The Latest Time You Should Drink Coffee, According to Science
It’s not what you think.
Imagine it’s the start of the week. You wake up to the beeping of your alarm and slowly open your eyes. After lying in bed for a few more minutes, you slowly get up and rub your eyes.
You’re not quite ready for another day at work, but you dressed and run out the door to brave the commute. After arriving at the office, you put down your things, turn on the computer, and fix yourself a drink.
Is it coffee? If so, welcome to the crowd.
The Benefits and Drawbacks to Our Beverage of Choice
We love coffee for many reasons. It’s a way to jolt our systems when we’re tired, we enjoy the taste, and it provides a great excuse for people to socialize and network.
Coffee has numerous benefits to our bodies as well. Research has shown that it lowers our risk of developing type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. It also provides nutrition in the form of antioxidants and vitamins. Given the high amounts of caffeine, your mood and brain function get a nice boost (an important part of getting to work).
But coffee also has its drawbacks. After regularly downing more than a couple cups a day, you begin to develop a tolerance to what’s inside your drink. In other words, you need to drink more and more to get the same benefits, such as boosting your brain and mood.
And how about that feeling when you don’t have any coffee at all? If you’ve experienced it, you know what it’s about: headaches, jitters, irritability.
While caffeine makes you feel alert, it also hurts your sleep. We always hear about why it’s bad to drink coffee late in the day and how we need to stop at a certain time. But what time exactly is considered “too late”?
How Coffee Changes Your Sleep
Awhile back, a study was performed at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State College of Medicine analyzing the impact of caffeine on sleep according to the time of day.
After monitoring the participants’ sleep levels, here’s what they found:
Caffeine significantly disrupted sleep at 0, 3, and 6 hours before bedtime. After when caffeine was consumed 6 hours before bedtime, sleep amounts were disturbed by over an hour.
When caffeine was consumed throughout the day, the level of sleep decreased. Participants spent a significant amount of time awake when they should have been sleeping, even when caffeine was last consumed 6 hours beforehand.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Coffee might affect those people, but not me”, then here’s some other news: Our perception of how caffeine affects our bodies is not a direct measure of how it affects our sleep.
Basically, even if you don’t feel the effects of caffeine, it’s still worsening your sleep quality. You just don’t realize it.
It’s an interesting lesson on how we shouldn’t fully rely on our perceptions to determine how a drug is affecting our bodies. Even if you physically feel fine, your body begs to differ.
How to Have Your Coffee and Drink It Too
By now, it all sounds pretty doom and gloom.
But not to worry, you can still enjoy your coffee. The key is not to avoid coffee if that’s what you drink, but rather to manage the way you drink it.
Here are a few ways:
- Limit your coffee up to four cups in a day. Research at the Mayo Clinic shows that adults shouldn’t have more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day, which is equivalent to the amount in four cups. Of course, having fewer cups of coffee is preferable. If you feel the urge to drink coffee, opt for decaffeinated or a cup of tea.
- Set a cut off period for 12 pm. It takes awhile for caffeine to wear off, even if you don’t notice it. For optimal sleep, limit coffee to the early hours of the day.
- Use smaller cups to drink coffee. When we use a cup, bowl, or plate, we’re tempted to fill it up completely because that makes the most sense. That means bigger cups are more likely to get filled with more coffee. So if you want to feel like you’re getting your share of coffee, use a smaller cup and fill it up.
Be Productive During the Day and Get a Good Night’s Rest
Coffee is popular for good reason. There’s little more satisfying than that first sip, as the aroma seeps up and the steam rises to comfort you.
But we also can’t deny the importance of a good night’s sleep. The good news is that you can have both.
How? By drinking earlier in the day and being mindful of how much you drink. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make sure you are healthy, productive, and happy.
If you want to move closer to your goals, then check out my free guide: How to Get Anything You Want. I share strategies for finding good ideas and how to stick to making them work.