While your daily coffee hit in the morning may be great at giving you the jolt of energy you need to start the day, the opposite is true when it comes to sleep. Sleep is deeply impacted by caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, so just how much is too much?
Stimulants and sleep
There are three major stimulants that can get in the way of you getting the kind of sleep you want and need. How big a presence does the following have in your life?
Rest easy tea and coffee drinkers, you don’t have to give up your favourite beverage completely, but it is worth trying to cut down. Caffeine is found in many products, including coffee, tea, soft drinks and some over the counter medications. Too much caffeine throughout the day or just before bed can block adenosine receptors in the brain which can increase feelings of wakefulness. Adenosine is a chemical that promotes sleep and builds up the longer we’re awake and at its peak creates an urge to sleep.
The ideal time to stop consuming caffeine is right after lunch but if you can’t resist an afternoon cup of tea, then try to stop at least 4-6 hours before bed.
Yet another great reason to give up smoking! Nicotine can increase alertness and we all know alert is the total opposite of what you want to be right before bed.
Have you ever felt a little drowsy the morning after drinking a little too much? While it’s true that alcohol is a sedative and may end up helping you drift off to sleep, the kind of rest you get afterwards isn’t optimal. When our bodies break down alcohol, we don’t achieve a state of restorative sleep and may find ourselves waking up more often. Also, being lulled to sleep due to alcohol is not the same as falling asleep naturally. It has been found that alcohol can suppress REM sleep (our dream sleep) for the first half of the night². Research has shown that REM sleep plays an important role in information and emotional processing.
While sitting down for a cup of tea or enjoying a glass of wine over dinner is great, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re both stimulants that can affect your sleep. You don’t have to go cold turkey but it is worth reviewing how much caffeine, nicotine or alcohol you’re having daily. Think about how to minimise this in order to give yourself the best chance possible of getting quality sleep.
Try to cut down the amount of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol you have in one week. If you’re the kind of person who has three cups of coffee a day, aim to cut down to two for a week and start from there.
Find out how to boost your brain with better sleep.