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How does caffeine affect sleep patterns?

Caffeine’s role in sleep disruption is well founded and well known, but it’s also highly variable. Indeed, some people can drink a double espresso after supper and fall straight to sleep half an hour later; yet others have to be incredibly careful about the caffeine consumption particularly drinking coffee in the afternoon or evening or they’ll be up for hours trying to sleep.

One thing we can all agree on is that caffeine is consistently great at treating the symptom of sleepiness, but it can actually lead to long term fatigue and sleepiness by disrupting sleep patterns.

But by how much?

Swiss research points to caffeine affecting sleep with just 200mg of caffeine consumed by subjects in the morning still featuring in electroencephalograms monitoring brain wave activity in the evening. This isn’t to say that the effects were strong enough to affect sleep in a significant way, but more that if the subject is more sensitive to caffeine, there is a potential for sleep disruption even with caffeine consumed much earlier in the day.

And there’s another important factor – your chronotype?

The best way to describe what a chronotype is with a question: are you an owl or a lark? Your genetics will denote how your body clock is more prone to - to be up with lark or down with the lark.

So, if you are a lark or a “morning person”, your body clock is synced to have more energy earlier in the day and the caffeine may disrupt your sleeping patterns. Conversely, owls or “night people” will not feel the effects so much of caffeine consumed earlier in the day.

Caffeine can also affect our sleep quality. So far the research points to caffeine having no effect on REM sleep (unlike some other drugs and narcotics) , but decreases Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep, which constitutes 20% of our daily sleep as well as being some of our most restorative sleep periods (which contributes to those mornings when you really feel that you’ve had restful sleep).

At Decadent Decaf Coffee Company, we welcome more comprehensive research on the science of sleep and caffeine. It is sensible to be more aware of the possible effects of caffeine on sleep quality.

Two ways of doing this is either blending decaffeinated coffee with regular coffee, such as a 50-50 half caff blend, to reduce your caffeine intake; or consuming more decaf coffee particularly after midday to mitigate the effects of caffeine on sleep quality

 

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