Can't Sleep - Coffee, Tea and Insomnia


Why can't you sleep after drinking coffee?

We all know coffee and sleep doesn't go together. But tea does -which seems strange since tea contains the same stimulant as coffee (caffeine) although in lower doses.

The answer is that tea contains two alkaloids, which are thought to relax the smooth muscles whilst coffee stimulates the heart, and the respiratory system. Tea thus soothes you more than it stimulates. You can also find caffeine in chocolate, especially dark chocolate, and in some nuts, and of course in many soft drinks. It can also be found in some pain killers and energy drinks.

This happens when you drink coffee:

• Your heart rate goes up and your Central Nervous System is stimulated.

• Your blood pressure goes up.

• Less blood flows to your skin.

• Your kidneys work harder - possibly making you dehydrated.

• The brain releases more Dopamine.

• Fatty acids are released from fat tissue.

What does all this mean then? Simplified and in short - you feel more awake and alert! You can even feel anxious and over stimulated, some persons get anxious and "hyper".

Caffeine also counteracts the build-up of a natural brain substance called adenosine, which builds up during daytime and which promotes tiredness and sleep.

Now, this is exactly the opposite of what you want when you are getting ready for sleep.

Difficulty going to sleep is a common reaction after coffee, because the brain's normal routine before bedtime is to produce melatonin, which helps to relax us, and to production of adrenaline.

Coffee however, suppresses melatonin and increases the production of adrenaline. In other words, exactly the opposite of what you want!

Some studies have shown that if you drink coffee before going to bed you'll take about twice as long to go to sleep than if you drink decaf coffee. And of course, since coffee might make you anxious and make you feel "hyper" it's not helpful ...

When To Stop Drinking Coffee - Or Caffeinated Drinks

Caffeine is readily absorbed, and you'll have peak concentrations about an hour after you've had your cup. How long it remains in your system varies a lot between people, a fairly common estimate is that it does take between 3 to 6 hours to disappear.

Why the difference?

Nobody knows, really. Your genes certainly play a role, as does how used you are to it. Persons used to drinking coffee can drink more than someone who drinks it for the first time.

On average most grown-ups in Europe consume about 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, which corresponds to about 2 - 3 cups of coffee a day (or about 8 cups of tea). This includes soft drinks, so even if you don't drink coffee you probably get some caffeine in your system. The average in the US is probably higher, maybe twice or even more.

The coffee may be weaker but the servings are bigger!

A good idea if you know you're sensitive is to avoid coffee the last 3 -4 hours before bedtime. Some people - me included! - can drink coffee quite late and it doesn't have any ill effects at all.

will coffee then make you sleep deprived? Give you sleep problems?

Almost certainly not, unless you drink impressive amounts or are particularly sensitive. There is a lot of evidence now that the amount of sleep you actually need is often less than you think -as long as the quality of sleep is good.

If you like coffee then remember there is evidence that coffee actually has some very good effects, apart from making you more alert. The latest one comes from the "Alzheimers Research Trust", suggesting that maybe caffeine is good for memory!

Earlier studies suggest it can be good for some eye conditions "blepharospasm"), and lower your risk of diabetes, Parkinsons disease and more. No proof, just suggestions, but definitely something to think about...

So don't feel bad if you like coffee!



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