When I was a student, the strategy for preparing for exams looked like this: wait for the night before the exam, stock up on coffee and chocolates, stay up all night, read textbooks and promise yourself to prepare in advance next time. Wait for the next session and repeat as many times as you like.
When you are in your thirties, the need to get enough sleep occurs much more often than the need to stay up all night. But it is becoming more and more difficult to deny yourself a cup of Americano, cappuccino or latte. How to combine love for coffee and healthy sleep?
Is coffee really invigorating?
Caffeine does not provide energy in the usual sense. Every day, while we are awake, the brain produces the neurotransmitter adenosine. As soon as the amount of adenosine in the brain and spinal cord reaches a certain level, the body starts sending signals to sleep.
Normally, when the receptors are filled with adenosine, we feel sleepy. What happens if instead of sleeping we drink a couple of espresso?
Caffeine is very similar in structure to adenosine and can replace this neurotransmitter in neuronal receptors. But at the same time it is not able to perform an important function of adenosine – to cause a feeling of fatigue.
The brain and body are still awake, and we are not aware that we actually want to sleep.
But while we are awake, the body continues to produce more and more adenosine, which still cannot be used. As a result, the body has to literally change its mode of operation. In the body, the production of stress hormones, including cortisol, increases, and the brain and internal organs are overworked, since they do not receive timely signals about the need to rest and recover.
Cortisol is not only a stress hormone, but also a regulator of the body’s circadian rhythm. This hormone naturally rises every morning so we can get out of bed, be active and enjoy life. Then, during the day, it just as naturally decreases and reaches a minimum in the evening, setting us up for a good night’s sleep. This is a normal cortisol cycle.
Normal human cortisol cycle
A couple of cups of coffee drunk at the wrong time can close the circle: the receptors will fill up with caffeine, which will prevent the brain from feeling the signals to rest, and the increased production of cortisol will prevent you from falling asleep, even if it’s time. Late in the evening, the body will experience physiological fatigue, but at the same time you do not want to sleep at all.
First cup time
Sometimes, on the other hand, cortisol levels are at their lowest when they should be at their highest. Consistent with a healthy cycle, more cortisol is produced in the morning than in the evening.
If this is not so, then in the morning, instead of cheerfulness and a surge of strength, we feel overwhelmed and unable to leave the bed.
In this case, a small dose of caffeine will return everything to its place. Caffeine will gently push the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline, and you will feel awake and active.
Michael Breus, author of Always On Time and professor of chronobiology, advises people in the bear chronotype (most of us, those who sleep at night and are awake during the day) to have their first cup of coffee between 9:30 am and 11.30.
It can take 25 to 45 minutes to fully experience the effects of drinking caffeine.
It must be added that coffee is not a cure for a bad regimen. If you do not sleep for the prescribed amount of time every day (7-8 hours), the body will sooner or later say “ay-ay-ay.”
Last cup time
It takes 6 to 8 hours for the stimulant effect of caffeine to halve. Your morning cup of coffee will last until midday. If you drink a cup during the day, the effect will last until evening. And if you have another drink after dinner? You will be under the influence of caffeine for several hours after you go to bed.
Researchers at Wayne University in Detroit studied the effects of 400 mg of caffeine on subjects by testing them just before bed, three hours before bed, and six hours before bed. Compared to the placebo control group, all three dosages had a clear destructive effect on sleep.
The authors of the books “Healthy Sleep” and “Always on Time” advise you to establish an anti-caffeine “curfew” and drink your last cup by 14.00 – 15.00.
If you consume more than 500 mg of caffeine per day (this is 5 cups of coffee, 2 energy drinks, or 10 servings of soda), a person’s nervousness, anxiety and irritability increase, and the heart rate increases. Chronic caffeine overdose affects the adrenal glands so badly that they stop producing enough cortisol on their own. Symptoms of this condition are constant fatigue, memory impairment, anxiety, decreased sex drive, depression, obesity, and heart disease.
But when consumed wisely, caffeine can be used to boost metabolism, increase alertness and concentration, and even improve liver function. Therefore, wanting to give up unnecessary, you should not deprive yourself of the beneficial properties of caffeine. To prevent the body from starting to weaken the reaction to it, it is necessary to alternate between drinking coffee and abstaining from it.
Healthy Sleep offers three strategies:
1. Two days with caffeine, three without it. If you are healthy, your body can be completely free of caffeine within three days. When you start drinking caffeinated drinks again, you will notice the effect as strong as before.
2. Two months with caffeine, one without. This method is suitable if you use low to medium amounts of caffeine daily (less than 200 mg per day); this is usually found in 1-2 cups of black coffee.
3. Occasionally, but in any quantity. An option when you can enjoy coffee like the first time. Try not to consume caffeinated beverages at all, but in an emergency, allow yourself to “blow away”. Emergencies mean public speaking, project delivery, or something just as important (just don’t do it like I did during sessions). Use coffee as a booster, not a crutch, and you can enjoy all of its benefits while keeping you a champion’s sleep.
Based on the books “Healthy Sleep” and “Always on Time”.
Post cover: pixabay.