How caffeine affects your sleep – and how to stop it

Caffeine is a key part of most people’s daily routine, even if they don’t realise – from coffee in the morning to chocolate and fizzy drinks at lunch. You probably already know to avoid caffeine before bed. It’s one of the key reasons why most people feel groggy in the morning – no matter how comfortable their bed is – but you might not know how or why caffeine impacts your body when it comes to bedtime.

Here, we’ve compiled the key ways caffeine affects your sleeping pattern – and some tips on how to cut back.

  1. Caffeine delays your body clock

    Melatonin is found in the middle of the brain, and it regulates the body’s sleeping and waking cycles. As it gets darker, your body usually produces more melatonin which signals to the body that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Studies show that caffeine overpowers this and decreases the release of melatonin, delaying your body clock and making you feel more awake for longer.

  2. Caffeine increases dopamine release

    Dopamine is a pleasure-activating neurotransmitter (try saying that while half-asleep!). It makes us feel more joyful, attentive and alert. Caffeine is thought to increase the number of receptors for dopamine, which is why it so addictive in the day and disruptive at night.

  3. Caffeine blocks us from feeling drowsy

    When you run out of sugars that are easy to digest, a chemical called adenosine should tell the brain it’s time for the early stages of the sleep cycle so that we can rest, to conserve our energy levels. But caffeine blocks adenosine from doing its job, confusing the brain and preventing you from entering the state of drowsiness needed to stimulate a good night’s sleep.

Nobody is telling you to abandon your flat white, or the too-tempting-to-ignore chocolate in the lunchtime meal deal. We think you’ve earned those treats.

So, how do you cut down? Here are our top tips:

Try to avoid caffeine after 2pm
Caffeine stays in the system for around 6 hours, so it’s best to keep it out of your body in the late afternoon.

Try herbal tea instead
There are some excellent caffeine-free herbal teas that rely purely on natural ingredients at most supermarkets. Why not give chamomile, peppermint or some chai tea a go?

Reduce your weekly caffeine intake
It’s easier said than done, so try a day a week without it at first, and gradually reduce your intake in order to notice the benefits the next morning.

Give decaf drinks a go
Gone are the days of decaf drinks tasting poor. There are now loads of decaf options at the supermarket, and high street coffee shops and online companies offer decaf coffee that tastes almost identical to the real deal, but without the sleep interruption.

Check your snacking
Everyone likes a munch at their desk in the afternoon. Try going for nuts or fruit over chocolate where you can. It’s so much more filling, and it’s also less addictive.

Now that you know how caffeine affects your sleep pattern, it’s time to do an audit of your pillows and blankets. Is it time for a refresh? You owe yourself a blissful, uninterrupted night.

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