How Late Can You Drink Coffee and Still Get Good Sleep

Sleep and coffee? When last did you hear the two words used together? There’s much to be said for getting your hands on a big mug of the stuff as soon as you awaken, but there’s lots of research that proves folks dying for a great night’s sleep need to set a cut-off time. We explore the juxtaposition of these two essentials as you go about your life craving both–and our results may surprise you!

Coffee has been keeping people awake for centuries

Load it up with sugar. Turn it caramel-colored with cream. Neither additive is the cause for your inability to sleep because, say scientists at the World of Chemicals, the plant that sprouts those beans contains no fewer than 1500 chemicals that combine to reverse fatigue.

While coffee plants have been keeping people in Madagascar and Africa awake since the 11th Century, traders began to introduce societies to the beans and the drink, often claiming the brew had magical powers. Coffee has been used as a medicine and beans were called a miracle fruit. One of coffee’s biggest proponents was Yemen’s Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire ruler who helped make coffee popular around 1555.

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Coffee, it seems, is a clever trickster

When we sought to solve the puzzle of how coffee works, they came to the conclusion that the beverage plays tricks on the brain, so it’s almost impossible not to stay alert after drinking it. They took a deep dive into a molecule called adenosine. Our brains produce it and it’s a major reason you may feel tired even when you’ve had sleep.

According to, adenine is the love child of nitrogen-based adenine and ribose. It’s in every cell of your body, your DNA and RNA. Drink coffee and the caffeine that’s loaded with adenosine acts as a central nervous system stimulant. In simple terms, your brain does a happy dance. But here’s the bad news: the brain loves the feeling so much, it grows more adenine receptors. The result? You need more coffee to fight fatigue.

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Do some coffee beans have more caffeine than others?

Yup. And if you intend to cut back on consumption at a certain time every day, it’s important to know which coffee to order and which to avoid. Use this information as your guide:

  • Just because you order a dark roast you won’t necessarily ingest more caffeine. Dark blends deliver a bolder taste that has nothing to do with caffeine strength.
  • Yes, the bean roasting process will burn off some caffeine.
  • Do more beans equal more caffeine? Could be.
  • The longer coffee brews, the more caffeine per cup. That’s how a shot of espresso can contain only 40ml of caffeine while a 12-oz. mug of regular coffee can contain 120ml.
  • Pedigree matters. Most coffees are divided into Arabica and Robusta categories. There’s nearly twice as much caffeine in Robusta beans as there is in Arabica blends.
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The secret to coffee consumption and sleep

What action should you take to keep enjoying coffee while getting adequate sleep? It’s all a matter of timing, say scientists studying the relationship between the two and posting their findings in the “Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.”

You’ll discover that the answer to your dilemma is to drink your last sip of coffee about 6 hours before bedtime. But 6 hours is not set in stone. Every body metabolizes agents at a different rate. Further coffee resistance tolerance can build up over many years. Bottom line: think of 6 hours as your starting point, If you’re interested in more coffee guides, go to

Once you’ve sorted out your initial cut-off time, turn your attention to the amount of java you drink in during the day. On average, limit yourself to 500ml daily (that’s 32-ounces per day or four, 8-ounce cups). This doesn’t mean you should dramatically cut back your intake if you’ve been a coffee junkie for ages. That 500ml limit should be the amount of caffeine you aspire to at the end of your reduction journey.

Once more note: a dose of caffeine may stay in your system for up to 12 hours, so factor this in as you make your adjustments. On average, a drastic diminution of your coffee intake could result in headaches, fatigue and edginess. Doctors say it takes 10 days, on average, to work through this withdrawal schedule.


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A coffee-drinking methodology that can save your sanity

It’s not easy changing a habit, and coffee drinking is no exception. But if you’re experiencing trouble sleeping and have identified cups of joe as the culprit, there are steps you can take to change your relationship to coffee drinking. Try one or all of these:

  1. Establish a 2 p.m. cut-off time and stick to it. That way, if you find yourself exhausted at 8 p.m., you can hit the sheets early while observing that recommended 6-hour hiatus.
  2. If it turns out you need more separation between your last sip and pillow talk, back up your time to 1 p.m. and see how that works for you. Give each stage a little time to register with your brain.
  3. It will take calculations on your part, but a great way to lessen your caffeine intake is by “tapering off.” Drink the mother lode of coffee in the morning to kick-start your day and slowly ease into decaffeinated, observing the cut-off time you’ve set for yourself.
  4. Take the word jumbo and synonyms out of your vocabulary. You may not realize how ritualistic your regular 31-ounce Big Gulp order has become, so check out your cup size each time you queue at Starbucks or your local convenience store.
  5. Pay attention to the number of soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolates, caffeinated snacks and tea you ingest late in the day. They all contain caffeine and if you eat and drink enough of them in concert, you could ingest the equivalent cup of coffee without realizing it, thereby sabotaging all of your hard-earned progress!


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