For many years, I operated on what I thought was the standard advice.
No coffee after 4 pm if I wanted to get a good night’s sleep.
Lately, though, I’ve been hearing different opinions. Some sleep experts believe the last cup of coffee should be much earlier in the day.
Off and on throughout my adult life I’ve struggled with sleep problems.
For the last few years insomnia hasn’t been a problem because I’ve found ways to cope.
Most of the time, I don’t worry at all about getting enough sleep. This is a far cry from before, when the ever present worry about sleeping enough kept me awake.
But every now and then the problem recurs. Especially if I’m under extreme stress. When this happens, I start to wonder how much afternoon coffee affects my sleep.
For me, if I’m in a good sleep cycle, nothing seems to bother me.
However, if my sleep patterns become disturbed, I seem to become much more sensitive.
To coffee and everything else.
So if you have trouble sleeping, what time of day should you stop drinking coffee?
Latest Time To Drink Coffee Before Bed
I’m not a doctor and I can’t give medical advice. But here’s what the experts have to say.
The National Sleep Foundation points out that caffeine can cause insomnia. It also notes that it takes about six hours for the body to process half of the caffeine consumed.
So I’m guessing this means that if you drank a cup of strong black coffee at 4 pm, a large amount is still in your system at 10 pm.
Maybe this is why I’ve seen recommendations not to drink coffee at all in the afternoon.
On a related site called Sleep (dot) org., also run by the National Sleep Foundation, I found some more advice:
- Adults should consume no more than 500 mg of caffeine a day. (This is about equal to four cups of brewed black coffee.)
- Consuming more can interfere with sleep
- Everyone is different. Some people may not be able to tolerate several cups of coffee a day
- If you have trouble sleeping, cut out all forms of caffeine at least four to six hours before you plan to sleep. However, individuals more sensitive to caffeine may need to avoid it for 12 hours.
- Don’t forget that caffeine is also present in soda, tea and chocolate.
- Cut back rather than stop cold turkey. This can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as a headache and lethargy.
So there you have it.
The standard recommendation of no caffeine after 4 pm may not go far enough. Especially if you are already having sleep problems.
It may also not apply to highly sensitive individuals. If you’re like me you may find at different points in your life you can drink caffeine in the afternoon. Other times you can’t.
These recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation are also backed up by scientific research.
One study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that caffeine intake for six hours or less before bedtime can definitely disrupt sleep.
The authors also recommended avoiding this stimulant for at least six hours before you plan to retire.
But the key word you need to remember is “at least.” The six hour rule is a minimum.
For some people, the best practice may be no caffeine for 10 hours. For others eight. For others 12 hours.
This is why it’s good to remember that everyone is different. So get to know your body. Learn how it reacts to caffeine. So it doesn’t keep you up at night.
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Natural Sleep Tips
I used to suffer from chronic and severe insomnia. But no more. I tried so many different things. Some worked. Some didn’t. Some even made the problem worse. But what I did was compiled what worked for me in an easy to follow online course with videos.
I can’t promise my sleep tips work for everyone else. However, I hope they can help people who want to work with their doctor to find natural sleep solutions. Click on the image below for more information.