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Is coffee before bed a bad idea?

Is caffeine linked to insomnia? 

My favorite time to drink a cup of coffee (besides always) isn't when I roll out of bed — it's around 8 p.m., after I've had dinner and I'm winding down for the day. There's nothing better than snuggling up on my couch with my pups with a steaming hot cup of joe in my hand — and maybe a cookie for dessert, too. 

The best part? I'm in bed and asleep by 10 most nights (Yeah, I go to bed early, get over it). I don't have any secret method to my madness, and no, I'm not drinking decaf. I'm able to sleep right after I've had coffee, but I know that's not how all people operate. So is coffee before bed a bad idea? Honestly, it depends on your own personal circadian rhythm. 

What does the research say? 

There are tons of studies on the effects of caffeine before sleep. One study in particular focused on caffeine consumption 6 hours, three hours, and mere minutes before going to sleep, and they measured sleep time and sleep efficiency. They found that caffeine consumed at these times had a huge impact on sleep — not only just trying to fall asleep, but overall quality of sleep. 

Another study found that drinking a double espresso three hours before bed delayed the production of melatonin in your brain, which is responsible for helping you fall asleep. 

Researchers are also looking at individual sleep patterns — after all, no two sleep patterns are the same. They found that caffeine intake at night has worse impacts for people who get up early than for people to tend to sleep in.

Caffeine intake has also been linked to insomnia, which results in trouble falling and staying asleep. If you consume more than the suggested amount of caffeine a day (about three 8-ounce cups a day) you may experience symptoms of insomnia. 

So why are some people able to sleep right after coffee?

For people, like me, who can pass out after a cup of coffee, there's a scientific reason. Adenosine, a neurotransmitter that causes fatigue when you aren't receiving enough in your brain, makes you sleepy when caffeine wears off. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in your brain, so once the caffeine wears off, you'll have a buildup of it and will feel sleepy. 

The conclusion? Test what works for you. 

No two people respond to caffeine the same way — some are more sensitive to it than others. Since I sip on coffee all day, every day, I'm not sensitive to its effects. Others are more sensitive to caffeine's stimulant effects, which in result may make you more jittery and unable to fall asleep at the end of the day. 

Based on research, ingesting caffeine during the day is a bad idea if you already have trouble falling asleep. So if you think coffee is affecting your sleep, try out a few methods to see what helps. A few tips include: 

  • Drink no more than 400mg of caffeine a day 
  • Stop drinking coffee after 2 p.m.
  • Try drinking coffee at a different time of the day
  • Drink decaf or tea if you need a pick-me-up in the afternoon

But if you're a big coffee drinker, also be careful of the effects of caffeine withdrawal — ironically, cutting down significantly on caffeine can also cause sleep issues. 

My advice? The next time you're tired, drink coffee and then take a nap. Seriously, it'll help.  

Related: Sleepy after coffee? Here's the fix.

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