I’m going to talk about the big C today. You know, that evil, addictive drug that is responsible for all your sleeping problems (at least, that’s what some would have you believe).
Because that’s the most common advice people get when they say they can’t sleep: you should stop drinking coffee.
You read this in about every insomnia book, it’s also the first thing your doctor will say, and also about every one of your friends will have this great piece of advice: Just cut back on drinking coffee.
These are also usually the people who drink coffee themselves and don’t have any problem sleeping, which makes their advice all the more infuriating.
As a result, everyone with insomnia has tried at one time to completely stop drinking coffee. And did it help in any way? I guess not, because you’re still reading this.
People stop drinking coffee and they still can’t sleep. They quit for a month, and they’re still unable to fall asleep. Maybe caffeine stays in your bloodstream for years? Maybe you have to quit a year, or even forever. Maybe you have some sort of allergy against coffee? I doubt it though.
And a select few may be able to quit for an entire year. Or they switch to decaf (which tastes horrible for some reason). But no matter what, they still can’t sleep. (Oh my god, even decaf has too much caffeine!)
So does quitting coffee help? Is it the cure-all for sleeping problems?
My answer: no, it isn’t.
Caffeine, even if you drink a ton of it, will probably be out of your bloodstream after a day or so.
But a lot of people quit drinking coffee, and they still can’t sleep. So it must be something else than just the coffee, right?
The thing is, I was never able to quit coffee for long periods. I used to smoke cigarettes, and I was able to quit without difficulty. I never understood why people have so much trouble quitting smoking.
But, on the other hand, to me, coffee is a lot more addictive than cigarettes. I was able to quit the black gold for a while. Then I switched to decaf, because I missed the flavor. But guess what, the flavor of decaf is horrible, so I went for the real deal again. I was totally addicted to that stuff and to this day, I still am.
What I want to tell you in this article is, that even if you have insomnia, I can say with confidence you can still drink coffee.
Because come on, who wants to give up his cup of morning joe? That’s just inhuman!
There are however, some conditions to drinking coffee.
The most important one: if you drink coffee, be sure to drink it with food.
That’s because coffee, on its own, causes the body to release stress hormones, which absolutely positively mess up your sleep. However, if you eat some food with it (and thus, supply fuel to your body), two things happen.
Firstly, because it is digested with food, the caffeine is released more slowly in the bloodstream, so stress hormones won’t spike.
Second, the glucose provided with the meal blunts the stress response. Because there is enough fuel in the body present, a catabolic reaction is not needed and the body doesn’t need to break itself down. There is therefore less stress in your body, and less anxiety in your mind, which will prevent any sleep issues.
The stress hormones, by the way, are what make you feel energetic after drinking coffee. If you drink coffee, cortisol is released in the bloodstream, which gives you more energy. However, this same process also keeps you awake. But it’s possible to drink coffee and still have a good night’s sleep.
If you don’t have any food or you want to drink coffee by itself, at least put some sugar and cream in it, which will help equally well. However, as for me, I prefer the pure taste of black coffee. I used to put sugar and cream in my coffee for a while, but I quickly quit that, because it ruined the taste for me. So now I just eat meals with my coffee.
And guess what? I sleep just fine. In fact, I have trouble staying awake even despite drinking coffee at 10 PM.
Now, coffee by itself clearly elevates stress hormones, and quitting, at first glance, seems like a sensible idea. But the thing is that if you can’t sleep, there are probably more important factors that play a role in your sleeping problem than just a few cups (unless you drink half a gallon of coffee a day, you might wanna cut back a bit then).
Also, the health benefits of coffee are manifold, which by itself is reason enough to drink it. Coffee is full of healthy stuff, and a cup a day will most certainly help keep the doctor away.
And there’s one final thing about coffee you should know, and that you could actually use to your advantage, which is that caffeine actually acts as a circadian signaler. In practice, this means that if you drink coffee in the morning, this will tell your brain it’s daytime.
This makes it a very good idea to drink coffee with your breakfast, and a very bad one to drink it at dinnertime. Drinking coffee in the morning will strengthen your circadian rhythm and help you sleep better at night.
So there you have it: coffee is not the devil some people make it out to be. It can be quite helpful in small doses, but can wreck havoc when you overdo it, which goes for about every chemical out there.
So, when you resume your coffee drinking habit, don’t drink gallons of the stuff. Maybe three cups a day tops.
Just know that if you adopt the right lifestyle habits, you can still drink coffee and sleep fine. If you strengthen your circadian rhythm and give your body what it needs, you will have no trouble sleeping whatsoever.
This one is quite easy and straightforward, and I’ll just call it the coffee perscription.
Have a cup of coffee with your big morning breakfast. Maybe have some more at noon, during lunch break.
And preferably, try to get your hands on some tasty freshly grinded beans.