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When Is It Too Late To Drink Coffee? The Surprising Answer!

man drinking coffee at home

Around the world, drinking coffee is a morning ritual shared by millions of people. Caffeine is a stimulant and nootropic, helping you to focus, concentrate and, in many situations, stay awake (even when your body is telling you to sleep).

Knowing how coffee perks them up, many coffee drinkers ask the same question about its effects at night, specifically, when is it too late to drink coffee? The answer, according to multiple studies, is that you should stop drinking coffee 6 hours before you plan to go to sleep.1 Caffeine can interfere with the normal sleep mechanisms in your body for up to 6 hours. In other words, if you try sleeping before 6 hours have passed after your last cup of coffee, it will probably be more difficult than usual. If you’re curious about how and why coffee and its caffeine affect your sleep and want to learn more about this mega-popular morning beverage, read on. We have detailed data, insights, and some advice below!

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When Do Most People Drink Coffee?

Surprisingly, the United States is number 26 on the list of countries that drink the most coffee. Finland is #1! Whatever rank your particular country might have, most people in countries that consume a lot of coffee do it first thing in the morning, usually within minutes of waking up. Not only is drinking coffee in the morning traditional but it’s also believed to be the best time of day to drink it since caffeine, as we’ve learned, is a stimulant and nootropic.

a cup of coffee
Image Credit: Anastasia Eremina, Unsplash

When Is The Best Time of Day To Drink Coffee?

According to dietitians and nutritionists, you should drink coffee about 2 to 3 hours after you get out of bed. Drinking coffee right after you wake up can cause jitters and hyper-alertness and leave you exhausted only a few hours later, which is right around the middle of the day. By giving your body a few hours to be awake first, you reduce the chance of those java-related problems.

Why Wait To Drink Coffee in the Morning?

Coffee might not be a good idea right after waking up because, during the first 1 to 3 hours, your body produces more cortisol than usual. Your body releases more cortisol, aka the “stress hormone,” in the morning to help you wake up, focus, and be alert. In other words, a powerful stimulant is already coursing through your bloodstream first thing in the morning.

Adding caffeine to this situation can have the effect of increasing your levels of cortisol even further. The increased cortisol levels, in turn, can cause a stress reaction in your body. You’ll feel hyper-energized for a few hours but exhausted when the cortisol and caffeine finally work their way out of your bloodstream.

woman drinking coffee before breakfast
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay

What Happens When You Drink Coffee Too Late?

Drinking coffee too late in the day can be problematic because it interferes with melatonin production in your body. This factor is critical as melatonin is intimately involved in running your internal alarm clock, otherwise known as your circadian rhythm. Drinking coffee too late can play havoc with your sleep-wake cycle and make it almost impossible to get some sleep, at least for the first few hours.

Falling asleep isn’t the only problem that drinking coffee too late can cause. If you don’t sleep well at night, getting up on time the following day can be extremely difficult. Plus, you’ll be groggy most of the day as your body tries to compensate for your previous night of lost sleep. Even if you manage to fall asleep, since caffeine is a diuretic, it increases your need to go to the bathroom. This increased need can wake you up from your fitful slumber, often more than once, making the next morning even more stressful.

Drinking coffee late one time can cause all the above problems but likely won’t make a huge mess of your life. However, suppose you get into the habit of drinking coffee late every day. In that case, the caffeine could seriously disrupt your circadian rhythm and start causing various health problems.

How To Go to Sleep After Drinking Coffee

If you’ve made the mistake of drinking coffee too late, don’t sweat it too hard. Below we have a few remedies that might help and, in any case, won’t hurt your efforts to get some shut-eye.

Meditation

Meditation can be effective in helping you fall asleep by calming your mind. If you already know how to meditate, use the tools you’ve learned and take about 20 to 30 minutes to get your chakras aligned. If not, go to YouTube and follow the instructions on a meditation video.

Read a Book

Another way to de-stress your body if you’ve had coffee too late is to get comfy in your bed and read a book. Moving your eyes back and forth on the page can make them feel “heavy” and help you feel sleepy. Amazingly, reading a book before bed at any time can reduce your stress level by almost 70%, according to studies.

Take a Walk

If you live in a safe neighborhood, a short, brisk walk around the block can be very helpful after you’ve had caffeine late in the day. A walk helps your body to relax and your mind to de-stress. It also uses up some energy which can help you fall asleep faster.

woman walking outdoor
Image Credit: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels

Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode

Nothing is more disruptive to sleep than a smartphone constantly beeping with messages and alerts. The best thing to do is put your phone on “airplane mode” so that all of those beeps, buzzers, and alerts are silenced until the next morning. Plus, looking at your phone screen before sleeping can cause even more sleep problems. Putting it aside is a great way to sleep better, even if you haven’t had a late latte.

Lower the Temperature in your Bedroom

While this tip doesn’t pertain specifically to caffeine, lowering the temperature in your room is an excellent way to fall asleep faster. Your body naturally cools down at night, and you’ll sleep better if the temperature is between 60 to 70° Fahrenheit.

Use a White Noise App

There are free white noise apps you can listen to on your smartphone, computer, or laptop. They typically feature a fan, water, wind, and rain noises that block out other sounds and help block your thoughts. Like some of the other methods above, using white noise can help you fall asleep faster.

Two Things Worse for Your Sleep than Coffee

We wanted to briefly touch on two substances that are somewhat worse when it comes to affecting your sleep. They are cigarettes and alcohol, which many people traditionally enjoy after dark. Both nicotine and alcohol interfere with your body’s circadian rhythm and can make getting and staying asleep more difficult. One study even showed that, while both alcohol and cigarettes interrupted and caused worse sleep, caffeine did not. In short, if you want to sleep well, stay away from coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol within a few hours of bedtime.

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Final Thoughts

When is it too late to drink coffee? As we learned today, you should take your last swig of coffee no later than 6 hours before your regular bedtime. That way, the caffeine has 6 hours to leave your body and stop interfering with your sleep cycle. Some health professionals also advise drinking your first coffee a few hours after getting up, which goes against tradition but might be better for your overall health. Whatever you decide about what time to drink your last (and first) cup of coffee every day, we hope the information we’ve provided today has been genuinely valuable and answered all your caffeine-related questions.


Featured Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska, Pexels

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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