Caffeine and Sleep

Of all the drugs available in the modern World, none is more available, cheap and potentially damaging as caffeine.  We consume caffeine in coffee, teas, energy drinks/soft drinks, over the counter and prescription medications.  Yet little is known of the long term effects on our physical and mental health of caffeine!

What we do know is that in a 24 hour World, caffeine can seem like a friend and harmless “pick me up”.  However there is scientific evidence that caffeine is a major disrupter of our sleep patterns – a disturber or poor sleeping patterns is linked to a much higher risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Why is caffeine so potentially damaging

  1.  Caffiene has a “half life” of between 5 and 7 hours in the average adult – that means for example 7 hours after you have that double expresso, at least half of the original “dose” is still in your body.
  2. Caffiene binds to adenosine receptors in the brain – preventing the hormone adenosine locking onto these sites.  During our waking day adenosine is produced by the Pineal Gland and accumulates until we sleep – this build up drives the desire and ability to sleep.  If adenosine cannot bind to it’s target cells in the brain SLEEP IS IMPOSSIBLE OR DIFFICULT (think of caffeine as the “cuckoo in the nest”).
  3. Adenosine is only cleared with quality sleep of sufficient length (normally about 7 to 8 hours for most adults) – so fractured sleep patterns mean that adenosine residues are always present in the brain of poor sleepers – leaving us feeling drained and tired during the day.
  4. To make matters worse we often deal with the tiredness caused by the incomplete flushing of adenosine from our brain by taking more … yes you’ve guessed it … CAFFIENE.

For a restful night’s sleep, try to take your caffeine fix before 12 noon or switch to non caffeinated alternatives.  At first abstaining from this drug can cause quite a withdrawal – but stick with it and your sleep (and general health) will improve.