An afternoon pick-me-up. Just a quick sip. We’ve all reached for an extra boost of caffeine, whether it’s a hot drink, a dark chocolate bar, or a sugar-loaded snack. For me, it’s right around 2 p.m. where my mind drifts to a fresh cup of coffee. But there’s more than one reason to avoid coffee in the afternoon. That’s right—even if it doesn’t mess with your ability to sleep later that night, it can cause some unnecessary confusion in your body.
For most people, the effects of coffee require about 45 minutes to settle in, and can last from 4 to 6 hours thereafter. For some, this might sound ideal. If I drink a cup of coffee at 2 p.m., then I’ll be productive throughout the remaining hours of the workday, until at least 6 p.m. Sure, caffeine can immediately increase your alertness, and even give you that extra push to stay focused on a task. But overdo it, and there’s another risk: caffeine dependency.
Sleep quality and caffeine
In the long run, this afternoon caffeine consumption can wipe an hour off of your night’s sleep. So whereas you may be allowing your body to rest for a full 8 hours, your mind could take an extra hour to finally find that place of calm. It can give you the shakes if you’ve downed too much. And too much coffee can even hurt your stomach, increase your blood pressure, or lead to heart palpitations.
Caffeine’s effects on melatonin
The hormone that allows you to sleep at night is melatonin. And melatonin production gets a boost in the afternoon, as your internal clock prepares for the day to naturally wind down. When you drink coffee in the afternoon, you interrupt the production of melatonin. And this is where the effects of an afternoon pick-me-up can really take a toll on your sleep routine. After all, you may feel like the effects of coffee have long worn off, and that you’re less alert and ready for bed. But because of this melatonin interruption, falling asleep won’t be so easy. In fact, studies show that people who drink coffee in the afternoon sleep fewer hours than those who don’t. And even if they snooze for a few 6 hours, they toss and turn before finally finding rest.
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