An exploration of sleep and insomnia, with a single destination in mind:
a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One Fact about Coffee You Won't Like, But Need to Know

By Bill Adler

Every sleep must end.

When the alarm ring burrows into your ears, the morning light stings your eyes, or the cat announces that she’s hungry by walking across your chest, sleep must end. No matter how little or how much sleep you’ve been granted, you will get out of bed.

If, like the billions of sleep deprived humans around the world, your first thought in the morning is “coffee,” your first weak muscled movement is toward the coffee machine, and the first thing that you feel is the burn of uncooled coffee on your lips, you may want to reorder your universe after you read this. First thing in the morning is not the best time to drink coffee. In fact, it’s a bad time to drink coffee.

You are welcome to stop reading this article now. You are welcome to treat this article just as you would any television or movie spoiler. In fact, if I were you, I would stop reading now because what follows may forever change the way you interact with mornings.

But if you’re brave, if the truth trumps everything, and if you want to be more alert, then here’s what you need to know.

Our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, which is a good hormone. Cortisol increases our wakefulness, and is a useful part of our circadian rhythm. (Cortisol is also also known as the “stress hormone,” because our bodies make more of it when we’re stressed or fearful.)

We produce a relatively large amount of cortisol about one hour after we open our eyes. Cortisol is our body’s way of waking us up in the morning. Yay. The problem is if you drink coffee, or another caffeinated beverage during cortisol peaks, the power of caffeine is diminished. This also means that you build up a tolerance for caffeine, and need more caffeine for coffee to be effective. For all practical purposes, that first-thing-in-the-morning cup of coffee transforms coffee into decaf.

Caffeine also interferes with our body’s production of cortisol, making us more reliant on caffeine. But because caffeine’s effects are weakened when we drink coffee during cortisol peaks, coffee isn’t as reliable as we wish it would be.

You should wait one hour after waking up for your first cup of coffee.

What does that mean for morning coffee junkies? If your morning routine involves getting coffee into your system as fast as you possibly can, here are some alternative morning scenarios to consider:

Take a shower. Showers also help us wake up.

Drink decaf. It may be that it’s not the caffeine in your morning coffee that you crave, but having that warm cup in your hand that makes getting out of bed tolerable.

Power through the first hour. Tell yourself that you are going to have coffee, but just not yet.

AsapSCIENCE created a video explaining more about why when you drink coffee —and when you don’t— is important:



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