forehead to feet, tensing and then relaxing each muscle. Remain in the pose for a while and continue to breathe deeply.

The most important thing to do when you can’t sleep is to distract your mind from the fact you can’t sleep, and remember next time, switch to decaf before you hit your mattress for the night.

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