Due to its caffeine content, coffee is well-known for being a beverage that is good for drinking in the morning to help you feel more awake and alert, getting your day off to the most productive start. However, there are no rules about when you can drink coffee, and with people varying when it comes to their tolerance level, you might find that drinking coffee throughout the day helps to keep you feeling awake and alert when you need to the most. More commonly, however, people will find that drinking coffee later and later into the day might keep them alert at work, but cause issues later on when they’re trying to unwind, relax, and settle down to sleep for the night.
Some people are absolutely fine with just having one cup of coffee in the morning to get them going, while others simply can’t get enough of it. Whether you like to have a cup of coffee on your desk at pretty much all times during the day or go to meet up with friends for coffee after work, it’s important to consider if it’s too late to be drinking coffee at a certain point, and how it might impact your ability to relax and sleep. Drinking coffee at night can seriously impact your sleeping pattern, so understanding when is it too late to drink coffee can help you improve your health and wellbeing by getting the most from this beverage.
The Impact of Coffee on Sleep
How late can you drink coffee? While coffee has many benefits including high amounts of antioxidants and nutrients, a lower risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and improved brain function and mood, this popular beverage does have a dark side. Consuming coffee regularly leads to higher caffeine tolerance, meaning that you will need more and more coffee to get the same effects as before. And, if you stop drinking coffee, you might experience withdrawal symptoms like irritation and headaches. One of the major drawbacks to drinking coffee is that it could be having a negative impact on your sleep quality.
A study conducted by researchers from the Sleep Disorders and Research Centre at Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State College of Medicine in the US analysed the disrupting effects of caffeine on sleep when coffee is consumed at different points throughout the day. The study included twelve healthy male and female participants who were all normal sleepers who consumed a moderate amount of caffeine on a regular basis. Throughout the study, they maintained normal sleep routines and slept between 6.5 to 9 hours per night without any daytime naps.
During the study, the participants were given a fixed dose of caffeine or a placebo at six hours before, three hours before, and just before bedtime. They were given 400mg of caffeine – equivalent to around four cups of coffee. Researchers found that when given three hours before or just before bedtime, the caffeine significantly disturbed sleep. Sleep quality was seriously impacted by the consumption of caffeine at all three points, with participants in the research group spending much more time awake at night compared to the placebo group, including when caffeine was consumed six hours before bedtime.
How Late is Too Late?
When it comes to the cut-off time for drinking coffee, everybody will vary. Some people might find that they can drink coffee up until around dinner time before it interferes with their sleep while others can drink it right before going to bed and feel nothing. Some people are highly sensitive to the caffeine and might find that any coffee after the morning is over is going to be something that they pay for later on when trying to get to sleep.
To determine the latest time to drink coffee, it’s first important to understand the length of time that caffeine stays in the bloodstream for. Experts suggest that caffeine reaches its peak within your bloodstream around 30-50 minutes after consuming it. It then takes around three to five hours for half of the dose to be eliminated from your system. After this time, you will still have caffeine in your system, but this will reduce each hour. Based on this, it’s suggested that you should stop drinking coffee no less than six hours before you plan to go to bed.
What Time to Cut Out Coffee?
If you search online for sleep tips, you’ll probably find plenty of advice recommending no caffeine after 2PM. If you love coffee and can’t imagine not drinking it after this time, it can be discouraging to hear. However, the truth is that this time isn’t a cut-and-dry solution for everybody, and it all depends on your normal time for going to bed. If you tend to go to bed very early, cutting out caffeine after 2PM is likely going to be effective for you since you’ll be in bed around six hours after drinking coffee for the last time that day. However, most adults go to bed much later than 8PM, meaning that cutting out caffeine after 2PM isn’t always realistic. Instead, consider when you plan to go to bed and adjust your caffeine cut-off time to six hours before this point. It’s also worth considering the amount of coffee you drink. Drinking coffee at night is unlikely to have a huge effect on somebody who has built up a larger tolerance to coffee compared to somebody who rarely drinks it.
Flushing Caffeine Out of Your System
While caffeine can be a good stimulant to get you going in the morning, too much caffeine can lead to the jitters, which include symptoms like nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. It can be easy to lose track of how many cups of coffee you have had or how late you are drinking it, but the good news is that there are some things that you can do to speed up the elimination of caffeine from your body - including drinking water or herbal tea to flush it out - reduce the jitters, and make it easier for you to get to sleep.
Should You Limit Coffee?
Limiting the number of cups of coffee that you drink per day is a good way to make sure that you’re not going past your latest time to drink coffee based on when you go to bed. Since how late can you drink coffee will be personal to you based on your bedtime and potentially your caffeine tolerance, it’s worth coming up with a number of cups that you think you will have had before your cut-off time. Ideally, experts recommend drinking no more than four cups of coffee per day. In the average person, any more than this has a higher risk of leading to the jitters and trouble sleeping at night, although if you do have a very high tolerance to caffeine, you might find that you are able to manage more without any adverse side effects.
How to Make the Most of Coffee without Affecting Your Sleep
Even though coffee can have an impact on your sleep, this doesn’t mean that you need to cut it out of your diet completely. Drinking coffee can have a number of health benefits, and many people find that it’s the best way to wake themselves up and feel more alert in the morning. However, managing your coffee consumption is important to make sure that you’re not suffering with insomnia and disturbed sleep from drinking this popular beverage.
Set a Cut Off Time: Set a cut off time for drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages for at least six hours before bedtime. As mentioned in the study referenced above, caffeine consumed at six hours before you go to bed can still impact your sleep quality, so ideally, give yourself a little bit more time since caffeine can take a while to wear off.
Limit the Coffee You Drink: Experts recommend limiting the amount of coffee that you drink to four cups per day. 400mg of caffeine per day is the recommended maximum for adults. Drinking more than this can lead to symptoms such as irritability and anxiety in most people.
Reduce Caffeine Throughout the Day: Chances are that drinking coffee is going to benefit you most first thing in the morning when you’re feeling tired and groggy and need a pick-me-up. This is the best time to drink coffee if you need it, since it leaves plenty of time for the caffeine to leave your system before you are getting in bed at night. If you want to drink more coffee throughout the day, switching to half-caf and then decaf is a good way to gradually reduce your intake to that your body is free from caffeine by the evening.
You might love to drink coffee, but chances are that you also love getting a good night’s sleep. While coffee can be a great way to get an energy boost in the morning, drinking it too late into the day or in the evening can cause an energy boost at a time when you don’t need it.