How Does Caffeine Affect Your Sleep?

More people on the planet drink coffee than don’t. In America, 64% of us are regular coffee drinkers, according to a 2020 study. Coffee drinkers in America average 3 cups per day! That sounds like a lot, but America is still behind Europe in coffee consumption. Our daily habit is good news though because drinking coffee has been linked with some great health benefits: better blood sugar levels, weight loss, prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and more. It may even help fight depression.

However, there are some adverse effects of this popular drug – probably the most prominent being that it hurts your sleep cycle. 

That might not sound like news to most. Of course, coffee keeps us awake. That’s why we’re drinking it! But studies have shown that even if you consume your coffee only earlier in the day, it can still have an impact on your sleep cycle. Let’s dig a little deeper to find out why.

Caffeine and Your Brain

First, let’s understand what coffee does to our brains. There’s an important chemical called adenosine in our brains that makes us feel tired. It attaches to a little receptor in there perfectly fit just for adenosine. Do you know what else attaches to that same receptor? Caffeine! So throughout the day, this sleepy neurotransmitter builds up with nowhere to go. All of its receptors are being occupied by your morning cup. When the caffeine wears off and those nicely fit receptors become available, adenosine floods them all at once – causing that afternoon crash. 

What’s even less understood is that caffeine has a six-hour half-life. If you have a cup of coffee at 4:00 pm, half of it is still in your system at 10:00 pm when you’re winding down for bed! That caffeine could still be having an effect on certain organs and systems, preventing you from falling asleep or entering the deep stages of sleep that every human needs.

Establishing a Healthy Cycle

If you’re waking up in the morning feeling like you’re not well-rested, it could be that you’re stuck in a bad sleep and caffeine cycle. You wake up tired and then consume more of your favorite drug. You experience more crashes in the afternoon and drink coffee later in the day. You get poor quality sleep and repeat this same pattern the next day.

Thankfully, this extremely common issue can be solved with a few lifestyle changes and an evaluation of your sleep quality. That’s where we can help.

If you’re concerned about your quality of sleep, schedule a visit to be evaluated at Whitney Sleep Center. We encourage you to set up an appointment at one of our locations. Get better sleep: contact us today at or visit our website.