Let’s discuss key drinks that are detrimental towards your sleep. You will probably be aware of the two drinks we will discuss, but our goal is to inform you of HOW they affect you and then give strategies that will allow you to enjoy them without compromising your sleep.
Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the World. Approximately 90% of Americans consume caffeine in one form or another, every single day. It is a stimulant that is often utilised to mitigate the effects of bad sleep as it blocks the sleep-inducing chemicals (eg. Adenosine) in the brain. Normally, adenosine would accumulate throughout the day and is then reduced when you are at sleep and your body regenerates. Adenosine affects chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain including dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and noradrenaline. Caffeine has a similar molecular structure to adenosine and competes with the adenosine receptors in the brain, and if caffeine is present it will always beat adenosine to the binding site. As a result it blocks adenosine from carrying out its effects and causes the reverse effects to occur. So instead of feeling tired, you now feel energised and alert. The caffeine is acting to mask the natural sleepiness you may have had.
Caffeine is well established with a wide range of positive benefits and is probably one of the most widely studied stimulants, if not the most studied. There is no debating its benefits. However, we must keep in mind that it is a stimulant, and while it can be beneficial in some
instances, if we rely on stimulates then they can greatly affect us long term. Many people today are hooked on this drug and require it daily to function. This in itself is a negative cycle as the caffeine is probably what is reducing your sleep and then you require more caffeine the next day to work and concentrate which becomes a vicious cycle.
When it comes to sleep, it is important to consider the effects caffeine has on your circadian rhythm. Habitual caffeine intake has been shown to affect sleep quality, increased daytime dysfunction, and increased levels of night-time disturbance. One study showed that caffeine abstinence significantly lengthened sleep duration and improved sleep quality. In fact they showed that individuals had less difficulty falling asleep on days when they drank decaffeinated coffee.
Strategy Bedtime and Caffeine:
I am not saying give up coffee or go ‘cold turkey’, but try stay clear of caffeine ~6 hrs before bedtime. The closer you ingest caffeine to bed the greater the impact on your sleep quality. This rule is not only for coffee but also includes your teas (kombucha included). Select a sleep enhancing tea like chamomile or rooibos as they are caffeine free. Caffeine is not necessarily stopping you from getting to sleep but it is affecting your quality of sleep! Keep in mind everyone has varied ability to metabolise caffeine. This can be tested through genetic testing like 23andme. Even if you are a quick metaboliser I would still not be having it much closer than 6 hours before sleep!
Some new research done here in New Zealand will be looking at two genes involved in caffeine metabolism. These genes are; CYP1A2 (determines how quickly you break down drugs in your liver) and the ADORA2A (role in caffeine induced anxiety). Knowing what your genetic description of these two genes are will give you information on how fast or slow you metabolise/breakdown caffeine and your sensitivity to caffeine. This will allow you to tailor your caffeine intake to your genetic makeup to get the greatest effects for your work and performance. The research in genetics and caffeine is new but is a growing field of science and one that holds a lot of potential for high performers. If you want to become apart of this study I can link you with the researches to see if you meet their requirements.
Yup I said the dreaded words detox! If you are heavily reliant on your morning cup of Joe it may be time to say goodbye!
As I mentioned above you should never be reliant on a stimulant, if you are you are, then you are most likely not functioning at your full potential. You are also not getting the caffeine hit you used to love. As with any stimulant abuse or addiction, we end up with a resistance to the initial level we were providing our body. Gradually over time we have to ingest more and more of the stimulate in order to achieve the same response.
The best thing you can do for yourself in this case is have a coffee break, with the aim of removing coffee for 1-2 weeks. Caution if you are regularly having 3+cups per day, I suggest gradually cutting down before detox. Caffeine is addictive, going cold turkey could be to big a shock on the system. The first few days will be hard, trust me! You will get mind numbing headaches, you may lack motivation and energy but stick it out! By the end of the two weeks you will be asking yourself why I didn’t do this sooner. You will no longer be held hostage by your morning coffee, instead you will already be full of energy and ready to go. Now when you require that extra boost of energy coffee will be there to help, but you will receive the full effects of your coffee! (Learn more: OPTIMISE YOUR COFFEE BREAK)
Is it time for a night cap?
Nothing better than relaxing post work and getting that extra bit of help to fall asleep, right?
In fact, 20% of all Americans would agree (American Sleep Foundation), and think that alcohol is beneficial for sleep. While it has been shown to get you you to sleep quicker, what is it doing to the quality of your sleep?
Did you know you get smarter as you sleep this is due to your bodies ability to process memories. This is where short term memories get transferred into long term memories. Memory processing is predominantly affected by varying stages of REM sleep. If you are getting optimal sleep then all is well, but if your sleep is disrupted your health and memories will suffer.
Don’t mistake sleep quantity for sleep quality
Alcohol does get you to sleep faster but at the cost of reducing your REM sleep. With alcohol in your system you won’t be able to fall into deep consistent levels of REM sleep, therefore your brain and body will lack the ability to fully regenerate and to process memories. Hence, the feeling you have when you wake up from a alcohol ladened sleep.
Strategies for Alcohol and Sleep:
I am not here to say give up the bottle, although it would be extremely powerful for your health, longevity and performance if you did…. Instead I want to make you aware of what is occurring in your body when you choose to drink and hopefully help guide you through the times you choose to drink.
While I have just previously said you don’t have to give up the bottle, if you are utilising alcohol in a similar manner to a caffeine (daily or most days) then I would say the same principles apply. In this case: it is time for a detox! You will often find it is not so much about the drink itself instead it is more the habit you need to break. When undergoing a detox it is therefore essential that you find another winding down method to fill this time. Any of the methods mentioned in our previous post around mental and emotional stress are great strategies that could be utilised.
Aim not to drink within a few hours before bed and stay hydrated with electrolytes to combat the electrolyte imbalance as your body retains sodium and expels potassium created with drinking.
- Caffeine and Alcohol both affect sleep quality not necessarily sleep quantity
- If you are reliant on a stimulant like caffeine or alcohol it is time for a detox
- People poses varied abilities to metabolise caffeine based on their genetics (watch this space in science)
- Don’t drink Caffeine with 6 hours before sleep
- Don’t drink Alcohol few hours before sleep and stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte balance