Myths & Facts About Caffeine & Sleep
Your spouse is fine having an after-dinner espresso and still falls asleep easily, but you toss and turn for hours after a 4 p.m. cup of tea.
Just like some people can eat ice cream sundaes and stay slim while others seem to gain weight at the mere mention of them, every body is different.
If you’re struggling to understand what you’ve heard about caffeine and sleep, here are some myths and facts:
“Don’t have chocolate or coffee-flavored ice cream before bed.”
Myth (sort of). Just don’t overdo it on the portions, says Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep medicine doctor, psychologist and author of the upcoming book The Power of When. You would have to eat a 4-pound chocolate bar to consume enough caffeine to have that big of an affect on sleeping, he says. The caffeine content in coffee ice cream is also minimal, Dr. Breus says. Just keep in mind that while one small scoop is probably fine for the average person, three big scoops of coffee mocha chip ice cream could impact your ability to fall asleep easily.
“I swapped my ‘coffee and cigarettes’ habit for just coffee. It won’t interfere with sleep.”
Myth. While it’s great that you’ve taken charge of your health by ditching the smokes, keep in mind that smokers tend to process caffeine faster than nonsmokers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Quit smoking and caffeine can stay in your bloodstream longer — in fact, caffeine levels could double, according to research in the journal Addictive Behavior.
“Caffeine intake is associated with smoking, it was true then, and it is true now,” says Dr. Jose Colon, a sleep specialist and founder of Paradise Sleep, an organization dedicated to education in sleep health.
Nicotine withdrawal has also been associated with insomnia, says Dr. Colon, who has his own theory about that. “To smoke you need to have deep exhalations. The deep exhalations are calming. When one stops smoking, they stop deep exhaling,” he says. Perhaps meditation and breathing exercises could help, he suggests.
“Taking birth control pills may impact how caffeine is metabolized in your system.”
Truth. Women on birth control pills who love an afternoon java fix could find themselves impacted more than women who aren’t using oral contraceptives, says Dr. Colon. “Caffeine in morning is fine. A cup of coffee after lunch is common, but if you are on birth control, that after-lunch coffee may stay in you longer,” potentially impacting sleep.
“My pre-workout supplement is used up during exercise so it doesn’t impact sleep.”
Myth. Workout supplements often contain stimulants that offer a boost of energy. If the workout includes strength training instead of aerobic exercise, the stimulant won’t leave your system as quickly, says Dr. Breus.
“If you are going to a hard-core spin class or you’re doing a good hard run, you will clip through that metabolically pretty fast, but if you’re lifting weights … and not using it for explosive energy, it’s more likely to stay in your system, which makes it tough to unwind and fall asleep as you normally would at night,” he says. Skip the pre-workout supplements or energy drinks before an afternoon or evening session, and especially if it’s a weightlifting workout.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds with SleepIQ® technology inside adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. SleepIQ technology tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep and how sleep affects your life. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.