As someone who regularly wrestles with insomnia, I have been on a quest to learn what components help and hurt chances of a successful night’s sleep. Thus my interest in caffeine and its effects, specifically coffee in my case.
Having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning is my favorite ritual. It’s the one thing I never miss. And one cup of coffee isn’t too bad, although I would indulge in an occasional latte. Then my employer got an espresso machine. Especially after a night of poor sleep, a mid morning cup of espresso sounded like exactly what I needed. It was so accessible and free; really it was difficult to find a reason not to have one.
So I wanted to dig into coffee/caffeine and see what effect is has on the body and sleep. I learned that caffeine has a half life anywhere from 5-8 hours. Meaning in that duration, our body has metabolized only about half of the caffeine. Caffeine is in our system long after we consume it. It effects the neurochemicals: adenosine, melatonin, and dopamine. It blocks adenosine which typically builds up throughout the day and allows our body to feel more sleepy, less alert. It suppresses melatonin, even more than bright light. It increases dopamine, therefore increasing out pleasure and alertness level, probably a large part of what makes it so addictive.
It’s that effect on these three neurochemicals which make caffeine good for our productivity and happiness and so detrimental to our sleep. The obvious beverages that come to mind when talking about caffeine are coffee, sodas, and energy drinks. Other sources include chocolate and any non-herbal teas.
To give myself the best chance at sleeping well, I’ve decided to continue my ritual of one cup of coffee first thing in the morning. After that, I am going to limit my caffeine consumption as much as possible. Only drinking herbal teas and even limiting chocolate just to be cautious. Maybe I will eventually switch to decaf for my morning cup. Maybe.