Is Your Morning Brew Sabotaging your Sleep?

“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day-until I’ve had my coffee, you better stay out of my way.”  Can you relate?

While I’ll never give up my beloved a.m. brew, I do have to keep an eye on my caffeine intake throughout the day if I want a good night’s sleep. That liquid energy can pack a punch that lingers much longer than we realize.

Here’s how it works: Caffeine is a sneaky stimulant that triggers our stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. An excess of those guys suppresses our sleep-promoting melatonin levels. Caffeine also blocks the receptors for adenosine, that chemical that builds up during the day to induce sleepiness at night. Blocking those receptors tricks our brains into thinking we’re not tired yet.

So, while a morning dose may just perk you up, too much later on can seriously backfire once you’re trying to catch zzz’s. Caffeine has a half-life of 6-8 hours, meaning if you have a cup at 3 pm, half of it is still circulating at 11 pm when you’re trying to fall asleep. No wonder you’re wide awake and admiring your ceiling fan!

Of course, people metabolize caffeine differently based on genetics, age, medication use, etc. I have friends who can slam espresso before bed no problem, while a tiny amount in the afternoon gives me insomnia. As we get older, our tolerance also tends to decrease – I went from being able to drink coffee any time in my 20s to having a strict 10 am cut-off now.

Besides that morning latte, caffeine can sneak up on you in sodas, teas, energy drinks, chocolate and even some medications. An 8 oz coffee has about 95 mg caffeine, but a 12 oz cola or energy drink can pack 40-85 mg. Those tiny 2 oz energy shots? A whopping 200 mg of caffeine! Dark chocolate also contains around 24 mg per ounce.

If you suspect caffeine is the culprit behind your sleep struggles, it may be time to slowly wean yourself off or set a caffeine curfew. You can gradually mix in decaf with your regular brew, or substitute with herbal teas, lemon water, turmeric golden milk lattes, or dandelion root “coffee” alternatives.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s tough – caffeine withdrawal is very real with headaches, fatigue and crankiness galore. But getting that stimulant under control can mean the difference between watching infomercials at 3 am and actually sleeping like a baby. Your body will thank you!

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