Is that even possible? How can this drink – a stimulant designed to keep you awake and alert – help anyone who’s having trouble sleeping? The answer lies in how you use coffee. Caffeine is a potentially dangerous drug, but there are ways to take advantage of its benefits – yes, even if you’re an insomniac.
The Half-Life of Coffee
If you want to take full advantage of the effects of coffee, you have to fully understand how our body processes it. You have to know about caffeine and its half-life. In most regular, healthy adults, the half-life of caffeine is 6 hours.
Of course, this varies according to age, lifestyle, how comfortable your mattress is (Yes, it matters too!) weight, diet, etc., but 6 hours is the average. This means that it takes 6 hours for your body to reduce the amount of the coffee that you drank in half. In these first hours, the effects of coffee are at their strongest.
Here’s how half-life works: say you drink 100mg of caffeine at 6AM – at 12PM, it’ll be reduced to 50mg. At 6PM, it’ll be halved again – reduced to 25mg. By around 12AM or midnight, the remaining amount of caffeine in your system will just be 12.5mg.
As you can already tell, it’s going to take even more 6-hour increments to fully get rid of the caffeine. Yes, depending on the amount of coffee you drank, it can stay in your system for more than 24 hours. The good thing is that you can prevent this through careful planning.
Planning and Moderation
If you’re an insomniac, your want of coffee probably stems from the morning lethargy that comes with sleep deprivation. And morning is the best time to indulge in some caffeine. Go ahead and drink coffee, but limit it to half a cup.
Don’t be afraid to ask your barista how much caffeine is inside the cup that you’re ordering. It’s your right to know, especially if you’re sensitive to coffee. Try drinking just 30 to 50mg of caffeine – half or even less than half a regular cup.
It’ll give you the boost you need to fight off the lethargy from being sleep deprived without affecting your ability to fall asleep before bedtime.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
There’s nothing you can do about coffee’s natural half-life, but you can do something to lessen its effects: drink more water. If you’re overly sensitive to caffeine but can’t avoid drinking it, you can at least control its effects by putting more water through the organ that’s primarily responsible for processing the coffee: the liver.
Caffeine can actually make your blood a bit thicker, further affecting the liver’s cleansing functions. You can reduce this effect by simply hydrating and urinating more. There’s nothing like tons of water to combat a caffeine overdose. The more water you consume, the less heavy lifting your liver has to go through.
Exercise on Caffeine
The short term effects of coffee are increased alertness, improved cognitive ability, more overall energy, and better focus. Apart from being more efficient at work, these boosts can allow your body to perform better during exercise.
On caffeine, you can execute movements more precisely, allowing you to work your muscle groups better and with more coordination. Unfortunately, it also triggers the body to lose more water. If you’re going to use caffeine to boost exercise, compensate by drinking more water as well.
Just stop drinking anything about 30 minutes before performing any vigorous exercise to give the liquids time to go down completely (and not come back up again because of physical activity).
A bit of caffeine can be a good way to encourage any couch potatoes to actually get up and exercise, which is good because exercise is one of the most recommended and effective ways to regulate sleep patterns. The National Sleep Foundation itself recommends doing at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise to enjoy its sleep-regulating effects.
Just remember to hydrate more if you’re going to use caffeine as an exercise aid – drink water 30 minutes before exercising, and immediately again after you’re done working out.
Randy Vera is a freelance writer, licensed nurse, and sleep enthusiast from Los Angeles, California. After traveling through SE Asia to learn of his heritage, he joined a few of his colleagues at One Bed Mattress. He practices Zen meditation daily and prefers living a natural health lifestyle.
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