Fact vs. Fiction: Caffeine and Sleep
Your friends are fine having an after-dinner cup of espresso, yet you find yourself tossing and turning all night if you have a cup of coffee any time after 3 p.m. What’s up with that?
Just like some people can eat cake every day and still not tip the scale past their ideal weight while others gain 2 pounds just looking at an ice cream sundae, everybody’s body is different when it comes to caffeine intake and getting a good night’s rest.
If you’re having a hard time discerning fact vs. fiction when it comes to caffeine and sleep, you’re definitely not alone. Check out these myths and truths about how java might (or might not) be wreaking havoc on your ability to catch some Zs:
“Chocolate or coffee ice cream before bedtime will keep you awake.”
Fiction (kind of). According to sleep medicine experts, the key to indulging in these types of sweets before turning in for the night is keeping moderation in mind. You’d have to eat 4 pounds of chocolate in order to get a big enough dose of caffeine to impact your quality of sleep. And the content of caffeine in coffee-flavored ice cream is also on the low side. Just keep in mind that while a small scoop of chocolate or coffee ice cream before bed is probably fine for most people, chowing down on 3 huge scoops of either of these sweets will almost certainly affect your ability to fall (and stay) asleep.
“I ditched cigarettes but kept coffee – I no longer have to worry about sleep issues.”
Fiction. First of all, congrats on taking charge of your health and dropping the cancer sticks! Having said that, you still need to keep track of your caffeine intake – sorry to break it to you. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), smokers tend to process caffeine differently than non-smokers, as caffeine stays in the systems of those that don’t smoke for longer than those that do. That means that caffeine levels in your bloodstream can now be double what they were when you smoked.
“Birth control pills have an impact on how caffeine is processed in the system.”
Fact. Women’s health experts have found that oral contraceptives are directly linked to the length of time that caffeine stays in your bloodstream. This means that women that are taking birth control pills need to be extra conscious of caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening, as they may find that their after-lunch coffee break is negatively impacting their sleep. If you’re on the pill, you should stick with consuming caffeine only before noon, just to be safe (and to be able to sleep soundly).
“My pre-workout supplement pumps me up for the gym, but it won’t keep me up.”
Fiction. Most supplements that are made to be taken before a workout include some type of stimulant to increase energy, and if your exercise routine consists of mostly strength training with no cardio, that stimulant will stay in your system even after you leave the gym. This can result in trouble falling asleep, which is never fun! Consider skipping the pre-workout supplements or energy-boosting drinks before any evening gym visits – especially if you plan to ditch the treadmill in favor of the free weights.